Book Review: “Not Alone: Walking Te Araroa Trail Through New Zealand” by Tim Voors, published by Bateman Books, price $45.99.
Reviewed by Tony Orman
Keen walker Tim Voors lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands and it was during a visit by an Austrian friend Goldie who Tim had first met on a North American walking trail, that New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail was mentioned. The seed was planted. “What a picture, what an adventure, incredible nature, living in the wilderness for half a year far away from society,” mused Tim. He then made the decision to tackle Te Araroa.
So he left his family, work and comfortable life in the Netherlands to walk 3100 kilometres – or 4 million steps – in a five month hike from the top of the North Island to Bluff at the bottom end of the South Island.
He starts alone but soon meets two women who become his hiking companions and “trail family.” The two women are bestowed the nicknames of Sunny and Unicorn. Together they embark upon the venture. This book is about Tim Voor’s tramp the length of New Zealand. He writes in a pleasing, relaxed style and the reader is likely to be absorbed in the challenges of fording flooded rivers, camping in the wilderness and seeking shelter from the storms and the people interrelationships.
The book is brilliantly illustrated with excellent photographs and the author’s own charming – if that’s the word – water colour paintings.
I did look for more detail of mountain areas I have been in, such as the Tararua Ranges. The Te Araroa route travels the main range of the Tararua Ranges and I wondered about the detail such the twin Tararua Peaks and ladder, Kime and Mangahuka huts. And the Tararuas are anything but kind in the cloud, rain and wind that sweeps in from the Tasman Sea.
Similarly I wished for a bit more detail of the top of the South Island areas which I know of. However that slight disappointment was overshadowed by the tales of the trio, their friendships that developed and interactions, fun and adventures with the wilderness, told in an engaging, lively style that makes for absorbing reading.
I came across just one spelling error in captions of the Tararua photos where somehow they became Tauraroa Ranges!
If you’re thinking of walking the Te Araroa Trail, there’s a chapter with much informative and wise advice on planning, equipment and preparing in terms of getting fit. The author emphasises “mental preparation is even more important than physical training. During the trail situations will sometimes arise where you will have to make life or death decisions—(such as) – when deciding whether to cross a dangerous river.”
He underlines the need for common sense and using all of one’s senses and survival instincts. “You rarely use these instincts in the comforts of city life but they are definitely within you,” he adds. The trick is to just find them and use them.
The author was mentally stimulated by the trek besides the physical challenge and accomplishment.
“It’s about the fun I had walking together with my new found family. It’s about a rediscovery of my inner child, rediscovering wonder. And it is about the magical connection I had along the journey with the kind and hospitable farmers and people I met along the way.”