On 20th November Debra Dorrington will set off from Cape Reinga and walk all the way to Bluff, passing through nine distinct regions on the way. She will walk the Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand’s premier long-distance hike, stretching 3,000 km across both islands.
About Te Araroa
Connecting some of New Zealand’s largest cities, Te Araroa also offers spectacular views of all the amazing landscapes our country has to offer; its tombolos, volcanoes, range and mountain uplift, rivers, lakes and valleys. Debra wants to experience our rich history, enjoy the local culture in different regions and of course, get closer to nature.
The Te Araroa Trust and its eight regional trusts engaged with Regional Authorities and Territorial Local Authorities the length of New Zealand to complete the trail. It was officially opened on December 3rd, 2011 by then Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae. Many volunteers now keep the project alive. Debra expects the walk to take around five months, all going well. Perhaps she’ll arrive earlier but so much is unknown at this stage. It will all be completed on foot with the exception of a few water crossings. From Devonport to the city of Auckland and from the North Island to the South Island are the two big ones.
Highlights and challenges
‘People say the first four days are some of the hardest. That’s the walk along 90 Mile Beach. I am looking forward to that. Mentally it will be difficult, and a bit scary but I am looking forward to the isolation, the period of adjustment, maybe some night walking. To me, it seems the perfect way to learn to leave the city behind. Once I have got to the end of 90 Mile Beach I know I’ll be on my way.’ Debra Dorrington
Debra won’t be walking alone all the way. There is a season to the walk and it sounds like 1,200 people or so will attempt it this season. There are plenty of friends to be made on the trail and sometimes people she knows will walk with her. She’s welcoming friends and family who want to walk any part of the trail with her and lots want to join her. One of Debra’s sons will help her negotiate a ‘fun stint’ on Whanganui River. There will be times too when she’s alone but she might have to search these times out.
Keeping in touch is not a big focus for Debra but she might send the odd postcard. She will, however, be super vigilant about telling certain people where she is going. This includes signing into huts and following the trail protocols around that. She will also take a personal locator beacon. Her decision-making process will be conservative. She’s willing to wait out conditions that might not seem safe. For example, she will wait for others at river crossings if that’s needed.
‘I am not in a race.
I am just going for a walk’
On 1 November 2019 AlexanderDorrington will turn 20 years old. It’s a huge milestone for the whole team but in particular for Debra as a founding partner. It’s obviously got her thinking about the things she would like to achieve in life and a big walk was on her bucket list. She says not many people ask her why she’s doing it, perhaps that’s because those who know her, know how much she loves to push the boundaries. It’s not unexpected but why this particular quest?
‘Over the years I have often thought about long arduous, but simple, journeys I would like to make. Usually, they involved a bicycle. Then one day I heard about Pacific Crest Trail and that got me thinking. I investigated the New Zealand option.’
There is quite a lot of information available.
- Te Araroa has its own app with maps and comments.
- A Facebook chat group for the particular season of 2019/2020 is very active and full of information. There is another for women and one for the trail angels who help along the way.
- The Te Araroa Trust has an official guide to NZ’s greatest walk.
- ‘Bewildered’ is a book recently written by Laura Waters about the walk.
Preparation and practicalities
Debra is known for her practical approach to the law. Her approach to life, in general, is no different. This is one of the key strengths she will need to call on for this adventure. Debra shared some thoughts and fears with us…
‘I don’t know if I am fully prepared for this! There is a lot to learn. I reckon I’ve got the tenacity but do I have the outdoor skills? I have tramped, done some adventure racing, some navigation and I have learned about river crossings. I’ve travelled solo with a backpack and often for very long periods of time in the past but there will be lots to learn. I am pretty sure some days are going to be really hard.’
Quality gear – a good investment
‘I have got a pretty special tent. It weighs 550 g and it’s built especially for trips like this. I reckon we will develop a special bond-especially throughout the North Island. In the south I expect to be in DOC huts mostly. But I have lots of friends up and down the country and I am hoping that I get to sleep and shower at their places sometimes too. Then I am sure there will be the odd hotel/motel. How to keep a pack light is one challenge that has been occupying me as I prepare. It’s amazing what is available that has been built to be super-effective and light. I’m weighing everything. Do you know there is a thing called the pee-rag that women use? I hadn’t heard of that until I started preparing for Te Araroa.’
Physical health and fitness – a preventative approach
‘I am going to take it slowly in the first two weeks or so, adjust into the swing of things, notice how my body deals with this and what the fuel demands are, start to find a rhythm. Then I will build on that. I do have a problem with being in the sun. My skin is super-sensitive and I keep out of the sun most of the summer. This season it will be different and I will have to figure out how to deal with that.’
Mental health – an opportunity to re-charge
‘I am so looking forward to it – to the simplicity of it, to just walking. I’m looking forward to the isolation, and the beauty but also to the friendships that will develop, to sharing new experiences with others. I worry though – about my safety, navigation skills, making the right decisions. It’s definitely a bit scary. I’m sure it will add to the tapestry of life! I want to enjoy myself. To take a break from the ordinary, to enjoy each day, to breathe it in.’
The AD team wishes Debra every success with her epic journey. What an amazing adventure it is going to be. We wish her inner strength through the hard times and wonderful fine days (without much sun). Kia Kaha!
Find out more about the Te Araroa Trail.