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Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Walk To Rule Them All

Today I am blogging to you while standing up. This isn't because I'm trying to set some obscure new Guinness World Record or anything (although, now that I mention it, perhaps I should look into it ...). No, it's out of necessity. I've got a bad lower back, thanks mainly due to my being blithely unaware that my back was not indestructible when I was younger.

Things aren't all that bad. I'm only able to stand or lie down right now, as sitting down causes the muscles to spasm further, but in spite of this bad back I've done fairly well. I can still move around, which is good and means I don't have to call out of work any more since that bad first day. I can rehab it with stretching exercises once I'm a bit better, so that maybe this doesn't ever happen again. I even managed to climb Ngauruhoe last year, albeit with much mental coaching and a hell of a lot of patience on the parts of Iain and Simon, not to mention the rest of the group!

Standing while writing is also appropriate to this particular entry, as I came across an article in yesterday's Dominion Post regarding something cool about which I had forgotten. It is the Te Araroa (meaning 'The Long Pathway' in te reo Maori) project, which aims to finish the gigantic walkway that would link the very tip of New Zealand's north island at Cape Reinga with Bluff near the very bottom of the south island. Slope Point is technically the southerly-most point of the south island but it's not by much and it's a fair bit east of Bluff, which is a much more logical destination for this pathway as it's just south of Invercargill and the convergence of two major roads through the bottom of the south island.

Cape Reinga is a destination that's high on my list of places to go while living here in New Zealand. Apart from the fact that it would satisfy that curious traveler's notion to stand at the extremes when visiting various locations (The northernmost part of the country! The exact centre of the country! The very intersection of FOUR whole states! The highest point in all the world! You get the idea ...), Cape Reinga also has much spiritual value to the Maori. Reinga means 'Underworld' in te reo and it is from here that they believed the spirits of the dead departed for the underworld. If you follow the link above you can glimpse some of the beauty of this part of New Zealand.

Bluff, up until very recently, was home to among other things the famous paua shell house. I know after my mum's visit here she'd have loved to see something like this, given her instant fascination with the pretty, iridescent shells. Sadly it was removed last year from Bluff, but its legacy lives on in the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

To have these two extremes of New Zealand connected by a walkway (which doesn't cross Cook Strait, obviously, although I guess a real purist would swim the Strait between legs of the pathway!) would be an awesome opportunity for tourists, tramping enthusiasts and native New Zealanders alike. It is very nearly done, too, with a goal of December 2010 as a completion date. Apparently the trail is about 94% complete, as constituted, but it's the other 6% that is proving to be the most difficult. These scattered stretches of desired potential walkway belong to private landowners, from whom permission must currently be granted to cross their land at all let alone to have a permanent and public walkway created through it.

While many of the landowners' concerns are real, from worries about their livestock being distressed or abused, to intrusions on personal privacy and even fears of vandalism and theft, the people behind the construction of Te Araroa are trying to assuage all of these doubts. They say, quite rightly, that most hoons (thugs) couldn't be arsed to hike even a few hundred metres just to commit a bit of petty crime, beautiful and alluring though the track may be. Also pains will be taken to ensure that these trails are not blazed right in the owners' backyards in full view of the bedroom and bathroom windows.

The lovely Shania Twain herself owns a bit of land on the south island and she not only agreed to let a significant portion of Te Araroa - including two huts - be built on her property, she also paid out a significant sum of her own money to help in its development. Hopefully all other landowners involved in Te Araroa's planned route will follow Ms. Twain's gracious example, if not financially then at least in spirit.

I've been on a fair number of trails so far in New Zealand and many of them at some point cut through some benevolent landowner's property and I'm immensely grateful for it. So I hope that Te Araroa is able to be completed, and I think that it will be but there are concerns that December 2010 may not be doable. Even so, it is possible to tramp a great majority of this glorious walkway already as about two-thirds of it is considered 'good walking track' and the other legal 24-odd percent is a mixture of roads and unblazed trail.

I have yet to pore over the specific portions of Te Araroa outside our immediate region, but if what they have planned for the route between Wellington and Porirua is any indication of the tramp's eventual beauty, it is going to be quite alluring indeed. Part of this route includes the Karehana Scenic Bay Reserve, which is billed as 'tiny' and 'gorgeous'. It sits on the west side of the lower north island and apparently there are lots of tui birds that nest there in the kohekohe trees.

So I know that Te Araroa is going to be an exciting and exemplary way to not only show off much of New Zealand's inner beauty, but also a way to be physically out among it all and enjoy it to the fullest. I'm so glad this is a walkway and not a parkway. I certainly have plans to hike portions of it, if not all of it - but not all at once of course. It puts me in mind of America's own Appalachian Trail, given its breadth and grandeur. I know the length of Te Araroa will certainly rival that of the AT, and I'm just now noticing the odd symmetry there: we being the opposite hemisphere our version of the AT is, naturally, the TA.

Perhaps Bill Bryson himself might even venture here to walk it one day and write yet another excellent book about his travels, as he did regarding the Appalachian Trail in A Walk In The Woods. Or perhaps I can attempt to be an antipodean Bryson and hit the trail myself and pen my own version, but I think I'll leave that sort of thing to the pros.

Also, New Zealand already has its nine Great Walks but once Te Araroa is completed, what shall it be referred to as? THE Great Walk? The Granddaddy of the Great Walks? Or shall it be known as the only Great Walk and the others shall become known as The Decent Walks?

No, that wouldn't do, as I've done one of them already (the Tongariro Crossing) and it's far beyond just 'decent'. I'll offer up my own suggestion while resisting the urge to note the obvious one that leapt off the page at me as I read about Te Araroa: Nine Great Walks and One Walk To Rule Them All.

I shouldn't have to give that one any context! OK so there were more than just nine Rings of Power in Tolkien's Middle Earth, but since nine of them went to 'Mortal Men' (we humans), my analogy still stands.

How about... New Zealand's Nine Great Walks and One Really Kick-ass Walk?

Yeah, I agree. I think 'Te Araroa' is just fine.

5 Comments:

Blogger Sandjoy said...

This sounds so awesome. And you're right about the similarity to the Appalachian Trail because NZ is about the size of the US east coast.

Thanks for putting in all the links, too.

Much love xo

1:06 PM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

The new walk sounds like it’ll be a wonderful trek, rather like the U.S. Appalachian Trail, although that trails starting and ending points have no other significance. As for opposition to it, I really do not believe that anything worthwhile has ever been accomplished without someone opposing it.

I hope you find back relief soon.

Ah! Ain’t Shana a doll!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Mom - Yes I can't wait until this trail is done! Although I guess I could start parts of it anytime.

Nick - Thanks I need to take better care of my back, that's for sure. Appreciate the kind words. An excellent point about anything worthwhile is likely to have some resistance! Shania is indeed a doll, I hope she spends more time here in New Zealand although she lives on the wrong island :D

8:50 PM  
Blogger Marie Antionette said...

It sounds sounds so beautiful. I can't do much of it anymore, but I've always loved hilking and such. My hubby and I often took walks in the mountains and hills of Tenn. We use to live in Oakridge. What a beatuiful state.Shana Twain,is one of the most beautiful women,I'v ever seen.And now a wonderful person as well.Thanks for sharing that info.You sound like you have siatia. I don't know if I spelled that right,butit causes great pain from your lower back ,and can go into your hip ,thigh, and legs.Very painful indeed.If you sit in a chair,put yoyr hands flat on the floor,hold that for a few seconds,it will relieve the pain for awhile.But the Dr. is really needed.Hugs Marie Antionette

12:46 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Hi Marie thanks so much for stopping by! So far the pain is only in my lower back, but good point about it possibly being sciatica. I will likely need to go back to the doctor soon or perhaps a physio or acupuncturist. I totally agree about Shania, I've read a couple of articles about her since she's bought property in NZ and they've both increased my admiration for her - beyond her natural beauty, of course! Tennessee must be gorgeous I've never been but I know the Smoky Mountains look quite nice from photos. And you have a great blog there, you do a very good job with those dolls. Cheers, Brooksie

8:43 PM  

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