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Ever wanted to take not just a walk, but a Great Walk. Well, if you are in New Zealand, you are in luck! In NZ you are able to take a Great Walk through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring landscapes on premier walking tracks.

New Zealand’s Great Walks are premier tracks that pass through diverse and spectacular scenery. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges, and vast valleys…there’s a Great Walk for everyone! Great Walks tracks are well formed and easy to follow. While you might prefer to explore on your own terms, there are also guided trips available that offer a bit more comfort. Great Walks are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers.

Today we are going to look at four different Great Walks and what it is like to walk them…

Let’s start with Lake Waikaremoana – a well-known part of the Great Walk family. This one is more of a backcountry, off the beaten track experience in which you are immersed into stunning natural wilderness and welcomed into the homeland of Ngai Tūhoe. Those who have walked it often say you leave with a sense of connection, rejuvenation, and wellness. Lake Waikaremoana will take you about 3-4 days to walk, an overall distance of 46 km. It is located in Te Urewera, east North Island, which is close to Wairoa, Gisborne, and Rotorua.

Next up we have the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is located in the Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island region. From late October to April, you can explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views. From May to late October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, avalanches, and short daylight hours – therefore you can only go if you have navigation and alpine skills. It is pretty incredible that you are able to journey through dramatic (and active!) volcanic landscapes, glacial valleys, native beech forest, alpine meadows, and emerald-coloured lakes. This walk also takes about 3-4 days at a distance of 43 km Location. It is easy to get here from the National Park Village, Tūrangi, Ohakune, or Waiouru.

A pretty special walk is up next – the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Most visitors only walk in one direction on the Coast Track and get a water taxi in the other direction. Luckily, both ends are serviced by public transport and water taxis stop at the main beaches! However, you can walk the whole track or kayak between different locations. While you are travelling you can enjoy the mild climate, golden beaches, and lush coastal native bush on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This walk will take about 3-5 days at an overall distance of 60 km.

Finally, we are heading down south to look at the famous Routeburn Track. This track takes a little less time than the others – about 2-4 days at a distance of 32km. From November to April, you can weave through meadows, reflective tarns, and alpine gardens, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys. However, from May to October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, and short daylight hours – therefore you should only attempt it if you have alpine, navigation, and river crossing skills. The Routeburn is located in the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks and therefore is often done by people visiting Queenstown.

So, what do you think? Time to plan your Great Walks adventure!

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is beneficial about going on a long walk?
  2. Why should we all do at least one of the Great Walks?
  3. What are some more benefits of having the Department of Preservation look after the Great Walks?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. Ask your teachers at school how they would feel about getting the class involved in a class trip to one of the Great Walks near your school.   
  2. What Great Walk on this list would you most like to conquer?
  3. Research some of the other Great Walks of NZ – what else looks like something you would enjoy?

Term 2 – Week 4 – The Kiwi Coast

Ask any Kiwi where their favourite beach is, and they’ll all have a different answer. From north to south, our coastlines make up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But they are more than just pretty to look at, these coastlines are all unique and interesting in their own way.

New Zealand has 15,000 kilometres of coastline making it the 9th longest in the world. The coastline borders the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The northern and southernmost points of the coastline on the two main islands are Surville Cliffs and Slope Point respectively.

There are many interesting things to know about the coastlines around New Zealand and all the different types of beaches and sands they are made up of. In some beaches up north of New Zealand, the sand squeaks as you walk on it because it is so fine. Most of the sand that we think of is white sand, but in New Zealand we have many other colours. The well-known black sand beaches sweeping down the west coast of the North Island are the sites of New Zealand’s greatest known reserves of ironsand. There is even pink sand, located at Pink Beach – a remote destination on the east side of Shakespear Park, in Auckland. The park offers hours of hiking trails and has three popular beaches with beautiful pink sand. Wherever you are on the New Zealand coastline, you are never too far away from many unique and interesting types of coastlines – rugged looking beaches, unusually coloured sandy beaches, beaches with massive sand dunes to boogie board down and so much more.

You may have heard specifically of a few famous coastlines that make up the beaches of New Zealand. Ninety Mile Beach is on the western coast of the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. But truth be told, the beach is actually 88 kilometres long. Interestingly, this beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Moeraki Boulders, situated along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast of New Zealand. The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders scattered either as isolated or clusters of boulders within a stretch of beach where they have been protected in a scientific reserve. Moeraki boulders are a wonder of the world.

New Zealand’s coastlines are so beautiful and internationally renowned that many Hollywood movies are filmed there – such as Narnia: Prince Caspian, the Waterhorse, Mulan, Mission Impossible: Fallout, a Wrinkle in Time, Lord of the Rings, Falling in Love, The Piano and even Taylor Swift’s music video: Out of the Woods. 

While it is beautiful to look at, there is no denying that the coast can be dangerous. Surf Life Saving New Zealand has revealed that the nation does have some particularly dangerous beaches, based on the number of rescues carried out in the past year. In particular, notorious West Auckland beaches Muriwai, Bethells and Piha, known for their dramatic black sand, rugged beauty and wild surf, had 82 rescues between them in the 2018/19 period. Thankfully, we have amazing surf-life savers across New Zealand who are always ready to help where needed and keep an eye on things even when they are not.

What’s great to know, which is something all kiwis do, is that wherever you are in NZ you are never too far away from the beautiful coast and all the wonders it has to offer.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is dangerous about the coast?
  2. How can people tell that going swimming in the ocean will be dangerous that day? What signs are there to look out for?
  3. Why do surf-life savers need to be on the lookout, even on a calm day?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is your favourite thing about the coast?
  2. What is your favourite beach in New Zealand, and why?
  3. What is an interesting fact you can think of about the New Zealand coastlines in particular?

If you didn’t already know, the Winter Paralympic games are coming up soon. The Winter Paralympics follow up the Winter Olympic games for people with a wide range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power or muscle movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, vision, or intellectual impairment disabilities. There are winter and summer Paralympics, and they happen every four years just like the Olympics.

The winter Paralympics include alpine skiing, para-snowboarding, ice sledge hockey, biathlon, cross-country skiing, and wheelchair curling. The Summer Paralympics include archery, athletics, boccia, cycling, equestrian, football 5-a-Side, football 7-a-Side, goalball, judo, paracanoe, paratriathlon, powerlifting, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis. The Paralympics are split into several categories within the individual sports in order to make it fair for competitors physically, visually, and mentally.

In my opinion, the Paralympics hasn’t always received the recognition or value it deserves. While the Rio Olympics’ opening ceremony six years ago attracted more than 30 million viewers, the Rio Paralympics peaked at just over two million viewers. However, the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics did manage to break some records, with the Winter Games setting new benchmarks in terms of countries covering the Games, hours broadcast and the number of viewers outside of the host market. At a time when the growth in TV audiences is stagnant, the Paralympics has begun to buck that trend, showing strong growth on all platforms. With Beijing 2022 on the horizon, I’m hoping to see further records broken in the future.

However, the Paralympic athletes don’t get as much funding as the Olympic athletes.
Most of the Olympic Committees around the world provide much less funding in Paralympic athletic endorsements. The Paralympic athletes also earn less in financial awards for medals and earn fewer stipends throughout their careers. Overall, less media exposure and national recognition is granted to these athletes.

So why should athletes be better recognized and celebrated more widely. Not only are these people highly skilled in their fields, but they also defeated their disabilities. They display great determination and courage to overcome mental and physical obstacles. They are truly inspirational because they prove that few things are impossible. The Paralympics also raise awareness of mental and physical disabilities in the hope of creating a better life for those with disabilities. It therefore serves to change public perception of disabilities in order to provide the Paralympics with better facilities that would drastically improve their quality of life.

By representing their countries at the highest level in their sport, Paralympians play an important role in transforming societal attitudes towards people with disabilities and promoting a more inclusive society. The Paralympics promotes inclusivity and sets a new benchmark for what is thought to be possible.

We need to recognize these champions and applaud them as much as we recognize and applaud our other Winter Olympians.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. How does the Winter Paralympics challenge stereotypes?
  2. What does the word “para” mean and why is it used in “Paralympics”?
  3. Why is the Winter Paralympics just as important as the Winter Olympics?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is your favourite Winter Paralympic sport?
  2. How does splitting the Paralympics into several categories within the individual sports make it fairer for competitors?
  3. What time/date does the Winter Paralympics begin, and what sports will you be watching?