All along the way, people have been telling us that we should skip the north and head straight for the South Island. Apparently there is a lot of TA hikers doing this as well. Because the north is “boring”. Because it’s not as wild and off the grid as the south. Because you have to walk on the road. Because there is towns.
Only 3,5 weeks into the hike we feel that this mentality is fundamentally wrong. Te Araroa is about more than trucking through the land, taking in as many miles as possible every day. For us, the TA is about discovering NZ, both its nature and its culture. It’s not only about passing by wonderful places, but also about meeting the wonderful people living in those places.
We’ve been invited into people’s houses, been offered meals, been offered rides even when we were not hitching. We herded their cows, collected their eggs, fed their chickens and pigs, slept in their back yards. We got numbers from friends and relatives down the road to help us out. And all of that just out of friendly intentions, from Maori and Kiwi alike. We always offered a Koha (a present or a donation, for the favour) but not everyone accepted it.
So take your time to talk to someone. Wave to the cars passing by on the road. Take that invitation to a tea at someone’s place. Don’t be that tourist that will do the same things everyone else is doing to take the same picture that has already been taken countless times. Listen, learn and do something else so you can find out what NZ is really all about.
It’s not only the goal, but also the journey that matters. Our learning journey had only just begun, and already the north is an essential part of it.