A few months back I was helping out in the i-SITE at Te Ahu. In walked a young, fit overseas traveller with an enormous backpack. He inquired about getting to CapeReinga. He was about to begin the Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand’s long walk. Now it isn’t every day one meets someone ambitious enough to walk the length of the country.  I had just begun dialogue with this enthusiastic visitor when in walked a fit young woman, also carrying a heavy backpack. She overheard our talk and piped in, “I’m also about to begin walking the Te Araroa Trail.”

Geoff Chappel writes the following in his introduction to Te Araroa: A Walking Guide to New Zealand’s Long Trail: “In 1976, two of my friends, Geoff Steven and Phil Dadson, had filmed and sound-recorded the Maori land march from CapeReinga to Wellington. The poet Hone Tuwhare was on that march and something he said then stuck in my mind. ‘To know Papatuanuku,’ said Hone, ‘you have to go through slowly, on foot.’ . . . In 1994 I wrote a newspaper story that invoked a long trail – a reincarnation of a path that had once existed and had been forgotten. This was unprovable but I believed it was true.”

Reading of this initial glimpse of a possibility through to a complete trail today (there are a few road links still but the intention is for the entire journey from the Cape to Bluff to be completely off-road) is at once fascinating and informative. Like any dream worth its weight, it has taken an incredible dose of persistence to see it through.

Te ara roa book coverTe Araroa is a beautiful book, outlining 113 walks and long tramps, replete with colour photos and 3D maps. I recommend it for any keen trampers, whether interested in a few good walks or ambitious enough to want to piece together trails spanning the length of the North and South islands.

The above book is found within our Aotearoa collection in Kaitaia Library.

Our two backpackers left the i-SITE side by side, one man and one woman, off to begin the journey of their young lives.  They walked with bouncing strides, despite the weight of their packs. They looked like they belonged together. I smiled, pleased to have played a small part in the serendipity of their meeting.  I mentally wished them well, trusting they would complete their ambitious tramp, the Long Walk, with hearts open, heads harvesting the whispers of Rangi, the Sky Father, and feet feeling the subtle thrumming of Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. Perhaps we should all consider regular walks taken away from the insistent cacophony of the modern electronic world, attuning to the rhythms of nature, using physical exertion to rest our psyches and soothe our souls.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com