30 September 2018
Let’s Take a Hike!
One popular Kiwi pastime is “tramping”, what I would call hiking. There are more hikes in New Zealand than I have time to do in a lifetime, but I’m game to try! I’ve joined a Meetup called Christchurch Women’s Walking Meetup (one of several hiking clubs), and they are a great group. Anyone who feels so inclined can host a hike, which range from 45 minute walks in the park after work on a weeknight to multi-hour treks on the weekend. I’ve been going on a 2-3 hour hike every weekend, and these always finish with a relaxing coffee and lunch at one of the numerous cafes set up to attract weary hikers. The Kiwis know how to top off a day!
November features two walking festivals in the Christchurch area, one with city walks led by a docent, and one on the Banks Peninsula, going to places you normally can’t access, such as the penguin colony out on Godley Head (yes, signed up for that one already!).
I even signed up to walk The Old Ghost Road in early January (summer), which takes five days and requires stays in huts along the way. This hike is described as, “A long-forgotten gold miners’ road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping trail – connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north. The 85km-long (53 mile) Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys.” The huts have full kitchens, so we’ll only need to pack sleeping bags and our food.
The 10 Great Walks
New Zealand has Ten Great Walks, each 3-5 days in length that cover all the most beautiful regions of the country, and I can’t wait to start checking them off my bucket list:
- Lake Waikaremoana, 46km along the lakeshore takes you through a mass of rainforest, waterfalls and secluded beaches.
- The Tongariro Northern Circuit, 43km through Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe (a.k.a Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings). It includes a magnificent view of the Emerald Lakes that fill the volcanic craters.
- Whanganui Journey, 145km of canoeing or kayaking through steep valley walls and native forest stand on either side of the Whanganui River. The Whanganui Journey possesses a cultural experience, as one of the backcountry huts is a marae (Maori meeting house).
- Abel Tasman Coast Track, 60km that takes you through stretching golden sand beaches and native bush (natural areas). You don’t even have to do the whole journey by foot, as taking a water taxi and kayaking is an option for stretches, or you can have your food transported for you.
- Heaphy Track, 78km in Kahurangi National Park, a rainforest where you can see a whole bunch of native birds such as tui, weka, kea, kaka, kereru and, if you are super lucky, a kiwi.
- Kepler Track, 60km in terrain that goes from lakeshores, to tussock lands, and to mountaintops. Be sure to bring a flashlight to explore the limestone caves near the Luxmore Hut!
- Milford Track, 54km where you walk along the rivers in pure green rainforests. There is an abundance of waterfalls including the gargantuan Sutherland Falls, which is 580m high. The track emerges into the famous and stunning fiord of Milford Sound.
- Routeburn Track, 32km walking through the Southern Alps where you get the best views of the glacier carved valleys and majestic lakes.
- Rakiura Track, 32km all on Stewart Island. Because the Rakiura National Park makes up 80% of the island, doing the Rakiura Track is the best way to really see Stewart Island.
- Paparoa Track, 45km of wandering amongst a karst limestone landscape, amidst ancient forest, and over the Paparoa Ranges for breathtaking views.
Life Along the Trail
All of the Great Walks require reservations, and all provide designated huts, which are sometimes group cabins and sometimes for individual parties. Having huts helps minimize the environmental impact but also provides you a place to get warm and dry, cook a hot meal, get water, and clean up. I’m just excited to not have to carry all that heavy cooking gear, my tent, my inflatable sleeping mat, and more. With a lighter pack, I’ll have more energy and will more thoroughly enjoy the epic scenery.
Put these ten on your bucket list, and let’s go for a tramp!