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On the Trail: Te Araroa

Two wāhine share tales from the trail spanning Aotearoa’s length. 

Photos: Elina Osborne and Deanna Gerlach 

The tide washes in at Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (Ninety Mile Beach). Running from Scott Point in the north, the long strip of sand sweeps down the coast past the town of Ahipara to Reef Point. Deanna Gerlach wakes in her tent tucked behind sand dunes and breathes in the salt of the morning air. Her husband Tom, and kids Juno (12), Joplin (10) and Goldie (6) wake to do the same. Hair is rumpled, ankles feature new scores of mosquito bites, and a silicone bag of peanut butter accidentally left outside has been devoured by possums. For the Gerlachs, this is freedom. This is Te Araroa.


Aotearoa’s longest trail is a showcase of landscape diversity, stretching from Cape Reinga to Bluff. A challenging 3000km journey winds along coastal sands, ridge-lines of forested ranges, farmland and volcanoes in the North Island. In the South, it traverses national parks, high country stations and mountain passes. It’s a different kind of trail from traditional back-country routes, where you might not run into anyone. Te Araroa is as much about the people and towns passed along the way as its natural beauty.


Home had been calling for a while for the Australia-based Gerlach family (Deanna originally a Kiwi from Northland). “My Mum and Dad were killed in a car accident a few years ago, and I had a growing need to connect with whānau and whenua. We’d dreamed of adventures as a couple and then with the kids, we just couldn’t get it together.” Covid prompted their drastic life change, despite having never done an overnight hike as a family. They’d read about another young family tramping Te Araroa, and inspired, they sold most of their belongings mid-2020 and applied for visas to jump across the ditch.


Te Araroa means “The Long Path”, and so it is. At about 25kms a day, the trail takes the average adult around 120 days to walk (four months). It’s no small feat for any hiker, let alone the little legs of Goldie...

Want to keep reading? Find the full story in Womenclan: Journal Two, available now.