the Te Araroa Trail

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madpom poses a good question about the TA in his article. why do so many people especially foreigners all walk the TA exclusively and there are so few people walking off the TA.... the reasons could be many the amount of public information being diseminated widely about the TA is greater than most other tramping tracks and routes around except for tracks like the great walks and some day walker. the TA is even promoted on mainstream websites, often this is the only information a lot of these people have about tramping in NZ. and or they dont hav experience walking off mainstream trails some people want to use pre prepared information about established routes and or arent good at or confident walking off mainstream tracks or creating their own route. the people walking the TA often know or expect there to be other trampers around on that route and like the sociable atmosphere and or the perceived increased safety perception of having other people around outside their own group, or if they are walking alone, having other people around at some point even if they arent physically walking with them some or all of the time. a lot of people doing long distance trails are into doing established known long distance trails . often the logistics of walking established trails can be a lot easier than making up your own route. the established trails have a reasonable ability to resupply without great difficulty. often you only need half a weeks food if that before your next resupply and don't have to carry larger amounts of food all the time established long distance trail are generally reasonable quality tracks or there is a perseption of reasonable quality. and the people walking the long distance trails dont want to walk on rougher tracks...

I couldn't explain why there are few people looking away from the highly advertised routes and walks, but.... with publicity and information about specific routes and walks it doesn't unusual to me that it'd be a magnet for those people who are keen on ticking things off lists. Maybe it's a different generation. The difference between Tararua Footprints (1996) and the Tararua Adventure Guide (2010) comes to mind. The former is a collation of descriptions of catchments and spurs and ridges and miniature routes through particular areas that can be joined together as necessary. The obvious way to use it is to figure out broadly where you want to go, then check the guidebook for a better understanding of what to expect. The latter is a list of 27 specific adventures to have in the Tararuas. Each is described from start to finish, sometimes right down to characteristics of specific signs and track markers, in a way that could hardly be expected not to have dated within a few years. The obvious way to use it is to pick something in the list from the book, read about the trip from start to finish, and do it. Where the TAT is concerned, I reckon the effect is partly that its very existence attracts a certain type of person who seeks out recognised long trails, wherever they are. New Zealand has one that's "recognised", even if the original intent was just for internal reasons not directly related to tourism. Suddenly we're on that list, for a box-ticking community which is globally quite large, whether we like it or not. Beyond Te Araroa, though, tourism marketing for NZ seems to be largely about giving people specific stuff to do (like the TAG), instead of helping them to figure out how to do something they've already broadly planned (like TF). If it's the exposure to marketing which caused most of our visitors to want to come here, then I don't think it should be surprising that we mostly attracted people who are interested in lists of stuff to do. People who aren't interested in those lists will go elsewhere. Probably another country, but I certainly know of some who came to NZ long term and sought out locals, like in tramping clubs, for a better initiation of where and how to get off the beaten tracks.

The same applies to trails like the AT, PCT and CDT. The country they pass through is huge and the alternatives endless. Yet the goal for most is to complete the official route in total. You can argue whether it's a meaningful goal given how many have done it before. On the other hand it's also a well-known and finely calibrated achievement. Everyone in the community understands exactly what it meant by a "Yo Yo" or a "Triple Crown" and so on. It's also important that the route and it's conditions are well understood, that people can fine tune their equipment and preparations exactly; minimising time, weight and costs. I'm totally in madpom's camp with this. I love his inquisitive, exploratory routes. I only wish I was young enough and fit enough to emulate half of what he's done. But I can also see there is a real place for the long distance hiker ethos, where these defined and iconic trails ARE the destination; THE purpose in their own right. There are many, many different styles of 'tramping' and this is just one that is relatively new to this country; brought to us by the foresight of Geoff Chapple, the many hundreds of volunteers who have made it a reality, and the internet which has given it global visibility. There will be some challenges and adaptations as we learn to accommodate this new influx; but overall I welcome it.

Box ticking is certainly a major part of it but I imagine the TA is easier to plan from afar than a collection of routes totalling a similar duration. Mind you, I was surprised to see many foreign flag enteries in the hut books at Anatoki Forks, Adelaide Tarn, Lonely Lake And Fenella (all well off the TA). Perhaps a spill over into other areas (although, admittedly, still well publicised) is already starting. Be careful what you wish for. BTW, I was also surprised by a group of 3 kiwis, arriving at Lonely Lake (late in the day) with no tents - the hut is a very small 3.5 bunk biv and even less floor space!

The puzzlement I was expressing is about personality - trying to understand what to me is a complete contradiction between someone willing to walk, more-or-less self-sufficient for 3 months through everything Huey throws at them with just the pack on their back; and the fact they're quire happy to cede 100% of the planning and organisation to a guidebook. That to me does not add up. Surely you're either soft & lazy and happy to follow a guide, sit on a tourbus, etc, or you motivated and out there doing it, and find the idea of walking someone else's pre-planned walk an anathema.

I certainly don't understand it either (at least, it's not me) but I have a friend or two who somewhat fit the type. They can't self-motivate but need some goal to act as the motivator. (I also don't understand how someone who carries a pack 3 hrs from a roadend can dump a pile of rubbish in the bush - but I've seen it) Perhaps you're looking at two extremes (soft & lazy vs motivated & doing it) where most are in between. S&L = no motivation, M&DI = self-motivated. Tramping the length of the country is (to many, I think) a big tick in a big box and, like hut- or peak-bagging, that's an important motivator to many - and definately a personality type (a component, at least).

Some years ago I spent a couple of evenings using Google Earth to 'fly through' the PCT. Found a kml file for it and just used the mouse to track along it as close to the surface as I could, stopping to compare with photos and descriptions from trail blogs. Now there is another style of tramping for you; one that I have to say is very easy on the knees :-) Over the years I've found myself leading club trips, long traverses with just a good mate, solo trips up to about 10 days, geology field trips up to six weeks, day tramps up Holdsworth or Mitre, trips with just me and the dog, trips where I ran out of food, others that were an excuse for a party. We've walked a few sections of the TAT and enjoyed them. I've done trips where hut bagging was the purpose, or completing another red-line ridge on my Tararua map. Or collecting air-crash sites. Or just getting out of the house to clear my head for a few hours. I relish having huts all to myself, but sometimes you have the most wonderful evenings with great company. I really love being out there on my own, but I find tramping more than a few days with someone can bond a friendship for life. When we get back to NZ I'm keen to get into track and hut maintenance, volunteering for DoC and so on. My partner and I will probably do more TAT sections and lots of over-nighters. I guess I'm not as self directed as madpom is; I sometimes like having a pre-defined goal to work with, to get my boots on and motivated. I find the hardest part of any trip is getting out the front door, so anything that gets my fat butt on the track and in the hills is a good thing. In bernie's terms I'm definitely somewhere between S&L and M&DI. And exactly where depends a lot on fitness and the context of what else is going on in my life.

I must confess that I am looking at doing the South Island portion of the TAT this coming summer. Having just done the 5 passes solo followed by a Greenstone/Routeburn with the wife my trips are varied, and usually confined to work breaks that allow me one decent trip to the South Island a year and several excursions in the North Island. So why the TAT? I think it's the challenge of the long journey, which I see as different from a one off 8 or 9 day tramp which I have been challenging myself with in the past, and the sense of achievement that I think I will get from having done it. I would love to do the sort of journey that Madpom does but wouldn't feel confident enough to disappear into these areas on my own for extended periods, so I think there is also a certain level of comfort in the knowledge that the TAT is not so extreme. Also, it does pass through some pretty awesome areas, many of which I have yet to visit. Finally, I have had it in my mind since reading Geoff Chapples' book a number of years ago, and I want to do it before my body says no. I guess it's each to their own as far as what they consider a challenge, my wife is quite content and gets a real sense of achievement from the (to me easy) trips we do together, and I get the satisfaction of helping her walk them.

Have you guys never planned tramping trips in other countries before? You pick up books or read blogs about possible trips, and when you find something that appeals to you in a part of the country you are going to you either have the choice of modifying it or following it more or less verbatem. Modifying can be extremely difficult if you've never been there before! Who knows if your modifications are going to improve the experience of the walk you're reading about? Following someone else's words is much easier to plan when you're on the opposite side of the planet! Why do you think people come on here and ask open ended questions such as "what's the best tramp to do in such-and-such place"? When I tramped in the Europe I took a bunch of photocopied bits from books and followed them fairly closely as I didn't know any better. I modified the Grand Paradiso, Tour of Mont Blanc, Walkers Haute Route, and the Bernese Oberland to suit my itenery and the weather I experienced, but I would have been quite lost as to what to look for without the words of Kev Reynolds or Lonely Planet.

Can't say i've ever planned a trip like that, no Yarmoss. Not been overseas since I arrived in NZ in '01, but prior to that travelled a lot in Europe, Aus, the Americas. I did look at guide books as a way of finding out hat regions might be worth visiting and what conditions to expect.. But once there generally bought topomaps (or the nearest thing you could get - often govt maps surveyed by the military) and planned trips from that once I got to an area. Asked a lot of questions at parks visitors centres and the like - mainly the US & canada - -but more commonly just asked locals for advice and planned off maps. Guess that was 15 years ago and we're in the internet guidebook age now so information is more readily available. But I think I'd still travel the same way if the urge took me to go overseas. Though the likes of bushwalk.com might help for pre-trip planning for countries where such things exist but a pre-set itinery. Na!

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Forum Tracks, routes, and huts
Started by waynowski
On 15 April 2017
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