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One of the World’s Greatest Walks LinksNZ from end to end

17 November 2011

One of the World’s Greatest Walks Opens, Linking New Zealand from End to End

One of the world’s longest trails opens on Saturday, December 3, in Wellington – the mid-point of the new 3,000km trail.

Te Araroa – which means The Long Pathway – links New Zealand’s most spiritual, historic and scenic locations, from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south.

For Kiwis and tourists alike, it opens up a 3,000-km hike through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery.

It takes its place alongside the world’s great trails, such as the Pennine Way and the Appalachian Trail, and is expected to generate millions of dollars a year, much of it in provincial communities. There’s no charge to walk it anywhere en route (except the Queen Charlotte Track where local landowners have imposed a small charge) and Te Araroa can be dipped into day by day or trekked in a five month, non-stop stretch.

Unlike long trails overseas, Te Araroa doesn’t just follow a single geographical feature – its key feature is New Zealand itself.

“New Zealand has all the diversity of a continent packed into two islands, so Te Araroa offers more variety than other long trails. You walk along east and west coasts, across farmland, through forests, over volcanoes, and sidle alongside the Alps,” says Te Araroa Trust chief executive Geoff Chapple. “But unlike most of the back-country tracks in New Zealand, Te Araroa also gives you the chance to meet the people – it goes through over 60 towns and six cities.

“It’s not just a physical trail but a trail that tells the history and culture of New Zealand.”

Chapple says Te Araroa passes through New Zealand’s founding grounds at Waitangi, goes right past the redoubts of the Waikato Land Wars, past the biblical settlements of the Whanganui River through the capital city at Wellington to touch the sea at Island Bay, then into the South Island, across the Alps on Maori greenstone and old gold rush routes, to link up finally with the Scottish and Chinese tales of the south.”

The creation of The Long Pathway is a story in itself, dating back 17 years when Chapple first mooted the idea and subsequently formed the Te Araroa Trust.

Backed by hundreds of dedicated volunteers, the trust pushed the project along, building new stretches of track and gaining the support of 36 local bodies, the Department of Conservation, Labour and National Governments, private land owners and eight iwi.

“It has been one of New Zealand’s greatest volunteer efforts, a citizens-initiated project, culminating in a walk that will now begin to find its own place in the world trails,” says Chapple. “We hope people will walk it – not just the through walkers, but people who want to use the 113 linked tracks en route as stand-alone tracks. Using it will make it live and keep it evolving.”

Even before the trail has opened, dozens of through hikers already use it yearly. A new book written by Geoff Chapple, Te Araroa: A Walking Guide To New Zealand’s Long Trail, will be launched to coincide with the opening.

Te Araroa facts:

• The cabbage tree is the symbol of Te Araroa because it grows along the entire length of NZ and was used by Maori to mark their ancient trails, some of which form part of Te Araroa
• 88 % of Te Araroa is off-road, embracing city walks, back country and all points inbetween
• To walk the trail in one go takes between 120 and 160 days at an average speed of about 2.5km an hour
• When the trail settles in, 200 people a year are expected to complete it in a single journey
• Another 350,000 people a year are expected to dip in and out for day walks or short tramps
• 113 stand-alone tracks are available along the trail
• The highest point on the trail is the 1,925m high Stag Saddle overlooking Lake Tekapo
• The first stretch to open, in 1995, was a 14 km track between Kerikeri and Waitangi
• Trail walkers are estimated to spend more than $11 million a year, much of which will benefit rural and provincial settlements
• Supporters of Te Araroa have included Sir Edmund Hillary, Helen Clark, Bob Harvey, John Key and Shania Twain.
• It takes between 5 million and 6 million footsteps to complete
• The trail has been 6,000 days in the making
• From Cape Reinga to Wellington is 1,620 kms
• From Ship Cove to Bluff in the South island is 1,430 kms
• The trail is 3050 kms long.
• 273 kms along Te Araroa is the greatest distance between pubs.

ENDS

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