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Cape to Bluff: The ultimate adventure

When Mark Matchett was diagnosed with cancer, his young family realised they only had so many chances to do the things they “really wanted to do”.

So, this summer, Mark, wife Jenna, and daughters Poppy [10] and Molly [7] will be celebrating his recovery – by walking the length of New Zealand.

This weekend, the Matchetts will begin their journey on the Te Araroa Trail: Walking 3010km from Cape Reinga to Bluff, traversing dense bush, steep volcanic paths, desolate beaches and winding rivers.

For 90 days, the Matchetts will have only themselves for company, supporting one another as they navigate some treacherous trails, canoe down the Whanganui River, and carry [between them] more than 20kg of gear – including 270 meals and “hundreds of litres of water”.

The Te Araroa Trail, encompassing everything from sand, to loose shingle, to snow, is not for the faint-hearted – so the family has spent the past 18 months training for the experience, doing practice tramps throughout the North Island.

Each day on the trail, Poppy and Molly will record their adventures in journals, which they hope to “share with [their] own kids” – and are particularly excited about sleeping under the stars [though less so about possums] and discovering new swimming holes.

Jenna, manager of the Masterton Foodbank, said the trail will be the ultimate test of their physical and mental endurance – and the perfect opportunity to reconnect as a family after Mark’s illness.

Mark, 43, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018 and, after multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and two major surgeries, is now in remission.

Jenna said Mark’s experience made the family realise just how fragile life was – and they wanted “to do something big and crazy” while they still had the opportunity.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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