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Imagine walking the length of a country, in this case New Zealand, searching for the place you want to settle and make your forever home. Better yet, imagine doing it with 3 children in tow.

That’s exactly what it took the Gerlach whānau (family). They set out on Te Araroa Trail in November 2020 tramping (hiking) for six months covering about 2,300km of ground. Pōrangi (crazy)? Absolutely! Noodles For Breakfast was birthed along the way to inspire others to get on the journey. Dee shares her experience with Lake Wānaka Tourism below!

From the top to the bottom by foot

You can actually walk the length of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Marvellous aye? The trail is called Te Araroa or in English, The Long Pathway. It’s New Zealand’s answer to the famous PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and people flock from all over the world to do it. 3000km long, it usually takes anywhere between 4-6 months to walk it in full. You can do Te Araroa Trail in both directions, walking north to south (SOBO) or south to north (NOBO). We went SOBO, setting out from Cape Reinga the very top of Te Ika-a-Māui (The North Island), and tramped our way down this wild land, arriving in Bluff, the very bottom of Te Waipounamu (The South Island) about six months later.

Family walking on a track

Learning our way through Te Araroa

We had three kids along for the ride, so we went a bit slower than most. The youngest was 5 when she started and turned 6 halfway through, and the other two kids were 10 and 12. We hadn’t done anything as hardcore as an overnight hike as a family before but spent the months of lockdown in Sydney, researching and walking. You see, I’m a Kiwi but the rest of the fam are Aussie. We decided to move to Aotearoa and see what life across the ditch was like, and thought, why not have a crack at a thru-hike while we’re at it. What’s a thru-hike? That’s what they call a long walk (like Te Araroa) that goes from one point to another point, from A to Z. Basically, a bloody long walk.

Child hiking in the mountains

What it’s actually like tramping with a tribe

Hiking with kids is a rollercoaster ride. Huge highs, unbeatable lows and you can never really tell what’s coming up around the corner. Kids love taking breaks, they eat quite a lot and often which means you always need to carry plenty of food. Kids won’t necessarily be able to make it to the next toilet on trail for a poo, so digging cat holes becomes a necessary skill out there in the wilderness! However, kids are also much more capable than you can ever imagine. 

After about a week, walking became just what we did. These little people could crank out up to 29km a day on their little feet and knocked off plenty of 13-hour days, sometimes back-to-back and always found enough energy to play once we’d gotten to camp. We were gifted 6 months of hanging out with and getting to know these small humans. We talked for hours every day as we walked along, singing at the top of our lungs, skinny dipping in the ocean, streams and lakes, looking after whoever was having a tough time, hugging away each other’s tears, dancing, laughing and sleeping alongside each other in our tent or a hut each night. Absolutely priceless.

Family walking together in the mountains

Walking into Wānaka after 4.5 months of tramping

Given we’re here, on the Lake Wānaka website, I’m sure you’ve already guessed where we decided to land and call home, and no doubt you already know why. We walked into Central Otago from Canterbury via the Martha Saddle and Timaru Creek, over the summit of Breast Hill which revealed the expansive vistas of Lake Hāwea and its surrounds as far as the eye can see. There was love in it, absolute magic in it.

Child on a tree swing

Seeing Wānaka for the first time

There’s something incredible about Wānaka that makes you feel like you’ve come home. Like you belong. Like you want to get to know this place and protect it for future generations, so they might get a chance to know it too. You can feel the wairua (spirit) of this land, these maunga (mountains) and roto (lakes). It seeps into you, tugs at you and has you yearning for more. Do you feel that too? We reckon you should hit the trails around here and find out.

Boy with a shocked expression on his face
Keen for more insight into our experience hiking Te Araroa Trail? Read Choosing the best Te Araroa Track for your Ability for the full breakdown on hiking the tracks in full or in bite-sized sections.