A fiddler on the trail . . .
A new walking season officially began on October 1 (through to April 30), and it is expected to be another busy seven months on the national trail Te Araroa.
Among those planning Te Araroa journeys an Australian duo, harpist Michelle Doyle and jazz fiddler and singer Mickey O’Donnell, who plan to perform at pubs, halls and other venues along the way. Michelle suffers osteoporosis, and their walk will also raise money for research into the disease.
Others with special motives include Brook van Reenen, from Wanaka, who will be running the trail to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation, and Greytown man David Murray, who will be fulfilling a lifelong dream by walking the trail with his 14-year-old son Baxter.
Te Araroa Trust chief executive Mark Weatherall said he was pleased to see the trail providing inspiration for fantastic adventures and worthy causes.
“When Te Araroa was being created the goal was simply to create a continuous trail traversing the length of New Zealand that would allow people to connect with and enjoy our stunning outdoors. Few could have imagined the amazing stories Te Araroa is now giving rise to, and the life-changing experiences it is providing for walkers,” he said.
Last year a record 1100 people had walked the length of Te Araroa, and tens of thousands more walked individual sections over weekends and holidays.
Mr Weatherall said awareness of the trail was continuing to rise, highlighted by its selection for a New Zealand Post stamp series in September, and walker numbers were likely to grow again this coming season.
“We want the trail to be popular and enjoyed by many, but we know it needs to be managed carefully to ensure the experience remains a high quality one,” he said however. To help manage the growing numbers the trust had spent the winter developing improved guidance and support for walkers.
That included enhancements to The Trail App, a smartphone app many walkers used to access trail notes and other helpful information, which could now be used to issue safety alerts more effectively.
It had also worked with other outdoor organisations to produce a code of conduct, dubbed The Trail Pledge, to help raise awareness of responsible behaviour among Te Araroa trail walkers. The pledge, which provided advice on how to respect New Zealand’s environment, Ma¯ori culture, private property and other trail walkers, would be shared on Te Araroa’s website, as well as on posters at campsites and other accommodation providers along the trail’s length.
“The pledge is part of our ongoing effort to help walkers understand the Kiwi way of enjoying and caring for our outdoors. While the vast majority of Te Araroa walkers are respectful and responsible in the outdoors, there are always a few that need a helping hand,” Mr Weatherall said.
The trust had also been working with the Department of Conservation, councils and others to manage walker numbers and ensure the future sustainability of the trail.
“Managing Te Araroa and providing a high-quality experience is a team effort that involves multiple agencies, organisations and private land holders. Funding is of course always a challenge, and we are still seeking trail partners and supporters,” he added.
Te Araroa was opened by then Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae in 2011, after more than two decades of work by volunteers and trail supporters to create and link a nationwide network of tracks from Cape Reinga to Bluff. In the years since it has been ranked among the world’s best long walks by CNN, National Geographic and other major media outlets.
Michelle Doyle and Mickey O’Donnell preparing for their Te Araroa journey in New South Wales’ Blue Mountains.