Intrepid trekkers get to Wānaka

Brook van Reenen running along the Pukaki Canal last Saturday, which forms part of the Te Araroa Track from Tekapo to Twizel. Photo: Mike Langford.

Running Te Araroa with Brook van Reenen

Brook Van Reenen began his quest on August 24 and aims to run the entire 3000m Te Araroa Track from Cape Reinga to Cape Bluff while fundraising for mental health. 

The 33-year-old Wānaka resident has raised over $11,000 for the Mental Health Foundation, and intends to pass directly through Wānaka this week. Van Reenen has travelled a distance of 1,860.84 kilometres so far.

“My mission on the Te Araroa is about exploring new amazing places [...] I've never seen before. So far it has been spectacular seeing such a vast, diverse, landscape and every day is completely different,” said van Reenen. “It's important to me to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation to showcase that being outdoors is great for your own mental health. You don't have to go to the extreme length that I’m going to, but experiencing somewhere new is an amazing thing, and I'm definitely going through a lot of my own struggles along the way, it hasn't been easy, but friends and family and meeting people along the way have made those tough times easier!”

“The trip has been incredible, I've hiked and ran on beaches... I look at 90-mile beach on the map of New Zealand now in a whole different way—it took me three days to finish that part. I've hiked and ran through cities like Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington, traversed volcanoes, hiked big mountains, stayed in cool huts in amazing locations, taken a million photos, met some amazing people and been to places I never knew existed!

A highlight was staying with the trail founder in Auckland, Geoff Chapple, and picking his brains about what was still to come! And what his favorite parts were.”

Van Reenen added, “Where possible I encourage people to come and do sections with me, I can't wait to catch up with my Wānaka crew and my goal is to hopefully raise $25,000 for the Mental Health Foundation. You can leave messages of support when you donate and I often reread these and it keeps me going when things get hard!”

Find updates or donate via the Running Te Araroa Facebook page. 


Walking For Life with Ivan Miller

Ivan Miller began his journey in Cape Reinga on February 9 this year and aims to have walked the entire New Zealand coastline by June 2020 in order to increase awareness and funds for mental health.

The 50-year-old Kiwi has raised over $5000 for the Mental Health Foundation, and reached Wānaka last Tuesday after hiking 53 kilometres from Cromwell—knocking his ‘total kilometres walked’ up to 3132.

Wānaka local Jools Hall met Miller on the Routeburn Track earlier this month. 

Hall said, “He was wearing a Walking For Life vest and one of my friends asked him about his story. He told us his incredible story. Everyone of my friends in our group has been touched by mental health, so yes his story brought tears to our eyes. We all feel that connecting, sharing and helping each other makes a difference. Mental health is very real and raw to many and is something that we need to keep talking about. It was probably no coincidence that while we were in the great outdoors we met Ivan”. 

Miller decided to venture on this trek after experiencing a work restructure in Kerikeri, Northland, and losing his job—living in the country with a broken-down car. “Walking For Life was conceived and inspired when I was picking kiwifruit flowers with a workmate on a casual contract job that only went for four weeks. We shared beers together one afternoon. Though he had known me for a couple of years—I had been his supervisor in a packhouse in Kerikeri previously—he had never heard my story.” said Miller, “In my early thirties after years of travelling [...] and excessive alcohol and drug-use I had a complete breakdown. I was hospitalised, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—stemming from childhood sexual abuse when I was 13. I was put on a merry-go-round of powerful psychiatric medication, which I took for seven years. I couldn't work. I felt more disempowered than ever, and as my anxiety increased I retreated to the safety of my room. I only had a couple of friends.” 

“Graham, who I had met in hospital, became my closest friend and we saw each other everyday. He convinced me to enrol in an art course at the local Polytechnic. The course put structure back into my life. I had a timetable, a social group, but more importantly, art gave me a vehicle to take what was inside me out, and onto a canvas, or paper later, as I switched to a creative writing degree.” continued Miller. 

“As I felt myself slowly recover one by one I began to take myself off my psychiatric medication— all of them. Over the next couple of years, with my psychiatrist caution, guidance and advice, I withdrew from tranquillisers, mood-stabilisers and antipsychotics. Lithium was the last drug I withdrew from ten years ago. At the same time, I was correcting my mindset to a positive one by engaging in more holistic and organic treatment such as mindfulness exercises and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). I also sought to find pleasure in simple things like gardening, hobbies, music etc.  I wanted to fill my toolbox with all sorts of things good for my mental health that I could reach for in times of distress. I recovered to a state of health much better and stronger than I had ever known.” 

“My friend was shocked as I revealed this story. He couldn't imagine me having been so sick.” added Miller. “He then opened up himself and spoke of his own personal experiences. It was a very powerful meeting and we strongly connected. In the middle of that night I woke up with the thought ‘what if I was to walk around NZ, opening a conversation around mental health issues, connecting with people, displaying their kindness and the good and beautiful things around me, wherever that may be.’ I sold all of my things to get me started, I went in untrained and unprepared [...] news of my Hikoi is spreading on my Facebook page Walking For Life and people have been extending the hands of kindness, offering pack-support, food, accommodation and lots of other practical help that make my walk so much easier.”

From Cape Reinga, Miller’s trekking route has taken him down the west coast of the North Island and the east coast of the South Island, where he tramped the Rakiura Track. 

Now he is headed to Westland, having walked via Riverton, Tuatapere, Manapouri, Te Anau and the Divide before taking a shortcut to Glenorchy and Queenstown using the Routeburn Track. 

Once Miller has completed the South Island’s coastline, he will partake on the last—and longest—leg of his journey along the east coast of the North Island, which is a distance of over 2000 kilometres. 

Miller added, “I have walked beaches, tracks, but mainly stuck to roads. I post regular map/course updates on my page. I have camped in laybys and holiday parks, on the beach, in the Department of Conservation (DOC) huts, at pubs and in the houses of strangers. I have a pack and sleeping bag, all of my cold weather gear, gas and cooking supplies, food and toiletries—often bought in small town superettes and camp kiosks.”

Miller has unofficially adopted the introductory song ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ from The Littlest Hobo television series as the theme song for his charitable trek. 

Find updates or donate via the Walking For Life Facebook page.


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