Naresh Kumar, a 32-year-old originally from Chennai, India, has completed New Zealand’s epic walk Te Araroa - The Long Pathway, a 3000km continuous trail that begins at sacred Cape Reinga, at the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, and ends at Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island.
What is perhaps even more impressive is how the minimalist running enthusiast has forgone a more traditional hiking boot or running shoe in favour of the humble sandal to complete the often arduous but incredibly rewarding expedition.
The story behind Naresh Kumar’s decision to walk Te Araroa is just as inspirational as the scenery and landscapes he’s experienced in New Zealand.
As a teenager growing up in Chennai, Naresh fell in love with the Sir Peter Jackson directed The Lord of the Rings movies.
He was so mesmerized by New Zealand’s depiction of Middle-earth, he announced to his parents that one day he would move to the country where it was filmed. Fast-forward 13-years and his dreams have come true in more ways than he ever imagined.
Along the Te Araroa pathway – one of the world’s longest walking trails which can take experienced hikers around five months to complete – Naresh has experienced everything from white sandy beaches to towering mountain ranges, ancient volcanic landscapes, rural farmland and trout-filled rivers.
Te Araroa also connects country settlements, townships and cities across New Zealand, giving walkers the chance to experience a unique slice of Kiwi life.
Naresh says that during the walk he has discovered there is so much more to New Zealand than beautiful landscapes - including the generosity of the people, their kindness and their hospitality.
At the end of his journey today (8.12.14) Naresh was presented with a special plaque by the Mayor of Invercargill Tim Shadbolt, at Stirling Point in Bluff. Along with offering panoramic views of the Tasman Sea, Stirling Point marks the end of State Highway 1 which runs the length of New Zealand and has an iconic sign marking the distances to other major cities in the world.
The Invercargill City Council has recently decided to present those who traverse the country along the Te Araroa with plaques that are made from material from New Zealand’s Tiwai Point smelter.
Through-out his journey Naresh has had one goal in mind – to finish Te Araroa before the official release of the final Hobbit movie, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies which will be released in New Zealand at midnight on Friday (12.12.2014).
Naresh’s story is one of courage, discovery, and adventure, pushing through pain, inspiration, and living your dream. In some ways it draws a lot of similarities from Bilbo Baggin’s journey through Middle-earth and showcases the worldwide effect Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies have had.
Naresh has been so touched by the magic of New Zealand he is even taking steps to make the country his permanent home.
Background: Te Araroa: The Long Pathway
When the 3000-kilometre Te Araroa – The Long Pathway was completed in New Zealand in December 2011, it became one of the world's longest walking trails.
Stretching the entire length of the country, Te Araroa is a scenic public walkway that links New Zealand’s actual and symbolic poles - Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of the North Island, with Bluff, on the South Island’s southernmost coast.
Intrepid hikers who embark on the full route - a major expedition of several weeks - experience New Zealand from the grassroots up.
The journey takes walkers through every type of New Zealand landscape from coastal to volcanic, river valleys to mountains, forest to farmland, via country settlements and major cities.
But for walkers with less time, or wanting to make the journey in stages, Te Araroa also provides a series of great scenic hiking routes of varying length, difficulty and landscape.