Of all the hair brained schemes I’ve come up with, this one has been the most obnoxious and persistent, unwilling to just let me be and ignore it. I tried. I picked up new sports. I worked longer hours. I even acquired a cat. And yet, for some ridiculous reason, I felt compelled to hike across New Zealand’s new long distance trail, Te Araroa, and write about it.
I spent nearly four years worrying about how to pull off this thru-hike. It’s not exactly easy to pick up and leave for five months… much less hike 3,000 km (1,864 miles) across Middle Earth, you know. In The Fifth Year of Worry, something changed. Perhaps it’s the impatient youth in me that I haven’t tucked into bed for good, or the fact that I’m nearly thirty and can see middle-aged boredom threatening my horizon, but it became clear: it’s now or never.
So, I’m headed to Cape Reinga, New Zealand this November to begin my five-month journey. And because hiking the length of an entire country isn’t hard enough, I’ll be producing a real-time travel literature project about Te Araroa and New Zealand history, culture, and environment. Y’all can come along at NewZealandOnFoot.com where you’ll find weekly articles and videos posted throughout the trip.
Te Araroa is as difficult to hike as it is to pronounce. Connecting the northern tip of New Zealand to the most southern (yes, both islands), the trail crosses just about every type of terrain you can imagine – mountains, beaches, rain forests, rolling farmland, and rivers… lots and lots of rivers. The all-knowing “they” say that while the Appalachian Trail is tougher mentally, Te Araroa is much, much harder physically. Fortunately they don’t make you swim the Cook Strait. Unlike most long distance hiking trails, Te Araroa was designed to not only explore New Zealand’s breathtaking backcountry, but its city centres as well – the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Wellington.