Walking any of New Zealand's Great Walks will change your
life, a group of four international visitors promoting them
The Department of Conservation last year announced a
three-year partnership with Air New Zealand and to celebrate,
a group of people were chosen to experience the eight walks
and one canoe journey across both islands by completing them
all in nine weeks.
The group comprises an Australian, an American, a Briton and
a Japanese. At nearly halfway through their challenge, the
group enjoyed a rest in Queenstown on Wednesday before
heading to Nelson to start walking
the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk today.
With all the cliff-jumping, environmental education and
adventure activities, Joel Cogger, a graphic designer from
Australia, said any one of the activities would be ''a really
good experience, but we're having them all thrown at us at
Stephanie Hathaway, a blogger from the United States who
recently survived breast cancer, said every activity felt
like ''the best thing I've done in my life''.
''We do feel exceptionally grateful and it is changing our
lives. From here the course of my life is different.''
The group has achieved many milestones, such as ''getting
used to'' thick walls of sandflies which line the tracks - Mr
Cogger quipped they seemed to particularly like Australians.
A series of Doc rangers had accompanied the group on the
walks and the rangers received full praise and respect from
the international visitors.
Toshitake Suzuki, a recent graduate from Japan, said he
enjoyed meeting people with such passion.
''Doc people don't just do their work to get money - they
really love their work.''
Aside from choosing wedding spots and peer-pressuring each
other to jump into ice-cold water, the group is quietly
coming to terms with how the experience has changed them and
what ''normal life'' will hold for them when they return.
Air New Zealand representative Dayna Vawdrey, who has also
been completing the walks along with a cameraman, said each
person in the group was at a different stage of their life
''and what a great place to get inspired'' for the next
New Zealand's Great Walks are: Kepler, Rakiura, Milford,
Routeburn, Abel Tasman Coast, Heaphy, Lake Waikaremoana and
the Tongariro Northern Circuit and Whanganui River (canoe