Awe-inspiring walk

An Arrowtown 18-year-old’s stoked at having walked the length of New Zealand in only 135 days, including about 20 rest days.

‘‘I wanted to do it in like five months and I did it in four months and 13 days, so I blew my target,’’ says Jess Dredge, who reached Bluff’s Stirling Point on April 23.

When she set off from Cape Reinga on December 10 to walk the 3000km Te Araroa Trail, Jess admits ‘‘I didn’t know if I would finish, I
didn’t even know if I was physically capable’’.

She recalls when bussing to the start-line ‘‘just thinking that it’s a very long drive and I couldn’t imagine walking such a long way’’.

Jess says her North Island leg went to schedule but she picked up pace in the South Island as she got fitter and her motivation to finish increased as friends joined her on the walk.

She concedes it was reasonably tough, physically, ‘‘but your body does get used to it’’.

‘‘It’s more tough when you take a rest day — when you just keep going, your body gets used to keeping going.’’

Jess says she couldn’t have asked for better weather, and was lucky to escape the North Island’s ‘‘terrible weather events like the cyclones’’.

‘‘When we needed it to be not windy or not raining, like when you’re higher up, we had good weather.’’

She split her time between sleeping in huts and tents, though mostly stayed in huts during the latter stages.

In Wānaka, she was delighted and surprised to be visited by her mum, Jenny — ‘‘I thought she was at work’’ — and her dog.

Jess says she completely wore out three pairs of shoes and also lost and broke walking poles.

At the finish-line ‘‘it was a bit less climactic than I thought it would be’’.

‘‘It wasn’t a great epiphany or anything, it just was kind of normal, but I was very happy to have finished.’’

The walk’s cemented her decision to go to polytech next year and take an outdoor instructor’s course, she says, while she’s also thinking about doing another trail, possibly overseas.

Jess’ former Wakatipu High outdoor education teacher Ken McIntyre, who’s walked the same trail and helped inspire her, is ‘‘in awe of her’’.

‘‘She has transformed herself physically, but it’s her mental fitness that shines through.’’

[email protected]

- Advertisement -