Tag Archives: tramping

BEST BLUE MOUNTAIN WALKS – day 1, stage 1

The Three Sisters on a fine day. This is the iconic view of the Blue Mountains, but there are hundreds of walks there, with no crowds.

‘Do you sometimes wonder why we do this?’ asks my friend and walking partner David. We’re sheltering in a muddy cave as the rain tumbles down. I don’t even know why we’re sheltering; we’re already so wet we can’t get any wetter.

But for once I do know why I’m doing it; this is the start of my new hiking and writing project. Life wasn’t meant to be easy, but we do these things anyway. Continue reading

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LAKE WAIKAREMOANA, NEW ZEALAND – tramping fabulous forest


Before the invention of the axe, most of New Zealand’s North Island was covered in forest, and not just any forest. Out of the island sprouted some of the biggest trees on the planet; kauri, beech, totara, rimu and the towering kahikatea, up to 60metres tall.

Little of it remains. The place has become a pine mine, with radiata plantations covering vast areas. We approve of plantation timber of course, but for tourists it’s not a pretty sight to see denuded hillsides dotted with stumps and heaps of discarded branches.

Fortunately there is one magic place where the old forest survives. Te Urewera National Park is the third biggest national park in the country and the biggest native forest area on the North Island.

To get there we negotiate a lot of winding bitumen and 15kilometres of gravel to drive in from the east coast. It’s slow going, and a relief to finally pull into the Lake Waikaremoana Motor Camp and admire the view – a wide lake, surrounded by thick forest, with the rocky outcrop of Panekiri Bluff hanging over it. By the Aniwaniwa Visitors Centre is a spectacular double waterfall.

Geologically, the 15kilometre long Lake Waikaremoana is brand-new. Around 200BC the Shaky Isles gave a little extra shake, and a mountain came rolling downhill, blocking the Waikare River and filling the gorge with a rock-pile 300metres high. A massive forest was drowned in the process, and even today when the lake gets low, the tops of ancient trees emerge from the water.

It’s a popular holiday spot for adventurous Kiwis, particularly those who love fishing, hunting and walking. The track around the lake is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, rated ‘moderately easy’ and most trampers manage the circuit in three to four days.

Unfortunately I can only spare two days, but local DOC (Department of Conservation) Ranger Richard has plenty of other suggestions for me. ‘Why don’t you walk out to Lake Waikareiti? Sleep in Sandy Bay Hut – you won’t need to carry a tent.’

‘What’s the appeal of Sandy Bay?’ I ask. He points to an aerial photograph on the wall behind him. Mountains covered with virgin forest surround an azure lake, dotted with little islands. Sandy Bay Hut looks out at it all across a white beach. I’m sold.

Next morning, my hut pass in my pocket, I set out climbing up the Ruapani Track, which according to Ranger Richard will get me to Sandy Bay in six hours. At the Te Kumi stream the bridge has collapsed, but a little rock clambering gets me across with dry feet.

The surrounding forest is breathtaking; at least, I assume that’s what’s making me puff. It is a mixture of mighty beech and rimu, with lush tree ferns growing underneath. The beech branches twine overhead, dripping with moss and epiphytes. Their small round leaves cover the track with a carpet of red and gold.

Bird life is prolific. I spot various ducks on the little lakes I pass, while by the tracks are silvereyes, robins, tomtits and a detachment of riflemen – tiny birds with bills upturned like rifles at ‘present arms’. Chunky kaka parrots fly overhead and at one memorable moment a morepork owl glides silently to perch on a branch right in front of me.

It all puts a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. My lungs are too busy to join in the chorus, but I know they would if they could.

The track is well marked by clear orange triangles on trees, and someone has recently been along with a slasher to clear the undergrowth that had been overgrowing the path. Nonetheless, it undulates enough to have my legs chanting ‘Are we there yet?’ for hours five and six of the journey.

I’m pleased to see a sign ahead marking the turnoff to ‘Sandy Bay’ but a little fearful that it’s going to add ‘45 min’. Luckily it says ‘5 min’ and after creaking down the last few mossy steps, I’m there. Maybe Sandy Bay needs to add a snow-capped mountain to qualify as the most beautiful spot I ever seen, but it’s a strong contender for my most peaceful award.

The Maori people who lived here for undisturbed centuries were named the Tuhoe, the Children of the Mist. And there it is, clinging to the hilltops, as the setting sun turns the last clouds pink.

The hut is a typical DOC hut. It is basic but comfortable – twelve bunk beds with vinyl mattresses, cold water in the sink, table and benches, pit toilets down the track and a grandstand view of the lake. Guests need to bring their own sleeping bags, food and cooking stoves.

Hunting in parts of the park is encouraged. New Zealand is plagued by up to 80million brush-tailed possums, which were introduced from Australia in a failed effort to start a fur industry. Pigs and deer are pests too. Nevertheless, I’m nervous around guns and people who like them, so I’m disconcerted by the notes on my brochure, advising guests to ‘unload your firearm before entering huts.’ Fortunately I have the place to myself.

In the hut visitors’ book I read recent entries from walkers from nearby Gisborne, but also from Germany, the Czech Republic and the UK. The words ‘cold’ and ‘wet’ appear frequently, but so do ‘brilliant’, ‘beautiful’, ‘wonderful’ and ‘thank you!’
I add similar comments, and for good measure sketch a rough artist’s impression of a loch monster frolicking in the water at dusk. It feels like the place where that sort of thing could happen.

I’m out of mobile range and have no radio, so I know nothing of the latest financial crisis, car bombs, political wrangling or sports results. Sure, I’ll be walking back to them all tomorrow, maybe through the rain if those threatening clouds do their thing, but for the moment it feels that this is how life is supposed to be.

TRIP NOTES:

Getting there: Emirates flies to Sydney to Auckland for just over $500 return.
Buses operate from Rotorua to Lake Waikaremoana (4.5 hours).

Staying there: Lake Waikaremoana Motor Camp offers a range of accommodation from tent sites to self-contained chalets (up to NZ$78). Sandy Bay Hut costs NZ$15 a night, huts on the Great Walk cost NZ$25 a night and tent sites NZ$12.

When to go: The tracks can be walked year round, though the most popular tramping season is October-May.

Website: The DOC website has information about the Great Walk and takes hut and campsite bookings. www.doc.govt.nz.

OTHER GREAT NEW ZEALAND HIKES: HOLLYFORD TRACK – the most beautiful valley?

TONGARIRO CROSSING – the best one day walk?

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NZ’S MOST BEAUTIFUL VALLEY? – Hollyford Track

Hollyford River - Hidden Falls

New Zealand’s Hollyford Valley was once the exclusive domain of the tough guys. It was a place for men who forded rivers, slashed trails through dense forest and stitched up their own flesh wounds with a darning needle and some fishing line.

Now thanks to swing bridges, a track and a guiding company, anyone who doesn’t mind getting mud on their boots can walk New Zealand’s most beautiful valley. (I realise I’m out on a limb here, but if someone knows a more beautiful one, please lead me to it.)

Twelve intrepid adventurers meet in Queenstown for an evening briefing. Operations coordinator Natalie Maxted does the introductions – Keith and Jo from London, with their boys Ben and Sam, Shelley and Will from Wellington, Richard from Sydney…

Max unrolls the map. The Hollyford Track runs through World Heritage-listed Fiordland on the west of the South Island. We’ll be tramping 40km over the three days, jet boating down Lake McKerrow, and finishing with a flight up Milford Sound. It looks great.

Max issues backpacks and rain jackets to those who hadn’t understood that tramping happens outdoors and suggests we get an early night.

At 6.45 next morning the Bleary Dozen board the Hollyford minibus that will carry us to the track, four hours away. When driver Suz phones our coffee orders ahead to the Sandfly Café, we realise we’re with an organisation that takes survival in the wild seriously.

Over lattes in Te Anau we meet our guides Bard and Blair. Bard has spent seven years leading Hollyford walks in the footsteps of his hero, the legendary Davey Gunn, and tells us his story as our bus approaches the road end…

When a light plane crashed near Martin’s Bay in 1936, tramping guide Davey set out alone to get help for the critically injured passengers. The nearest phone was 90km away, but he covered the distance in just 20 hours by rowboat, on horseback and finally hiking through unbelievably rough terrain. His heroic feat saved lives and won him a Coronation medal.

Suitably inspired by Davey Gunn’s example, we strap on our backpacks and set off. The undulating track follows the Hollyford River as it winds through mossy beech and fern forest, fed by the waterfalls gushing off the snow-capped Darran Mountains. We’re walking on a mosaic of bright red and gold leaves.

It’s magical Lord of the Rings landscape, but this trip isn’t just about scenery. Bushwalking with Bard and Blair is like taking short university courses in geology, ecology, history and above all, botany.

If there’s one thing the Hollyford Valley has enough of, it’s plants. Green stuff is everywhere. ‘This broadleaf is tutu, coriaria arborea,’ says Bard. ‘It poisoned two circus elephants in 1968. These are good to eat though.’ He hands young Sam from London some berries to taste. ‘You might notice a slight hallucinogenic effect.’ Sam’s mum looks a bit alarmed. ‘Joke, bro,’ Bard adds quickly, and we move on.

The Hollyford is far less crowded than some Fiordland tracks and we meet few other walkers. Blair used to guide on the Milford Track but says, ‘Too many people walk the Milford just to say they did it. Here they’re into the whole experience.’

After a few hours’ brisk tramping we’ve clocked up 17km. On track sections where navigation is no problem we can string out, walking at our own pace, though usually we stick together. The group is bonding and Davey Gunn jokes are flowing. ‘He must’ve carried his horse up this bit.’ ‘Are those Davey’s tooth-marks on that tree-trunk?’

At dusk we reach Pyke’s Lodge, to be greeted by Helen and Jenny, our young hosts. With a minimum of fuss they offer cleansing ales, direct us to hot showers, and serve a brilliant meal of venison followed by lemon pie.

Bard’s stories keep coming; ‘Davey’s son Murray was a character too. He was worried hunters might mistake his favourite brown mare for a deer, so he took white house paint and wrote HORSE on her flank. On the other side he painted COW. He reckoned city slicker hunters were too stupid to know the difference. Besides, he needed the milk.’

A botany lesson from Bard


After dinner we go armed with torches to feed a swarming mass of eels in the river. Then we visit a nearby glow-worm cave before finally staggering into bed. Been a full day, eh bro?

Bard wakes us at dawn with a Maori song as Helen and Jenny prepare eggs benedict. It’s raining. Annual rainfall in this area is a whopping 4-5m, but ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, mate, only bad clothing.’

We slip on Goretex jackets and slosh along, our boots filling with water. It’s fun. It makes us feel we’re on an adventure, and we know there’s a warm lodge waiting for us tonight.

Crossing a long swing bridge takes us to the ominously named Demon Trail. It’s rough – twisted tree roots and treacherous slippery rocks along the banks of Lake McKerrow. On a wet day like this, even Davey Gunn would have found it daunting.

Fortunately we have Bard, and Bard has a radio. A jet boat is summoned to whip us down the lake to the site of Jamestown, where an ill-conceived attempt was made to create a settlement in the 1870’s.

The spot has a sad history. Jamestown could have been a major port for trans-Tasman commerce, were it not for the slight drawbacks that (1) the road to it was never built, and (2) sandbanks rendered the river mouth unnavigable.

Government planners abandoned the starving settlers they’d sent to take up the new land, and eventually the settlers were forced to abandon Jamestown. Now only rotting trunks of apple trees remain, above the graves of children.

We tramp on through ancient podocarp forest where tangled rata vines and kidney ferns cling to massive trunks. Our guides’ enthusiasm for the forest leads us to appreciate not only towering rimu trees 1200 years old, but also the tiniest orchids and ferns. Blair knows words like tmesipteris, which I intend to use in Scrabble one day.

There are streams to wade across and we’re wet through, but when we emerge at a hut in a clearing, we find that the hot soup fairies have left us lunch there. Maybe we’re not in total wilderness after all.

Martins Bay


The rain starts to clear as we reach the rocky coast, though there’s enough mist to add magic to the peaks surrounding lovely Martin’s Bay. We make an excursion off the main track to visit a fur seal colony; then jet boat back to our lodge, which is tonight serving fresh Stewart Island salmon with excellent Marlborough wine. How’re the legs feeling, okay?

Next morning it’s a two-hour wander along the deserted beach and through the dunes, past old Maori hangi sites, where stones cracked by fire remind us that we weren’t the first to enjoy fine seafood here.

Bard shows us how sap from flax plants relieves the itchy bites of sand flies. Yesterday’s rain kept the sneaky little critters quiet, but now it’s dry they’re making up for lost time, feasting on my wrists and ankles. Surprisingly, flax juice really seems to work – they ought to bottle the stuff.

After lunch, Cessnas land behind the lodge to take us on a short, spectacular flight over the famous Milford Sound. And there’s Suz again with the minibus, taking coffee orders. We’re back in civilization.

Email addresses are exchanged and promises made to send the photos. Our thanks to our guides are heartfelt. They’ve been caring, intelligent, informative and entertaining. They’ll do it all again in two days time, but not for a moment did we catch them running on autopilot. We feel we’ve made friends.

You can walk the Hollyford Track independently in 4-7 days, carrying your own supplies and staying at Department of Conservation huts. This is a cheaper option, though you’d miss the botany lessons, the hot showers, great meals and the Davey Gunn stories.

Anyone of reasonable fitness can comfortably manage the tramp, so if you’re looking for a serious physical test in an open-air gym, maybe the guided tour is not for you. But it’s an ideal wilderness experience for those of us who enjoy a moderate walk in the woods, and these are some of the greatest woods we’ll ever see.


Richard Tulloch was a guest of Hollyford Valley Guided Walks.

TRIP NOTES

When to go: The Hollyford Track can be walked year round, though summer is the most popular tramping season.

Hollyford Guided Walks operate October–April and cost NZ$1655 per person including all meals, accommodation, activities and transport from Queenstown or Te Anau. http://www.hollyfordtrack.com

Reading:

The Land of Doing Without: Davey Gunn of the Hollyford by Julia Bradshaw
(pub.Canterbury University Press 2007.)

Tramping in New Zealand by Jim DuFresne (pub. Lonely Planet) includes guide notes and maps of the Hollyford Track.

First published – Sun-Herald, Sydney

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TONGARIRO CROSSING – the world’s greatest one day hike?

Mt Doom (Ngauruhoe) on a good day.

‘This Red Crater is a spectacular volcanic gash, deep red like your rain jacket, with soil as black as…that beanie. The Emerald Lakes below us are an amazing blue-green, um, like Chris’s eyes.’ Our guide Stewart is painting us a word picture of the highlights of New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park. He has to. We’re perched on the edge of a chasm beyond which the world seems to end. There is no view, only thick mist, with a fierce wind driving freezing rain horizontally into our faces.

Tongariro, in the middle of the North Island, was the location chosen by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to represent Mordor, which you may remember as a very bad place, the Dark Lord Sauron’s HQ. Its volcano Mt Ngauruhoe became the sinister Mt Doom. The terrain is harsh and unforgiving, the weather unreliable, but the scenery is quite literally fantastic.

The Kiwis advertise the famous Tongariro Crossing, the hike across the park’s northern end as the greatest one-day tramp in New Zealand, if not the world. So it’s popular. Any fine summer’s day the crowds of backpackers erupt out of shuttle buses with names like Volcanic Adventures to swarm over the track.

But we won’t see many of them today. I’m with a tour group guided by Stewart and Chris from Adrift Outdoors, who have devised cunning ways of seeing the best of the area while avoiding the crowds. Stewart guides walks starting in the dark to catch the sunrise, winter expeditions with crampons and ice-axes, as well as today’s planned adventure, an ‘off track’ loop taking us to the summit of Mt Tongariro itself, and across a part of the park where few people go.

The Tongariro team

There are just six of us in our party – outdoor enthusiasts Asa and Lennart from Sweden, fresh from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Sophie from Ohakune village down the road who has never walked here, our two guides and me. Before we leave, Stewart checks we have adequate clothing and footwear, and lends gear to anyone who didn’t realise that these mountains can suddenly turn very cold indeed.

But at 10am the rain is holding off, so we start walking. We’re in no hurry, and best of all, we’re alone; the backpacker hordes left earlier. The track begins gently, climbing slowly up the Mangatepopo Valley, through button grass and the heather introduced to the area by a misguided Scotsman who hoped to establish a grouse shooting business. Heather is pretty enough in its place, but it has become a noxious weed here.

Setting off - Mr Ngauruhoe in the mist

Through the gathering clouds we can just make out the imposing outlines of the perfect snow-capped cone that is Mt Nguaruhoe towering in front of us and the ragged escarpment of Mt Tongariro on the left.

At Soda Springs, a waterfall at the end of the valley, we pause briefly at the last toilet for 12km. Most of this route is devoid even of convenient trees; that Dark Lord Sauron certainly knows how to cause maximum discomfort.

From here the steep stuff starts, up the Devil’s Staircase between jagged outcrops. The track is well-made and easy to follow, and we can catch our breath as Stewart and Chris point out geological features, including some uncomfortably recent lava flows. Ngauruhoe is an active volcano, ten years overdue for an eruption, but with luck today won’t be the day.

The mist closes in as we emerge on the South Crater, but we can see enough of this extraordinary moonscape; a broad, flat desert, dotted with loose rocks. The further we go, the weirder the landscape becomes. Slipping and sliding on the scoria we scramble up to the lip of the Red Crater. Legs and lungs are feeling it now.

After Stewart’s valiant word-picture description of the invisible crater (‘you should have been here last week’) we branch off the main track and head toward the summit of Mt Tongariro. As we do, the rain stops, the wind dies and the mist lifts, allowing tantalising glimpses of Lake Taupo in the distance.

It’s not a hard climb, though we’re now a creditable 800metres above our starting point. As we bump down off the summit and pick our way across open ground, between rocks and tussock grass, the sky suddenly clears, giving us spectacular views across to Mt Ngauruhoe and snow-capped Mt Ruapehu.

After six hours of walking, my creaky legs take a battering on the short steep descent back to the Mangatepopo Stream, but Stewart has a beer waiting for us at the car park and any pain is soon forgotten.

So is it the greatest one-day walk in the world? If you want a moderate physical challenge, extraordinarily varied scenery and spectacular volcanic terrain, I certainly can’t think of a better one. Never mind that we missed some views today – the weather conditions added a touch of magic, and made us all the more appreciative when they improved.

The Swedes enthusiastically declare it ‘the best day we’ve had in New Zealand’. Sophie (‘I’m not a walker’) intends to do it again some time. So do I.

The writer was a guest of Visit Ruapehu.

TRIP NOTES:

Getting there: In summer months, trains run daily from Auckland to National Park and Okahune for NZD99. Many shuttle bus services are available to the ends of the track.

Staying there: The Powderhorn Chateau in Okahune has rooms from NZD195.

Further Information:

One day guided Tongariro walks with Adrift Outdoors cost NZD195 including transport, lunch and equipment. See www.adriftnz.co.nz.

November to May is the normal tramping season. In winter the walk is for experienced, well-equipped alpinists only. At any time, a reasonable level of fitness is needed to enjoy the walk rather than just endure it.

For other activities and accommodation, see www.visitruapehu.co.nz

www.doc.govt.nz has information, map and safety advice on the Tongariro Crossing. Guidebook: Tramping in New Zealand Jim DuFresne pub. Lonely Planet.

First published – Sun-Herald, Sydney

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – New Zealand’s top hikes

Mt Ngauruhoe

When it comes to playing outside, those Kiwis punch well above their weight. They’ve done a brilliant job of turning their country into an open-air gym, and when the skiing season ends around October, there is what Kiwis call ‘tramping’.

In New Zealand anyone with limbs in reasonable working order can enjoy some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. So assuming you have a few days and some excess energy, which tramp is for you?

Nine routes are officially designated ‘Great Walks’ by the Department of Conservation (DOC). The tracks and huts are kept in better condition than those on other routes, and in peak periods booking systems allow hikers to reserve accommodation. DOC huts are an affordable and comfortable alternative to carrying a tent or paying serious money for a luxury lodge.

NZ9 08 025Tongariro Northern Circuit. 41km, 3-4 days, 3 DOC huts.

Is there anywhere on the planet quite like this amazing volcanic moonscape in the centre of the North Island? The Tongariro Crossing is regarded by many as the best one-day walk in the country, and in the high season you’ll share it with dozens of others who pour out of backpacker shuttle buses. They’re there for good reason. Barely a blade of grass grows along the track past Mt Tongariro and the pile of volcanic scoria that is Mt Ngauruhoe. Sulphurous smoke oozes out of cracks and the colours of the Red Crater, Blue Lake and Emerald Lakes are extraordinary.

Three or four days walking will take you away from the backpacker hordes, on a circuit past the active volcano Mt Ruapehu, and through areas of lovely forests and streams.

Where: Central North Island
Closest towns: Whakapapa Village or Turangi.

NZ11 08 062Lake Waikaremoana Track – 46km, 3-4 days, 5 DOC huts

Driving on unsealed roads to reach this remote lake, and remembering its name when asking directions, may be harder than doing the walk itself, an easy loop with only a few lumps to clamber up. But you’ll certainly feel you’ve got away from the crowds, and seen some of the most spectacular old growth forest on the North Island. It’s apparently a great fishing spot too, though I’m no expert there.

Where: Central North Island
Closest town: Wairoa

NZ11 08 051

Queen Charlotte Track 71km, 3-5 days, 6 DOC campsites and a number of lodges.

The Queen Charlotte is not exactly a wilderness walk, since it passes through attractive farmland as well as forest, but it has the advantage of great flexibility if you don’t have the time or inclination to walk the whole route. Highlights are the great views of Queen Charlotte Sound on one side and Kenepuru Sound on the other.
Access is from Picton by ferry or water taxi, so day walks on the track are easily organised. By arrangement, water taxis will also take your gear to the following night’s lodge or campsite, so wussy trampers need only carry daypacks. The track can be walked year round, but is most popular in the summer.

Where: Northern tip of South Island – the Marlborough region

Closest town: Picton

Routeburn Track 32km, 2-3 days, 4 DOC huts.

The Routeburn can be done as a guided walk staying in commercial huts, with showers, food and wine available, but it is also well served with DOC huts. It’s a spectacular and relatively easy alpine trek (consequently very popular), and can be combined with two more days on the slightly tougher, less well-maintained and less busy Caples Track or Greenstone Track to make a loop walk.

Where: Mount Aspiring National Park, central South Island
Closest towns: Queenstown and the lovely village of Glenorchy on the end of Lake Wakatipu.

Kepler Track 60km, 3-4 days, 3 DOC huts.

The Kepler Track in Fiordland was opened to take some pressure off the very popular Milford and Routeburn Tracks. The track being relatively new is in excellent condition, and the alpine scenery is brilliant. The tramp begins with a solid 850metre climb from Te Anau to the Luxmore Hut, but after that the walking is comfortable, and the descent into the forest by Iris Burn Hut is particularly beautiful. We did it during a light snowfall and the effect was magical. Probably my favourite of the Great Walks.

Where: Fiordland, south of the South Island

Closest town: Te Anau. The route is a circuit beginning and ending in the town itself.

Abel Tasman Track 52km, 3 days, 4 DOC huts

Walking the coastal Abel Tasman Track is not too demanding, and the route offers beaches and a range of accommodation from camping to up-market lodges. If you want to combine a day of sea kayaking with a couple of days walking, this can be arranged. Another two days of (harder) walking will take you over the higher Inland Track to make a loop with the Abel Tasman.

The track can be walked year round, but is crowded during school holidays in January. Best times are probably February-May.

Where: Northern coast of South Island
Closest town: Nelson

Mitre Peak, Milford SoundMilford Track 53km 4 days No camping permitted. 3 DOC huts for independent walkers, and separate huts for guided groups.

Number one on many trampers’ list of New Zealand hikes is the famous Milford Track, though I confess it’s one Great Walk I’ve never done.  I’m sure it’s beautiful, and others speak highly of it, but I’ve been slightly deterred by its very popularity. Advance bookings are essential, which means no flexibility in case of bad weather, though guided tours with up-market huts are also available for those who want more creature comforts in the evenings.

Where: Fiordland South Island
Closest town: Te Anau.

NOTES:

Hikers using DOC huts need to bring their own food and sleeping bags, but the huts offer gas stoves and bunks. There are toilets and cold water, but generally no showers. Arrangements are pretty communal, but that can be a plus. You meet nice people, all in high spirits and excited about what they are doing.

Buy hut passes on-line (website address below) or at DOC visitor centres in towns before beginning your walk. Costs are different for each route, and are cheaper in the low season, but are between $12- $45NZ (about $10-$35) per person per night.

Safety and weather

The weather, particularly in the alpine areas, can turn nasty at any time of year. Good footwear and wet-weather gear are essential, and a bit of physical condition will help to make your tramp a pleasure rather than an ordeal.

When to walk

In the winter, the alpine routes (Tongariro, Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Tracks) can turn into serious mountaineering adventures, suitable only for very experienced and well-equipped parties. Best times to walk are October to May.

Days required

In good weather, fit trampers can do the walks in fewer days than those given above, but what’s the hurry?

ReadTramping in New Zealand Jim Dufresne, Lonely Planet Publications
Website: www.doc.govt.nz (search site for “Great Walks”) gives information on all walks and operates an accommodation booking service.

First published – Sun-Herald, Sydney

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