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Rail Trail Tales With Adventure Specialties Trust

Adventure Specialties Trust is a not-for-profit charitable organisation delivering outdoor education and adventure therapy programmes, that seek to facilitate the holistic development of individuals, families and communities. The Hauraki Rail Trail is a favourite location for the Trust's activities, and provides a number of rides of various lengths in differing locations.

The Trail is an ideal way of connecting the Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges to the Firth of Thames and the Hauraki Gulf, offering Groups a Journey that can include tramping, cycling and sea kayaking. Partnering with schools, community groups, government agencies and individuals, the Trust designs a programme that brings about Self, Social, Environmental and/or Cultural awareness, as well as the motivation to be active.

We caught up with the Trust's Auckland Operations Manager, Jeff Lappin. Jeff told us their groups have ridden all sections of the Rail Trail, but particularly like the Waihi to Paeroa Section, which takes in the scenery of the Karangahake Gorge and the Tunnel. Rock climbing and abseiling in the Gorge, together with the cycling, history and relics, combine to create a journey that's always really special.



Q    What memory or experience on the Trail will stay with you most?

My favourite memory came from being on a parent/caregiver-child camp. These are weekends through which we help facilitate deeper connections and stronger relationships within families. They create memories for just one parent/caregiver and one child, giving them each some dedicated one-on-one time with each other.

We were planning to cycle through the Gorge the following day, and one of the Mums told me her daughter couldn’t ride a bike, and they hadn’t had much luck trying to teach her. I talked to the daughter and told her that if she was keen, then I’d be able to teach her that day.

The short version is that she was keen, and it all worked out. The Mum told me it was really great to be able to share the success of her daughter learning to ride, but not have the pressure in their relationship of being the one doing the teaching, coaching, encouraging and challenging.


Q    What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?

The accessibility of the different sections at multiple points along the way. We have had many trips where we are able to give the young people some decision-making power about where they might finish on a given day, without the pressure of having to get to a certain point for road access. This means we can spend more time on teachable moments if they arise, without the time pressure to keep moving. It is also a great safety factor being able to access the group so easily if needed.


Q    What does a typical day outdoors involve?

On a Journey programme, the students get up, do breakfast and have a morning check-in to see how everyone is doing, and setting a theme for the day. After that they pack their camp down under the guidance of their leader for the day. This would have been determined the night before, with a chance to encourage that person. To help them recognise some of their natural strengths that will help them as a leader, and maybe coach them about things they could try or challenge themselves on.

We prepare the day’s equipment, maybe bikes, tramping gear or kayaks, and then get onto the trail. Throughout the day there would be multiple chances to re-visit the theme during some teachable moments. Or maybe at meal times, and the on-going coaching of their leader-of-the-day.

Upon reaching their destination, everyone sets up camp for the night and undertake the meal prep. After dinner there’s an opportunity to de-brief the day. This includes feedback for the leader of the day, and any encouragement from group members to each other about positive things they may have noticed about each other.



Q    What do participants gain from joining a programme with Adventure Specialties Trust?

Lots of things! Great memories, lots of laughs (often some tears) and strong friendships. Tangible skills such as pitching tents, cooking, and gear management. Personal growth in the areas of resilience, perseverance and leadership skills, and a whole lot of independence.

We aim for relationships with the young people which foster high trust with high expectation. Students come to know what is expected. We coach them towards all the right kinds of decision making, that gives them the best sense of success without us doing things to them, or for them. It is after all their Journey, and we are there to facilitate the experience with them.


Q    Where are you hoping to adventure next?

Personally, underground somewhere. One of my favourite activities is caving, and I enjoy the adventurous nature of exploring somewhere new.

As a Trust, we have another busy term lined up with a number of away programmes between 3 and 21 days long. We also have a number of programmes to happen in schools through Sport New Zealand funding. These are aimed at getting more people involved in active recreation.

The programmes will include a good amount of cycling, and will hopefully lead to more people enjoying more of our local trails. Perhaps it will even inspire them to one day ride the Hauraki Rail Trail for themselves, as a way of seeing more of our beautiful whenua.


You can find more information about Project K and Adventure Specialties Trust here


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