We're planning to walk across New Zealand next year, 1800 miles from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. We'll not be the first people to achieve this feat, but we will be among the first to hike the finished Te Araroa trail which opens November 2010.
I have a habit of filming my hiking trips, last years movie of my 3000 mile thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail went down very well with the hiking community. I get the impression that people consider it the best representation of CDT to date and essential viewing for people interested in taking on the trail. As long distance hiking gets ever more popular each year, New Zealand offers hikers the unique opportunity to hike all winter in the southern hemisphere, then back home in time for another summer and another hike if you have the energy! I'm sure because of this the trial will become an instant success and I hope that some my mapping preparations and then the film of the experience could serve as inspiration and essential information for hikers to follow.
A New Zealand-long trail has been in the pipeline since 1975, but it wasn't until reporter Geoff Chapple wrote a newspaper article in 1994 promoting the idea that public support started to take off. He then founded Te Araroa Trust the organisation that is constructing the 1800 mile trail.
The trail itself is split almost exactly in half by the two islands, each with it's own very distinct character. The 'standard direction' is north to south which makes sense as the North Island looks to be the easiest by a long way. It's both physically less demanding as it not particularly mountainous and logistically much simpler as it's much more populous so many more shops for re-supply. In contrast the South island is wild, remote, extremely mountainous, heavily glaciated and by the sounds of it pretty poor and unpredictable weather..
I've been making hiking films for the past 7 years, I think each year I'm getting a bit better :) Definitely CDT 2008 was my best to date, it even got nominated for a Webby! I made 3 min, 15 min and a state by state 2 hour length version of the film for different peoples attention spans, I'll probably do the same for this trail.
Much to my delight the Land Information New Zealand released their new 50k maps in September, and made the digital versions free to download. Unfortunately they don't have the new trail marked on them though.. I've been downloading them all, drawing on the official route on (plus a few alternatives that look interesting), I'm also adding notes about various things I'm finding out as I research the route in detail. Ultimately I'll have the entire route mapped out and ready to print on A4 paper which you can burn as you go rather than carry around bought maps!
In New Zealand they use the metric system, my brain has to convert km to miles before I can visualise the distance. So probably to the delight of UK and US folk I've been converting everything to miles. I've overlaid the route on the computer so I can use a line measuring tool to pretty accurately measure the distance of each section. I've also put a dotted line on top of the route which is spaced out at 1 mile intervals so you can quickly judge distances between places at a glance (can't believe I haven't seen this before on a map?)
Cookie & Nicky:
I'll not be going with my longtime hiking buddy Paul this year, no I'm taking Nicky the soon to be Mrs Cookie for her first big hike. She's done a few weeks here and there but this is going to be a real trial by fire for her ;) Should give an interesting perspective to other people who haven't tried this sort of thing before either. We'll also both be updating our blogs (Cookie, Nicky) whenever we can along the trail.
Well the money we're hoping to raise is going towards the production of the DVD really. Obviously the cost of the trip is going to be far in excess of $5000, but we feel as if we should be paying that. If we did raise any extra cash I do have a plan for what I'm going to spend it on though ;) Another $3500 would pay for a guide to take me to the top of Mt. Cook (I'm pretty sure Nicky wouldn't want to join me), ever since I was a kid and heard there was a mountain with the same surname as me I felt as if it was my duty to get to the top of it! Also it should make a pretty spectacular addition to the film :)