Walking the Te Araroa trail for mental health recovery awareness
Mairi-Anne and Hannah intend to complete as much as possible of the 3 080-km Te Araroa trail across New Zealand, hopefully reaching Bluff at the southernmost point of South Island by December 2013 or January 2014. For the whole distance, Hannah will carry “The thing”. Our endeavour is called Mind Over Miles.
Our family, Marius and Etienne, shall be with us on various stages of the journey, when funds, practical issues and school holidays permit. Our friends may also join us for short stages of the journey when they can, and members of the public and representatives from mental health organisations wishing to show solidarity are welcome to walk with us too. The public joining us will be most appropriate for mental health publicity at those stages of the trail that traverse cities and towns. The Mind Over Miles website will publish details for interested parties about when we shall reach cities. However, by arrangement with our walk co-ordinator, people could join us, under their own steam and at their own expense, at other stages of the trail too.
We are not political and do not represent any organisation. We are doing this to show solidarity with people suffering from mental illness and also their families, who are inevitably affected by the difficulties surrounding recovery. Our intention is primarily to raise awareness and secondarily to raise funds for mental health recovery.
Our blog will show that we are serious about recovery, but we are not serious about ourselves. Prepare to laugh.
Potential problems and solutions
This is an epic journey and we are motivated, but we are aware that much can go wrong when tramping, including bad weather, accidents, illness and injury. Our approach therefore has to be realistic and practical and our sponsors must accept that fulfilling our complete vision may not be possible. Our intentions are that
- If we are unable to continue walking, we will attempt to complete the journey by bicycle. The point is that we must travel using our body power, not easier forms of transport, apart from in those places where a ferry is the only option, of course. If the bicycle version of the journey becomes inevitable, then we won’t be able to stick to the Te Araroa trail, but will do as much of an off-tar route as possible, with the same ultimate destination of Bluff. In this case, changes in mileage will be noted in our log for sponsorship purposes.
- If Mairi-Anne is obliged to stop traveling, either on foot or by bicycle, Marius will take over as Hannah’s route companion. It is possible that an adult family friend might also walk or cycle in loco parentis if both Marius and Mairi-Anne are temporarily unable to continue. The most important thing is that Hannah should have the best chance possible to complete the journey.
- If Hannah gets to a point where she cannot go on, we shall end the endeavour. The walk would not have been in vain, because if we just get a half or even a quarter of the way across New Zealand, we would still have raised awareness, and where finances are concerned, our sponsorship would be per kilometre only. It is very important to Hannah that whatever is managed is an achievement, and she does not feel that she is letting people down. She does not want to commit to 3080 kilometres and then “fail” by only managing 800 or even 200 kilometres. She needs to know that every step she takes, counts; that she only has to do the best she can, and that will be good enough. Her anxiety requires this condition.
- If our progress is blocked by a natural disaster (such as a landslip) or a seasonal consideration (such as track sections being closed for the lambing season), we shall have to skip the affected section of the walk. Any change in the total distance travelled will be noted in our log.
- We would like the journey to be as continuous as possible, but periodic breaks from it are inevitable for various reasons, including medical appointments. Whenever we halt the trip to return home, our position will be recorded so we can be dropped at the right spot for us to resume the journey after the break.
- An online record will be kept of where we are, what we have managed to do, and whether any deviations have been necessary.
There shall be two sponsorship options, one for people wishing to fund us so we can actually do our walk, and another for people who wish to donate to mental health recovery. The finances of the walk and the fundraising will be transparent and bear public scrutiny. At the time of writing this statement of intent, we are still working through the logistics of fundraising.
In July 2013, we did an initial, three-day test walk on the Te Araoa trail from Marsden Point to Mangawhai, then started at Cape Reinga, walking 90-Mile Beach with our dog. After 141 kilometres, we are established on the walk and potential sponsors can be reassured that we are capable of continuing for a substantial distance.