Tim Voors, a Dutchman from Amsterdam, is a passionate thru-hiker. Not Alone. Walking Te Araroa Trail through New Zealand is his engaging memoir of how he left his wife and three children at home to walk for five months from Cape Reinga to Bluff, a journey of 3000 kilometres and 4 million steps.
Curiously, it was falling through the ice into freezing water while ice skating in Amsterdam, that triggered his desire to take a long break from his stressful career in the city and travel to the other side of the world to chase the sun and hike Te Araroa Trail.
For a talented artist, his trail name ‘Van Go’ is very apt. Many of his stunning photographs, as well as his enchanting small aquarelle paintings, are in this book. This adds greatly to its appeal. They were created with just two paint colours, turquoise and yellow. For him, these are the two colours that most typify the New Zealand landscape, which he describes as ‘Scotland on steroids.’ He gave many away to people he met on the journey as a thank you for a cup of tea, a shower, a good story or an overnight stay.
Tim Voors started the journey alone but soon met two young women, whose trail names were Sunny and Unicorn. Together they became a trail family, had a lot of fun together, and supported each other when the trail became challenging and the going got tough. He also tells many entertaining anecdotes about some of the other quirky characters they meet along the way. And spends time pondering what motivates people to go on such a pilgrimage.
It rained much more often than they had expected. Sunny kept a tally of how many ’dry foot days” and counted only 46 days without rain. It was the year when Cyclone Gita tore through New Zealand, pounding it with torrential rain, and damaging winds. In the Tasman region, he remembers how The Pelorus was 30 metres wide and had seemed relatively innocent back in Havelock, but now had turned into a brown swirling monster due to the overnight rain. The water rushed near our narrow path, and numerous logs drifted along the river with tremendous force.
Tim Voors was well aware that any misjudged step could have fatal consequences. With difficulty, they managed to find a place to cross and got safely to the other side.
I am always fascinated by the way others see us and our country. For Tim Voors, the North Island was characterised by hospitality and moving encounters with the island’s local inhabitants, while it was the raw, empty wilderness of nature that enchanted him in the South Island. He rates Te Araroa Trail amongst the top 5 trails in the world.
In his opinion, Te Araroa is a challenging hike, but practically any healthy person aged 18-70 can undertake it.
For those who are considering walking it, he has included a chapter packed full of sound, practical advice. This includes the planning which you need to do beforehand, a breakdown of how much it will cost to walk the trail, a long list of all the equipment you’ll need to carry with you, and the training you should do beforehand. He counts preparing yourself mentally, and honing your survival instincts as perhaps even more important than physical training.
Walking Te Araroa Trail is not for me! But I thoroughly enjoyed the vicarious experience of walking 3000 kilometers and 4 million steps with Tim Voors and his trail family in my imagination. It is a great adventure story!
Reviewer: Lyn Potter