TE ARAROA TRAIL - 3,000km HIKE
DOM PAVER 26, is a keen hiker. For some, hiking is a passion that will see them head out onto a trail for an afternoon, a full day, or for the most eager hikers, an overnight trek. Dom however, is passionate enough about hiking that not only does he do it for a living, but over the summer of 2018/19 he set out on a 3,000km, 5 month journey that covered the entire length of New Zealand. With the goal of finding out more about himself, Dom learnt, experienced and lived a whole lot during his time on the Te Araroa trail.
TOM DUNN: Who is Dom Paver?
DOM PAVER: Hmmm that's a good question!
Well my profession is mainly based in the outdoors as a Guide! It's a job and a passion which I absolutely love. As a person I have often struggled with identity, however my friends and family tend to say I am kind, fun and usually loud person to be around. You will probably hear me before you see me!
You'll almost always see me with a smile and I'm always down to chat!
TD: You’re an experienced and passionate hiker, but 3,000km is still 3,000km! What first interested you in taking on a trip of this length?
DP: Well I think the main reason was to have the sense of freedom that comes along with being in the outdoors. I also wanted time to really start thinking about what I want from life, and to try implement some strategies to get on top of my mental health.
TD: Te Araroa is highly regarded as one of the great trails by the hiking community. What was it in particular about New Zealand and the Te Araroa that caught your eye?
DP: There is SO MUCH to love about the TA, and New Zealand in general. The people are incredibly warm and welcoming, and the places the trail takes you to are breathtaking. From the gorgeous (but muddy) Northland forests to the mountains of the South Island and everything in between; you will find something that makes you pause in awe at the beauty of the place.
TD: There’s some incredible views along the trail. For those who know little of the trail how would you describe what you saw?
DP: Well it's amazing how different the North and South Island are. The first stretch of the North Island is along 90 mile beach which takes 3 or 4 days. It shows the rugged and wild oceans meeting at Cape Reinga and takes you along a beautiful (windy) hike between the Dunes and the sea. The North (Island) offers lots of Rainforest, Beach, and farmland views (plus a fair amount of road walking). Some other Trampers were a little put off by the road walking however it all encapsulates the TA and delivers a very unique experience. The Whanganui River Canoeing trip was absolutely stunning and was a highlight of the North for sure! You are also gifted incredible views on the trail through Tongoriro. Unfortunately I was unable to enjoy the side trip called the "Round the Mountain" hike but I was told it was unbelievable.
As soon as the Ferry arrives at the South Island you start to see some of the true beauty of New Zealand. You'll get gorgeous ocean views followed by rugged mountains peaks, wild rivers, snow capped mountains, Beech Forests and plenty more.
TD: What did a typical day on foot look like for you? By the end of the journey did you find yourself running through a bit of a daily routine?
DP: Absolutely! I'd usually wake up with the sun and begin my pack up. After this I would eat either my cold soaked oats or if I was feeling luxurious or had a shorter day I would cook up oats and have a coffee. I'd then check the trail on my OSM app and begin my hike. There was no rush for me, however I do naturally walk quite quickly so the plan as to where I'd end up would often change! Arriving in camp I'd set up tent, cook dinner and either head to bed to read or have a chat with other trampers if there were some there.
TD: If you could relive a single moment from the trek which would it be?
DP: The moment I arrived at Bluff (the finish line for Te Araroa). It was one of the single most emotional experiences of my life. I woke up at 1 am and started out hiking over night so I could arrive at sunrise before the tourist buses and other people were there. (Also so I could probably just openly cry and avoid embarrassment). I remember as I arrived I was playing David Bowies "Heroes" followed by M83s "Outro". I hugged the pole and sat there in reflection with tears on my face for about an hour. A truly unexplainable feeling.
TD: On days where you were fatigued, the weather wasn’t as kind or you were simply lacking motivation, how did you convince yourself to keep going?
DP: To be honest I didn't often feel a lack of motivation. I think because I was so content and happy where I was and with what I was doing I usually avoided the difficulty to keep going. While I was on the trail I came out of a 5 year relationship so had a lot of difficulty with my mental health. The one thing that kept a smile on my face was the hike. It was everything to me at the time and I couldn't wait to see what the next day brought. It was a kind of treatment I suppose.
TD: Did you ever not want to continue or think about stopping where you were and coming home?
DP: I can't remember a time where I thought about giving up. The excitement and adrenaline never really left for me so I guess I was lucky in that way.
TD: Over the 5 months of the journey you took some breaks to include some extra experiences (sailing, canoeing, and time with friends and family). What did this add to your experience of Te Araroa?
DP: Oh man, I had some incredible side trips in NZ. If you're considering hiking the TA and don't mind hoping off trail I would recommend seeing as much as you can! In particular visiting my friends in Kuaotunu, in the Coromandel Peninsula was unreal. The locals were absolute legends and I got to go diving, sailing, hiking, drinking etc. It was a very special time. I also enjoyed hitching out to Raglan for a wave (surf) and a bunch of other little towns on the way. In total I spent about 3-4 weeks off the trail.
TD: If you were to do the hike again what would be 3 pieces of gear you would want to include, and what would be 3 pieces of gear you think you could go without?
DP: Hmmmm. I think I would go with a Z pack instead of my Osprey (backpack style). The Ospreys are great but a little heavy. I was pretty happy with my gear apart from that. I wasn't exactly a Ultra Light hiker haha
I suppose I didn't really need to take my Ukulele, Solar Panel or 'river crossing sandals'. Some days you can't be bothered swapping shoes over and over again.
Actually scrap that, the ukulele was essential. So was the harmonica haha.
TD: What was the biggest lesson you learnt on the trip?
DP: People often ask this question and it's quite hard to answer. I think that for me I learnt that I could mentally stick it out through anything. Having struggled with Depression and Anxiety on and off for a decade I really wanted to prove to myself that I could get through it all. My relationship ending and the isolation you can feel while on a long trail really challenged me mentally, but I learned that with the help of the great outdoors you can get through anything and come out a better person on the other side. Get outside people! It's magic!
TD: If someone was reading this and considering taking on a trip like Te Araroa what advice would you give them?
DP: Do it! It is a big commitment but don't let a fear of failure or the unknown stop you from giving it a crack. There is a whole variety of people on the TA from no experience to professional outdoor athletes! As long as you prepare well you will have trip of a life time, no matter what it is. Give it a go!
TD: Can we expect to see more epic hikes from Dom Paver in the coming years?
DP: Absolutely! There are heaps of hikes all around the world that interest me. I'm actually currently looking to try and design a 'thru' hike from Wilsons Prom to Byron Bay. So hopefully something will come of that in the next few years. Otherwise the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and CDT (Continental Divide Trail) in the States are on the cards. Oh and my brothers and I want to hike up Mt. Erebus in Antarctica.. but that might be a while off!
TD: Any final thoughts to leave us with?
DP: I believe that a relationship with the great outdoors can be just as important as of that with friends and family. Spend time out in Mother Nature and try to explore and experience as much.of her as you can with the time you have. And try to do so with a smile on you're face!!
Let's protect the beautiful natural environment we have so that future generations can experience what we are so lucky to have now. THANKS!!!
Get in touch with Dom Paver:
Instagram - @dompaver_
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