Not bad scenery: Susan and Ken McIntyre take a selfie on the Tongariro Crossing


After taking just over two months to traipse the North Island, intrepid Queenstown teachers Susan and Ken McIntyre on Wednesday started trekking the Mainland.

Susan, 57, and Ken, 60, who’ve taught at Queenstown Primary and Wakatipu High, respectively, for the past 20 years, wagged school this term to walk the 3000km length-of-New Zealand Te Araroa Trail.

‘‘It’s been absolutely great,’’ says Ken, speaking from Wellington last week as the couple recuperated for a few days before tackling the top-of-the-South Island’s tough Richmond Range.

Susan, in particular, needed rest for a bit of shin tendonitis.

‘‘You have this thing called ‘trail pain’, everyone gets it somewhere,’’ Ken says.

‘‘I got it on Ninety Mile Beach [near the start] and I thought, ‘I’m only going to walk 90 miles and that’s it, I’m going home’, but you recover and you just get on the bike, I suppose — not literally — and you keep going the next day.’’

Not helping, he says, was the amount of road walking in the North Island.

‘‘When you’re on a road you can walk a lot faster and you can go longer, I suppose, but then that hurts your feet more, or your knee, or ankle.’’

As an experienced kayaker, he says a highlight was kayaking the Whanganui — officially part of the trail — from Taumaranui.

‘‘My wife was more apprehensive about it because she’s not a kayaker, she only paddles up to her knees, is what she used to say, but we just got on the river and it was a beautiful day, and five days later we were in

‘‘Most people take those big open canoes but we had a double sea kayak so we could go faster.’’

For the first month they barely saw rain, but the last two weeks were ‘‘quite wet’’.

‘‘You hit the Tararua Ranges, and it’s like 4km can take you eight hours because it’s just so up and down, and you’re scrambling through supplejack and other shitty bush.

‘‘I’m a very experienced tramper, outdoor educator, but we were pushing the envelope a wee bit on some of those days.

‘‘[The weather] can come in from nowhere, and it did, and you’ve got to get cross streams to get to the next hut to have a bit of security, or you’ve got to put the tent up wet, but we coped — Susan’s so stoic.’’

Ken says they often stayed in huts, ‘‘but we love our tent’’.

He concedes they’ll possibly get only as far as maybe the Mackenzie Country before school restarts, but they’ll go back and complete the walk in stages.

‘‘Some people say teaching’s a really hard job but one of the best things about it is you have holidays.’’