Travel Diary - the last leg in the journey to rediscover Ruapehu



  1. discover (something forgotten or ignored) again.

Quite fitting I end with my series’ namesake.

If there’s one thing I have learnt on my grand Ruapehu adventure, it’s the art of rediscovery.

It was actually one of the first things I realised I needed to learn, to discover something I had forgotten about, or rather taken for granted. I needed to Rediscover Ruapehu. I needed to Rediscover New Zealand.

What a whirlwind it has been. What a journey. The adventure was unlike anything I had imagined, and it was the people that made every leg special in their own charming way.

Aotearoa, you really are the definition of paradise.

I’m Aziz Al Sa’afin and I am on the final leg of my six week journey Rediscovering Ruapehu. I’ve teamed up with Torpedo7 and Visit Ruapehu to explore what’s in our own backyard, discover the gems within, and meet the people that make those gems shine.

I started my journey six weeks ago in a Waka on the Whanganui River, with a man called Willie Huch. He taught me what it means to be part of a ‘community’.

The following week I found myself camping in the Ruatiti Domain with amateur photographer Alex Pearce and adventurer Tom Patrick. It’s here I learned the importance of ‘unwinding’.

After that, Tom and I went on to Blue Duck Station, where I met the one and only Dan Steele. He really is one of the most engaging people I have interviewed in my ten years of broadcasting. From him I learned just why it’s important to ‘protect’ what’s right in front of us. It’s a lesson we all need to remind ourselves of.

From there, I found myself hiking to a place only described as “the top of the world” with the gorgeous Anna Wilcox. It was breathtaking, quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It was quite fitting to learn the true power of ‘appreciation’ here.

Aziz says he enjoyed his time rediscovering Ruapehu.
Aziz says he enjoyed his time rediscovering Ruapehu.

The week after Anna and I went mountain biking on the Kaiwhakauka Track, part of the Ngā Ara Tūhono Mountains to Sea NZ cycling trail. It’s where I learned just how important it is to ‘challenge’ myself.

Six weeks later, Anna and I find ourselves on the Timber Trail, deep in the heart of the North Island, and there is only one more lesson to be learnt on this adventure.

After an epic leg of mountain biking last week, I’m feeling more confident than ever on my bike. Thanks to Torpedo7 I’m riding a SRAM GX Eagle, complete with a lightweight alloy frame, 27.5" wheels, and premium RockShox suspension. I feel like this is the Ferrari of mountain bikes (I think to myself well at least I look the part).

The legends at Torpedo7 have also kitted me out in all the equipment I need to take on my last leg of adventure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned these last six weeks, it’s to be prepared with equipment. There’s nothing worse than being in a situation where you don’t have the right gear, and at worst case scenario, can lead to avoidable injury.

Today I’m wearing my breathable and light cycle shorts, biking Enduro gloves, and my very safe helmet. I’m also wearing a coat of something I picked up along the way on this journey - confidence.

The Timber Trail is a premier two day 85km adventure trail ride in the North Island, which is what makes it one of New Zealand’s 22 Great Rides.

The ride itself traverses some of NZ’s most diverse and fascinating environments with purpose built tracks through native forest, and 35 bridges. Today we’re going right up to the most incredible one of all - the 141m long Maramataha suspension bridge.

Along the way we’re guided by birdsong, native bush, and historic relics which is what makes the ride so beautiful.

As Anna and I make our way through, it all comes full circle. All these people I have met along the way have made this trip one of a lifetime. I’ve been able to see these amazing parts of the region through their eyes, and understand why they find those places so special to them.

Along the way we’ve had a great time doing something New Zealand is known for around the world - adventure tourism - and we really do it in our own unique way. We’re not known as the adventure capital of the world for nothing right?

But these places are the gems, and these people are the ones that make these gems shine.

I have been rediscovering what’s right in front of me throughout my journey with the help of these incredible people.

Community, unwind, protect, appreciate, challenge, rediscover.

Rediscover Ruapehu.

It’s sparked a flame in my heart, and it’s catching.

I think to myself, I think it’s now time to Rediscover Aotearoa. 

This article was created for Torpedo7 and Visit Ruapehu