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WALKING THE TALK ON NZ's EPIC 3,000 KM NATIONAL WALKING TRAIL

April 29, 2022

WALKING THE TALK ON NZ's EPIC 3,000 KM NATIONAL WALKING TRAIL

I’ve always believed that when leading a movement, you might just need to step out into the grey, with confidence, in order to inspire others. People are most likely to change their actions when they see others modelling the behaviours they are being asked to adopt; if I’m not up for doing something, then why should I expect others to be?

That was my philosophy when I was working with Water Safety New Zealand to reduce the country’s drowning toll and with the Tomorrow Project to promote a more responsible drinking culture. It’s also the way I am approaching my new role as Executive Director of New Zealand’s national Te Araroa trail.

          Matt on the Te Whara Track

I’m incredibly lucky to be in a job that allows me to get out into New Zealand’s wilderness and small towns to show Kiwis what our 3,000 km national walking trail is all about. The epic journey is well known overseas but there are still many New Zealanders who don’t know about it, despite it officially opening in December 2011.

To help get more Kiwis active and exploring the trail, I’ve committed to walking its full length, in sections, over the next three years. Along the way I’ll be taking photos and shooting video as part of a Short Walks on the Long Pathway initiative designed to show New Zealanders different parts of the trail and to demonstrate how easy it is to explore Te Araroa on day walks or overnight treks in holidays or weekends. You don’t have to walk it all in one go over a period of four to five months like many of the international long-trail walkers do – it can be walked over a number of years, or even a lifetime.

    Waikanae to Wellington 

For the uninitiated, Te Araroa is New Zealand’s greatest walk and is truly one of the world’s great walks. It extends the length of the country, from Cape Reinga at the top of our country’s North Island to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. From breath-taking coastlines and towering forests Northland to the volcanic landscape of Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the imposing mountains of the Southern Alps, the trail has something for everyone – including an eclectic collection of backcountry huts and commercial accommodation, as well as plenty of outstanding places for camping.

I’ve done just three sections of the track so far: Waikanae to Wellington (92 km), the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (19.4 km), and Te Whara Track (7.5 km) in Northland. Each was spectacular, and I’ve been lucky enough to look out on places like Kāpiti Island bathed in sun and Tongariro’s Red Crater, shrouded in mist. It’s been a blast, and I’ve met some really interesting people. Next up, I’m going to tackle the Wakatipu Track between Arrowtown and Queenstown in New Zealand’s stunning South Island. I’m pretty pumped for that one.

           Matt on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Section 

The beauty of how I’m doing this is in the fact I can juggle it with my job overseeing Te Araroa and improving the trail experience for walkers. I still need to do the right amount of planning for each trip – you never go out into nature without a plan, especially in New Zealand where the weather can change so quickly. But doing the walk in short bites doesn’t require the long-term preparation required for walking its full length over many months. Pack a few key necessities into a light pack, make sure you’re layered up and wearing comfortable walking shoes, and get out there to see some of the best sites and places New Zealand has to offer.

In my previous positions with Water Safety New Zealand and the Tomorrow Project, I found that you really have to walk in the shoes, so to speak, of the people on the frontlines. So for Te Araroa, I’ve talked with a lot of hikers, both thru-walkers and section hikers, as well as Department of Conservation (DOC) workers and many of the volunteers who donate their time to keep the tracks clear. Then there are the farmers, who let us use their land, and even trail angels, who open their houses to trail walkers. There are plenty of people supporting the trail who I’m keen to listen to and learn from.

 

Ultimately, I’m just the messenger – an influencer spreading the word – while Te Araroa is the star of the show. I consider myself privileged to have this task and this message to share with New Zealand and the world. So check me out on the Te Araroa Facebook page or follow the @teararoanztrail Instagram account for updates on my progress and tips on how best to explore this trail that should be on everybody’s bucket list.

Matt wears the HOKA ANACAPA MID GTX 





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