A fid­dler on the trail . . .

The Northland Age - - Local News -

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.

PIC­TURE / DANIEL DI BIASE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Michelle Doyle and Mickey O’Don­nell pre­par­ing for their Te Araroa jour­ney in New South Wales’ Blue Moun­tains.

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