Soldiers roam one of New Zealand’s most beautiful places – at breakneck speed and sleepless


Soldiers from Bravo Company, 2nd / 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR) on the Heaphy Trail.

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Soldiers from Bravo Company, 2nd / 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR) on the Heaphy Trail.

The soldiers abandoned their military camp at Burnham to test their mettle at one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist destinations, the Heaphy Track.

Last week, soldiers from Bravo Company, 2nd / 1st Battalion, The Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment put their mental and physical endurance to the test by taking part in the Great March in Kahurangi National Park, northwest of the South Island.

The 78-mile hike typically takes four or five days, but Burnham’s soldiers completed it in just 24 hours.

Lance Corporal Ngoc Thang Lam, left, and Private Carl-Jacques Reinecke went to great lengths to complete the nearly 80 km hike in one day.

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Lance Corporal Ngoc Thang Lam, left, and Private Carl-Jacques Reinecke went to great lengths to complete the nearly 80 km hike in one day.

Their mammoth hike was part of Exercise Rua, designed to test their physical, mental and leadership skills, and the soldiers were able to experience the varied, rugged and unique mountain, forest and beach landscapes that the trail has to offer. .

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Without sleep and only a few rests, the soldiers started at Kōhaihai on the west coast and worked in teams of four to attack the trail to make sure they finished within the allotted time.

“I knew I was pretty fit, but I really had to push myself after the first 50 kilometers,” said Rifleman Private Carl-Jacques Reinecke.

“At this point you’re in pain, but the ‘it’s okay or it’s broken’ factor kicks in and you have to get out of it.”

He said he found the physical aspect of the exercise the most challenged during his first visit to the Heaphy.

The hike was part of an exercise to test mental, physical and leadership skills.

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The hike was part of an exercise to test mental, physical and leadership skills.

“I learned that I could push myself a lot further than I initially thought I would. “Mind takes precedence over matter,” people always say – now, after I complete this exercise, I know what they’re talking about, ”Reinecke said.

Supply technician Lance Corporal Ngoc Thang Lam said besides the physical and mental challenges of walking for 24 hours, the exercise also tested his leadership skills.

“I really had to think about how I was leading and making sure that as a team we completed the job successfully,” he said.

“As a team we decided when to take a break and how to set the pace to make it work for everyone. We haven’t had any sleep interruptions and I have to admit there may have been a time or two where I fell asleep on my feet for a microsecond.

Bravo Company commander Major Alex Bowyer said the march was also an opportunity to learn about new radios used by the military.

Bowyer said the exercise was a success.

“Overall the exercise was a success and all the soldiers learned more about themselves and each other. It is an experience they will remember for the rest of their careers.

The soldiers were able to enjoy some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery, although they crossed faster than most.

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The soldiers were able to enjoy some of New Zealand’s most beautiful scenery, although they crossed faster than most.

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