1700km­down, 1300 to go for re­tiree


At 76, Ken Ash is on his way to be­com­ing one the old­est peo­ple to have walked the en­tire length of the coun­try.

Ash, who be­gan walk­ing the 3002km Te Araroa Trail in Novem­ber last year, com­pleted the North Is­land leg on Thurs­day after what had been a chal­leng­ing six months both on and off the road.

A foot in­fec­tion and sub­se­quent an­kle prob­lem forced him to aban­don the walk north of Auck­land, lead­ing to a two-month break, but as soon as it healed he restarted where he left off.

‘‘The walk it­self has been quite hard, and you do have to be re­ally careful along the way, be­cause be­ing alone an ac­ci­dent would be pretty bad.’’

Ash re­cently re­tired from the Open Polytech­nic, where he worked as a plumbing, gas­fit­ting and drain lay­ing tu­tor. The trail

‘‘The walk it­self has been quite hard.’’

seemed like an ideal way to keep him busy while also rais­ing money for char­ity.

He has cho­sen to walk in sup­port of the Neu­ro­log­i­cal Foun­da­tion of New Zealand after neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions af­fected his loved ones.

‘‘My wife was di­ag­nosed some years ago with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, my mother de­vel­oped Alzheimer’s and a cou­ple of work­mates re­cently had strokes,’’ he said.

‘‘The foun­da­tion does a lot of great work re­search­ing dif­fer­ent brain con­di­tions and I wanted to help them raise funds so they could keep do­ing what they do.’’

While Ash said he had loved see­ing so much of New Zealand dur­ing the North Is­land leg, it was the gen­eros­ity of peo­ple along the way that had left a last­ing im­pres­sion.

‘‘The peo­ple you meet, the kind­ness they showed me along the way. You re­mem­ber them far more than any of the places.’’

While no records are kept of walk­ers’ ages, it’s likely Ash will be one of the old­est peo­ple to have ever walked the en­tire trail – that is, if he suc­cess­fully fin­ishes it.

How­ever, for the next few months, he will be ly­ing low at home in Para­pa­raumu in an­tic­i­pa­tion of be­gin­ning the South Is­land leg come sum­mer­time.

To fol­low Ken’s progress and do­nate, visit givealit­tle.co.nz/ fundraiser/ken­walk­sao­te­oroa.


Kapiti man Ken Ash is walk­ing the length of the coun­try for char­ity. He reached Welling­ton on Thurs­day, ahead of a few months’ break be­fore he starts the South Is­land leg.

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