Treading The Long Pathway

By Alex Ward 8 November 2013
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Two young women set their sights on conquering the Te Araroa Trail, NZ, for a charitable cause.

Two young women set their sights on conquering the Te Araroa Trail, NZ, for a charitable cause. 

LIKE ANY BIG ADVENTURE, this one started with a simple idea, a conversation between friends, a mutual interest between co-workers and the reality of it is really beginning to grow as the months unfold.

It was about nine months ago that Shalane Hopkins was talking to a colleague in Sydney about their passion for trekking, and after many conversations and plans for future adventures Shalane researched a few long-distance treks and discovered a 3000-km tramping pathway in New Zealand. Having read that somebody had already trekked the length of New Zealand but that a new pathway was being built so that others would be able to experience the country in its raw, natural beauty, Shalane was instantly keen to find out more. It was from this seed, that, what feels like a whole forest, has grown.

In May 2010 Shalane (Canadian), 24, and I (English), 27, met in Broome as we were both travelling around Australia. I pitched my tent near Shalane’s in the campsite, but it was a few days before we actually began to chat. I noticed that Shalane was either at work or sitting inside her tent in the 30-degree heat, while everybody else was out and about, swimming or sunbathing. 

Always known for being the chatty type, I started to probe Shalane with questions about what she was doing and as soon as she told me of her ideas, and that her time in her tent was spent on her laptop building her website and beginning to research, I instantly knew that I wanted to be part of the adventure. After travelling for nearly three years and achieving and seeing some amazing things, I had been in search of my next big challenge for some time and there was no doubt, after hearing Shalane’s intentions, that I had found it.

Through more research we found out information regarding Te Araroa Trail (The Long Pathway) of which is currently being completed for early 2011 by the Te Araroa Trust. It stretches the entire length of New Zealand, starting at Cape Reigna and finishing at Bluff in the south. At approximately 3000 km it will be ranked as one of the world’s longest long distance trails. It’s estimated to be 120 days of walking. We’re booking ourselves in for 150. Five months of wilderness adventure across New Zealand.

Instantly after our two-woman-team was born, the picnic rug outside our tents became our office and the office became home to web designers, publicists and researchers: namely me and Shalane. I think at one point we even felt like the picnic rug was a boat with holes in the bottom and that we were drowning in the flood of emails. 

We contacted a variety of companies explaining our intentions to trek Te Araroa and, at the same time, to promote women’s adventure travel, environmental sustainability and raise money for The Indigo Foundation.

This Australian-based charity runs a number of projects for communities in the South Pacific regions, providing support for their immediate needs.  They not only assist them financially, but they also ensure each project is provided with the skill base, knowledge and facilities to strengthen each community for the future. Shalane and I have decided to raise money for a project currently being run in the Soloman Islands which focuses mainly on education of all kinds, from general schooling to skill training.

On 9 June, all our hard work felt worth it when we received an email offering our first sponsorship. Swazi, New Zealand, agreed to supply us with outdoor clothing for the journey and after receiving that first email, we were on cloud nine. After that, emails trickled through at an encouraging pace. If the emails didn’t offer us sponsorship, they offered us words of support and at the time, and those positive words felt equally as rewarding for us.  

It wasn’t long before Back Country Cuisine emailed us offering us a great discount on their freeze dried trekking food and First Training has given both of us a free wilderness first aid course. The work did not stop at gaining sponsorship. We were hard at work trying to simply spread the word, spread our cause and raise money for the Indigo Foundation. Using friends and family on the internet and posting links to our websites wherever possible, we were constantly thinking of new ideas to get our project out there. 

In response to the incredible support we have received since starting this project at the end of May, we have decided to change the amount of money we hope to raise from $5,000 AUD to $10,000 AUD. We have been overwhelmed with everyone’s positivity and now that we have Australian Geographic Outdoor helping us to promote the trek further, we are confident we will reach our goal. 

I will not pretend that the immensity of the challenge doesn’t scare me slightly, and I am sure that neither of us have completely faced the reality of it, but where is the adventure if you don’t push the boundaries? 

You can find us both online here and here.