Dutch youth walks ‘jour­ney’ of NZ

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

He was chased by dogs in Wait­omo, had his kayak washed away near Whanganui and his knee has given him a lot of pain, but DirkJan Laan cuts a pic­ture of con­tent­ment.

The 18-year-old from Hol­land is four months into his quest, to walk the length of New Zealand, fol­low­ing Te Araroa (The Long Path­way), the well-pub­li­cised long-dis­tance walk­ing track.

Some sec­tions of Te Araroa, a 3000-kilo­me­tre route from Cape Reinga to Bluff, are not com­pleted, which Dirk-Jan found out first-hand. Nev­er­the­less, he has rel­ished the chal­lenge.

He spent two nights in Plim­mer­ton last week, a guest at Moana Lodge, af­ter walk­ing from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay and the his­toric Taua-Tapu Track, in a mat­ter of hours.

The keen out­doors­man is no stranger to New Zealand, hav­ing vis­ited fam­ily here twice be­fore, so the de­ci­sion to tackle Te Araroa was not a dif­fi­cult one to make.

‘‘I’ve been look­ing for a hike like this, some­where long-dis­tance in New Zealand, and I have spent maybe two years plan­ning it,’’ Mr Laan said.

‘‘I spent a lot of time on Google, be­cause there still isn’t a lot of in­for­ma­tion on the track, but I was still able to do plenty of plan­ning.’’

Start­ing on Oc­to­ber 15 at Cape Reinga, Dirk-Jan has been blessed with ex­cel­lent weather – ex­cept for the flood near Whanganui.

‘‘I was staying in a hut and [made prepa­ra­tions] to sit on the roof, be­cause the only way to get back was by wa­ter, and my kayak was swept away.

‘‘I was nearly go­ing to have to be res­cued.’’

Some of the walk­ing has been on roads, which has not been ideal, and some sec­tions of the North Is­land leg are ‘‘ poorly main­tained’’.

He cites a ‘‘no­to­ri­ous’’ stretch south of Te Kuiti where you have to lit­er­ally cut through bush.

But he has loved meet­ing peo­ple and en­joyed New Zealand’s beau­ti­ful land­scape.

‘‘Peo­ple have in­vited me into their homes – this has hap­pened eight times, I think.

‘‘I was chased down the road by dogs near Wait­omo and it turned out their own­ers were Dutch.

‘‘They in­vited me to tea and then a night’s sleep. ‘‘I was very grate­ful.’’ A knee in­jury sus­tained 10 days into his planned 158-day odyssey slowed him down and put paid to many of his plans for the South Is­land.

He was sup­posed to be half­way down the South Is­land by now – but in­stead, his mother col­lected him in Pic­ton on Thurs­day and drove him to Queen­stown.

From there, he will walk to Bluff, leav­ing New Zealand in mid-April.

He is dis­ap­pointed about miss­ing much of the South Is­land leg but hopes to walk it in the fu­ture.

But for Mr Laan, walk­ing ev­ery step of Te Araroa wasn’t the point.

‘‘ For me it’s been about a jour­ney and not the end des­ti­na­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m try­ing not to think about what hap­pens when I reach Bluff.

‘‘Be­cause of my knee, I had some bad days and there’s been a real men­tal chal­lenge for me. I’ve no­ticed a real change in my own think­ing.’’

Moana Lodge was an ex­cel­lent stop-off to charge the bat­ter­ies, he said.

Owner He­len Chip­per said the young man en­deared him­self im­me­di­ately by mak­ing a cheesecake on his first night’s stay.

Photo: DIRK-JAN LAAN

One step at a time: There has not been a lot of time for rest for Dutch­man Dirk-Jan Laan, de­spite a knee in­jury slow­ing him down. Some parts of Te Araroa have re­quired him to walk on New Zealand’s roads.

In­trepid jour­ney: Dirk-Jan got the chance to re­lax for a day at Plim­mer­ton last week, with his four­month jour­ney down the North Is­land at an end. This week he will be­gin his walk from Queen­stown to Bluff.

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