New Zealand. For a land-of-the-long-white-cloud the size of United Kingdom, which secludes itself in the south-eastern corner of the world map, and houses a population of sheep outnumbering that of humans by 15:1, it boasts an uncanny amount of eccentrics and their heroic – yet insane – antics.
Edmund Hilary, whose ascent would later earn him a knighthood, honed his mountaineering skills in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. A J Hackett, better known as the ‘father of bungy jumping’, performed his first jump from Greenhithe Bridge, Auckland, and commercialised his ‘insanity’ on Kawarau Bridge, Queenstown. Meanwhile, James Livingston and his mates sailed a pub and gallons of Speights – brand of a New Zealand beer with proud heritage – from Dunedin to London to quench the thirst of their homesick compatriots.
Even having lived amongst the extraordinaires, with their ambitious yet seemingly ludicrous (depending on perspective, clearly) schemes still strikes me with much fascination. So when two Imperial graduates approached me with their grand plan I could only admire and utter an obligatory “sweet as”.
I’d rather work my ass of for a summer and pay for six months of trekking in New Zealand, than going straight into a high paying corporate job and never seeing outside your office window Landey Patton
Alexander ‘Anders’ Ford and Landey Patton, who have completed a degree in material science and geology respectively, will attempt to traverse the Te Araroa Trail, a 3030km track that will take them from the northernmost point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, to Bluff, its southernmost tip. Along with Anders’ brother Damienmarc, they intend to set off in mid-November, aiming to complete the trek by the following March.
I asked them where the inspiration to trek across New Zealand had sprung from. It turns out, according to Anders, to be a modern adventurer.
“Back in first year I stumbled upon a guy called Karl Bushby of the Goliath Exhibition – he’s doing the longest unbroken walk in the world. I wanted to do it too. I thought it would be better to try out somewhere smaller at first. I thought about John o’ Groats to Lands End – no too small. I thought about Australia – too dangerous.
“I visited New Zealand later that year, and there it is: beautiful and challenging landscapes, plenty of fresh water and nothing in the bush that could kill me. So it had to be New Zealand. After I started looking at walking New Zealand I found that there was a track that went the whole way, the Te Araroa trail.”
With just less than a month to go, preparations for the trek have been underway. Already Landey and Anders have set up a website, TastyTrek.com, which details the route, research resources and equipment lists. It also features a rather slick tracking system: an interactive map that will show their current location and display relevant blog posts.
But how prepared are they?
Anders has adopted a confident attitude and minimal planning. Landey, however, has mixed feelings.
“Excited, confident and a little nervous; not necessarily about getting lost or anything, as we are giving ourselves leeway to take it slow at the beginning and time to chill if we need to. I’m a little nervous that walking everyday will get dull or monotonous but provided one of us doesn’t break a leg or get savagely sick or something well definitely do it.”
The landscape in New Zealand may be majestic but the challenges the terrain poses simply cannot be underestimated
The landscape in New Zealand may be majestic but the challenges the terrain poses simply cannot be underestimated. Having previously travelled in New Zealand, is there a particular section of the trek Anders is dreading of walking through?
“I’m slightly fearing Ninety Mile Beach – it is the first track, a three-day walk along the same stretch of beach. We will probably still be getting used to the packs, our bodies’ capabilities and the routine of living on the trail. Also walking on sand is a bitch and there’s relatively little water.”
“Also I expect some difficult sections in the South Island with the added complication of tonnes of rain, but by that time we’ll be ready for anything,” Landey added.
Anywhere looked forward to?
“I really want to climb Mount Cook even though it’s not on the trail but it’s worth the day walk each way. There will definitely be a load of places that we will want to go once we hear about them; we aren’t planning which hotspots to visit as we are fairly impulsive and would rather take a locals’ word over a travel guide.”
With hundreds casting away their student status and exiting the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday to commence a new chapter of their lives, there will be no shortages of graduates rushing into the job scenes and beginning their ascent on the career ladder. Anders and Landey, however, have an approach unlike that of many rat-race competitive Imperial graduates.
“Don’t think that as a graduate you need to get a job with any of the companies from any of the careers fairs, you don’t,” Anders advised. “You can do anything you want, go anywhere you want. What you have achieved by graduating from Imperial will stick with you for a long time.
“On a piece of paper – i.e. your CV – you are no different to the other 300 students who graduated with you. Employers want to see what you are like. Going out and exploring the world and doing something amazing makes you a whole lot more interesting.”
“The way I see it, the point of money is to buy experiences,” Landey added; “I’d rather work my ass of for a summer and pay for six months of trekking in New Zealand, than going straight into a high paying corporate job and never seeing outside your office window.”
You can follow Anders’ and Landey’s epic journey by logging onto their website, Tastytrek.com, or following their tweets @TastyTrek. They also hope to raise money for two charities, Solar Light for Africa and Water Aid – for details on how to donate visit their website.