Words from the wise
Kiwi actor Bruce Hopkins shares the wisdom he’s found on the trail from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island, as well as in his role as a grandparent
Actor Bruce Hopkins shares the wisdom he’s found tramping the length of the country
This past summer, Bruce Hopkins has been taking on the Te Araroa trail, which covers more than 3000 kilometres between the tip and toe of Aotearoa. His mission is personal – a quest to bring the ashes of his father and brother to rest on Stewart Island – as well as philanthropic, as he is also aiming to raise money for the charity Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Bruce shares the motivations behind his odyssey, as well as some insights into the challenges of grandparenting.
What compelled you to undertake this journey?
Upon hearing of the existence of Te Araroa, I had an immediate feeling that this was the final piece in the puzzle of my belonging to these wonderful South Pacific islands. More reasons quickly piled up, including walking the spirit of my father, Bill, and brother, Doug, back to our original home, Stewart Island, all the way from where Dad, Doug and I used to be commercial crayfishers off Cape Reinga/te Rerenga Wairua. It is also part of the legacy for my children and grandchildren. The last, hugely significant inspiration is raising awareness and funds for a vital organisation, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
What are you enjoying most about your tramp?
As a whakatauki goes in te reo, “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata...” It is the people. There are those you meet on the trail or at campsites who are also on this 3000-kilometre odyssey. Once you survive 90 Mile Beach and the four Northland forests you have an instant bond with others who’ve done it. Then there are the trail angels who offer various forms of generosity, be it a hot shower or a meal. An example is a couple, Fiona and Anthony in Palmerston North, who have built a replica DOC hut in their backyard for trampers to stay in overnight. Other than the people, there are unforgettable moments such as the quietude in the depths of a native forest.
What challenges have you had to overcome? And what have you learned from them?
My biggest challenges are around trusting myself. I have not been a tramper; in fact this is my second ever tramp after a two-day trip into the Kaimai Range in preparation for this trip. There are the immediate challenges that arise every day, such as the legs or the body reaching a level of exhaustion or experiencing some pain from various ailments such as blisters. I have been trying to live in the present moment for many years and now on the trail I am learning to really live that out.
Why did you choose to support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren?
I have three grandchildren, Charlie, 9, Gracie, 4, and Freddie, 1. I try to spend time with them each week and I have thought over the years how full on it would be if I had to raise my mokopuna. I met a guy who was on the board of GRG and I looked at their website. One of the trustees became involved after he had to go and pick up his grandchild from school and figure out how to tell his grandchild that Mum was dead as Dad had killed her that day. He and his partner had lost their daughter but had to step straight into the parent role. That blew me away. I am determined to help raise the profile of this reality and GRG in our communities.
What life lessons have your grandchildren taught you?
They enable me to stay young of mind and heart, and their presence in my life has taught me to stay present to unconditional love.
What experiences have shaped your journey thus far?
Staying for four nights with a couple who are raising their 6-year-old grandchild. You see the love but you also see that this is a demanding and draining experience for people in their sixties or older. I have been inspired to continue my relationship with GRG once I finish Te Araroa. I have had a number of days during the tramp that were incredibly challenging in the moment.
When I acknowledge that I have just completed these challenges I feel a real sense of self-belief.