Dean Raynel walked the length of the North Island to raise awareness and funds to help people with Alzheimers. Here he shares his top four most beautiful places.
CAPE RĒINGA TO AHIPARA
One-hundred and one kilometres, four days. The first day is from the Cape to Twilight Beach. There is a great little campsite there. The track and views from the very start are stunning. Then days two to four are simply walking Ninety Mile Beach. There is a constant roar from the ocean and a real mental challenge walking 30km each day with no end in sight. Wild horses roaming behind the sand dunes will appear from time to time, and the occasional tourist bus or local driving down the beach.
THE TARARUA RANGES
The toughest section of trail in the North Island. The views and landscapes were spectacular and you can see for miles in every direction. There are magical mossy forests and ridgeline walks. You will need to make sure you are reasonably fit for the steep ascents and descents, but there are huts along the way every four hours so you are never any more than two hours to the nearest hut if the weather turns. It is important not to go up until you have a good window of weather.
THE MIGHTY WHANGANUI RIVER
I paddled for three days from Whakahoro to Pipiriki with my dad and brother. You can paddle from Taumarunui all the way to Whanganui if you want, over seven days. It is mostly peaceful and tranquil as you slowly make your way down the river but there are also moments of excitement and adrenaline as you navigate the rapids. They are only small and there are people of all ages and abilities doing it. I did get tipped out once but never felt like I was in danger and simply floated downstream until I could swim to shore.
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THE TONGARIRO CROSSING
It is like being on another planet. The Blue and Emerald lakes, the Red Crater, the volcanic terrain. There are stunning views looking down on to Lake Taupo from the Ketatahi track too. One of my most memorable experiences was bathing in a pool on top of a waterfall at the Oturere Hut, part of the Northern Circuit. I spent an extra day up there while doing the crossing and stayed at the hut. There is a stream and waterfall that comes from the mountains that you can easily walk to in 5 minutes and there are pools to bathe in that are not too cold. I sat in a pool right above the waterfall and had an amazing view over the Desert Road. The huts on the circuit are well maintained and comfortable.
• For information on Alzheimers awareness and fundraising, go to alzheimers.org.nz