Te Araroa track spans the length of both islands, running 3000 km from Cape Reinga to Bluff, but one of the most impressive sections is near Timaru, according to local outdoor instructor Sash Nukada.
“It’s an absolutely stunning tramp. Big open country, very Lord of the Rings. I love it because it is local but so inspirational,” Sash said. “You are getting good views the whole time.”
Every March/April, Sash takes a group of new students from the sustainability and outdoor education programme at Ara Institute of Canterbury’s Timaru campus into the wilderness, where the Canterbury Highlands meet the Southern Alps, on the Two Thumb Trail section of Te Araroa. He and first year students from the Diploma in Sustainability and Outdoor education in Timaru are just back from this annual pilgrimmage.
The trail takes three to four days, from Lake Tekapo to Mesopotamia Station and the Rangitata River. It boasts the highest point of Te Araroa, with the sweeping views you would expect at Stag Saddle, 1925m. For many, it is the highlight of Te Araroa, judging by the many blogs written about it.
When Te Araroa opened in 2011, it popularised the Two Thumb Track. Before Te Araroa, Sash would take his students to Arthur’s Pass for tramping adventures. It was only when he was looking through a friend’s Te Araora guidebook that he saw the ridiculously scenic Two Thumb Trail, and realised it was practically on his doorstep.
Still, he has yet to meet a student who has already done this tramp.
It is accessible without being a walk in the park, Sash says. No doubt his students are grateful for his years of experience as they traverse the high passes. “It is very exposed to the weather, and because it crosses ranges and the highest point of Te Araora, it’s not for beginners.”
The Two Thumb Trail is just one of the reasons Sash loves living in Timaru. “There are three rock climbing areas nearby, just seven, 10 and 20 minutes from Timaru; there’s a surf break next to town and another nearby; and the Rangitata River for kayaking, is just 45 minutes drive away. “It’s the perfect location for a sustainability and outdoor education programme,” he says.