|Bluff, New Zealand 4/20/12|
|Brad, one happy guy!|
The Southland Times
Visiting hikers near end of NZ trek
Celebration after four months in the wilderness
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2012
A group of international trampers were getting ready to celebrate surviving more than four months in the New Zealand wilderness
when they reached Bluff and the southern tip of the country yesterday.
After taking their first step at Cape Reinga at the northern end of the North Island on an epic 3000km journey, Australians Richard
Wagner and Charlie Barran, French couple Flore Lasne and Ludovic LeMoine and American Brad Hankins set out from Invercargill
yesterday morning to complete the newly created Te Araroa trail.
Mr Wagner said everyone had started the tramp separately with some getting a head start last November before the trail officially
opened in early December.
"I have been on the road for about 166 days," he said.
The story is a similar one for the other trampers with Ms Lasne and Mr LeMoine marking their 150th day on the trail, Mr Barran
had been walking for 171 days and Mr Hankins was clocking up day 134.
"It's quite nice to have evolved into a small group for the final few stages of the hike because at times it has been a very solitary
experience that I think has physically and mentally challenged each one of us," Mr Barran said.
It was only in Riverton the five came together along with Arnaud Zdziobeck a French tramper who had traversed the South Island,
Mr Wagner said.
Te Araroa Trust chief executive Geoff Chapple said to have so many separate trampers all converging at one place was unusual.
With the end in sight, all of the trampers showed appreciation for the country's environment but all agreed the highlight of the
journey had been Kiwi hospitality.
"Along the way all of us at one time or another have been invited to camp on lawns or even stay in local people's homes," Mr
Wagner said. "There have been offers of cups of tea and helpful directions."
For some the sight of Bluff was a welcome respite but for others it was the starting point for further journeys.
"Arnaud [Zdziobeck] and I will be going to hike around Stewart Island," Mr Barran said. "You can't stop at Bluff when there is still
another island even further south."
Mr Hankins who comes from Seattle in the United States is taking the long way home.
"I'm going to fly to Mexico and walk 4500 kilometres back to the Canadian border on the Pacific Crest Trail," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News