Connor Flechsig, from Colorado State University (CSU), is on the last leg of a 1470km tramp from Auckland to Canterbury, where he will spend a semester studying at Lincoln University.
His journey along the Te Araroa Trail, which is expected to take 52 days, kicked off on December 29 when he arrived at Auckland Airport on a flight from the US.
He’s due to reach Lincoln on February 19, ready to start Semester 1.
Back home in California, Connor’s parents are tracking his movements on a Google Earth Pro map.
“We have his route mapped out and I push pins in for each nightly stop along the trail,” says Connor’s father, Craig Flechsig. “He sends a satellite ‘ping’ every night that we use to track him. It’s an excellent tramping device, not only for emergency evacuations.”
The trip doesn’t just involve walking, with Connor kayaking 161km of the Whanganui River over five days and then cycling 113km to Palmerston North.
A keen hiker in his home country, he has previously covered more than 322km of California’s Pacific Crest Trail, but Mr Flechsig says this is by far Connor’s longest journey.
“He’s told us that it’s the experience of a lifetime and it has really exceeded his expectations. He didn’t imagine it would be this exciting. He’s enthralled with the New Zealanders he’s meeting along the way and says the huts on the trail are very accommodating, warm and clean.”
Mr Flechsig says Connor chose New Zealand as his exchange destination due to Lincoln University’s exchange partnership with CSU “and its curriculum, which complements his major in Natural Resource Management and minor in Water Sciences”.
“Besides, he couldn’t resist after hearing about the friendliness of Kiwis and the number of scenic trails on both islands.”
He says Connor’s idea of “walking to school” came about after he realised the Te Araroa Trail was located near Auckland Airport.
“From there, he could go all the way to Christchurch.
“From this experience in New Zealand, his mother and I think he will be forever comfortable with just a backpack and a passport, exploring the world.”
PHOTO: Connor on his way to Lincoln, via the Te Araroa Trail.