Hut Warden Eiji Kitai tells us about his experience walking the Te Araroa Trail while raising funds for the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust…
Tell us a bit about yourself/being a hut warden…
My name is Eiji Kitai. In the summer months I love working as a hut warden of Greenstone/Caples Track. In the winter months, I work for Air New Zealand as part of their ground crew at Queenstown Airport. I am grateful to both organisations for taking me back year after year. Before getting these jobs, I had worked for Ultimate Hikes as a Milford and Routeburn Track Guide during the summer season and in various other jobs in winter.
I really love tramping in New Zealand. One of the main reasons why my wife Chiharu, who used to work for DOC, and I came to New Zealand 20 years ago was merely to enjoy tramping. So I have got my dream job!
What’s the Te Araroa Walk?
A long trail which runs the whole length of New Zealand, from north to south. The popularity of the trail has been increasing since its official open in 2011. The total distance from top of the north, Cape Reinga, to the bottom of the south, Bluff, is approximately 3,000 kilometres. The Greenstone Track that I work on during the summer season is a part of Te Araroa.
Tell us why you’re raising awareness of the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust…
Greenstone Track is adjacent to the Routeburn Track, and the predator control work along the Routeburn also benefits the Greenstone. As I love bird watching, I would like to support native bird protection projects that are having a positive affect on the area. During my attempt to walk Te Araroa, I am asking for a personal donation $30 (1 cent per 1 kilometre I walk) or a corporate donation $300 (10 cents per 1 kilometre I walk) for the Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust.
People can donate from their website or on my Facebook page via Paypal. I’m asking donors to message their names and donation amounts to my Facebook page so that I know the amount of funds raised.
When did you start the Te Araroa Walk?
As I had a commitment to my summer job as a Greenstone Hut warden, I started the walk from Cape Reinga in September last year and arrived in Wellington, completing the north section of Te Araroa, at the start of November just in time for the commencement of the summer season. Here’s my interview with the Otago Daily Times after completing the North Island section.
After 5 months break, I started walking from Ship Cove along the Queen Charlotte Track, at the top of the south section on 6 April 2018.
Where are you up to now?
As at the start of May, the total distance I have walked reached 2,280 kilometres, which was more than three quarters of the whole Te Araroa Trail. It’s another 720 kilometres to go now. There’ll be high-altitude passes and major river crossings on my way, so I’ll just keep on, keepin’ on!
What’s been the toughest part so far?
Many people would name Richmond Ranges, Waiau Pass or Tararua Mountains, because these are technically very challenging. However I have experienced the hardest time when walking in the Omaha Forest, north of Warkworth on a very hot day. I did not carry enough water and ran out along my way.
What’s been your favourite part?
Having had my 50th birthday at a DOC hut in Puketi Forest, west of Kerikeri on 13 September. While staying in the very comfortable hut by myself, I heard the North Island kōkako call pouring from the canopy of magnificent kauri trees. I was deeply moved by this magical forest, something I have never experienced in Queenstown where I live.
How can people follow the rest of your journey?
Please follow ‘Keep on, Keepin’ on – Eiji’s Te Araroa Walk‘ on Facebook that Chiharu manages on my behalf.
I do not have a smart phone, but I do write a journal entry each day. About once a week when I come down to town, I post the journal with a SD card of my digital camera to her. Then she posts my journal with photos and movies on the Facebook page – so there is usually a two week or more gap between the post and the date I walked. If you have a message to me, please use messenger on Facebook then she will relay these messages to me. I would appreciate your follow, shares and support!
Last but not at least, my deep appreciation goes to Michel de Bouley, my supervisor, and my colleagues at Glenorchy and Queenstown. I had to finish this season a few weeks earlier to start Te Araroa of the South Island and they were happy to cover my shifts after I left. Thank you so much guys for your understanding and support!