Pledge to Sir Ed spurred Te Araroa trail­blazer on

Bay News - - Front Page -

When it be­came clear that lo­cal au­thor­i­tieswere not go­ing to take up the idea of cre­at­ing a walk­way from Cape Reinga to Bluff, Ge­off, with the aid of a $20,000 grant, started map­ping a North Is­land trail, talk­ing to ev­ery coun­cil and DoC con­ser­vancy on the route.

De­cid­ing in 1997 that the only way to whip up in­ter­est was to walk the trail and write as he went, he used the new­fan­gled in­ter­net and be­came one of this coun­try’s first blog­gers.

“I wasn’t confident of be­ing able to walk a long dis­tance,” Ge­off con­fesses. “I’d done a lot of bush work in the Waitakares grow­ing up but had never been in a tramp­ing club. I reck­oned if I aimed for man­age­able chunks I’d be all right and by the time I got to the Whangarei Heads I knew I could eas­ily do it— and the blog had 30 fol­low­ers.”

His first national in­ter­view took place near Whangarei— on the top of Mt Manaia— with Ra­dio NZ’s Kim Hill.

“Lis­ten­ers could hear a mad old­wom­an­curs­ingme— Ionly had one hand on the cell­phone for most of the in­ter­view in case I had to fend her off. She was mad, but im­pres­sive . . . and blog views went into the thou­sands.”

To help fi­nance the trek, Chap­ple be­gan writ­ing ar­ti­cles. “I was just about a vagabond,” he re­calls, “sleep­ing in pub­lic toi­lets on wet nights and ask­ing for do­na­tions. My fam­ily and I were made very poor by that five-month tramp and I couldn’t have done it with­out the support of my wife [Miriam Beatson].”

He met ev­ery­mayor on the route, as well as ev­ery landowner.

“It was very personal,” he says of turn­ing up to farm­houses. “I’d have a cup of tea with the farm­ers and get to know them. That was valu­able later on.”

A$30,000 grant in 2002 en­abled him to de­sign and­walk the South Is­land trail—“and I sud­denly had a credit card that worked”.

Te Araroa Walk­way of New Zealand was of­fi­cially opened on De­cem­ber 3, 2011with Chap­ple’s guide­book pub­lished at the same time. Af­ter stand­ing down as the trust’s chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2012, Chap­ple re­ceived an ONZM.

Why do peo­ple tackle Te Araroa?

“Some peo­ple are walk­ing towards some­thing and some peo­ple are walk­ing away from some­thing. Lots of peo­ple want to prove some­thing to them­selves or change some­thing in their lives, while some are look­ing for a good ad­ven­ture.

“But Iwalked to make the trail come true.”

Ge­off Chap­ple wades through a river while walk­ing the Te Araroa Trail.

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