Published: January 23rd 2006December 15th 2005
You would think the digital camera isn't working properly.
Champagne Backpacking - best way to describe it. At the end of any hard days tramping in the NZ wilderness you can dock the boots at a clean comfortable hut. Bliss.
NZ is gorgeous, not a new statement, but its incredibly accesible to the good stuff. Amazing trails all organized with superb trail markers. Its a shame that most people think of bungee, skydiving, sledging and jet boating when the infrastructure for hiking is so great
Within the NZ national park system there are several classifications of Huts and Hikes, some preimum and well maintained and advertised and as such well stamped out with folks from all over. Others are just as spectacular and anomous. Just about every moutain range has a collection of huts within each valley and drainage, this system the absoute ease of access in reaching remote areas of New Zealand mountain ranges should be what one thinks of when coming to New Zealand instead of all the adrenile sports in the towns and cities. On the trails we met numourous people that were back into NZ for the 2nd or 3rd time and spent every day of thier outing moving from one trail to another.
You might have to cross the river ten times on a hike but you can always see where you step.
Queen Charlotte Trail- This hike follows the northern tip of the south island along the water ways that make up the ferry ride into port. After we picked up our death box we set out for the trail head hoping to put a few miles in before dark. That night we got our first taste of NZ's no 1 enemy, possums. Not cute, not smart and not quiet. More than once, sleeping in the tent you would hear screeeeeeeeee and hceeeeeeeee.
Pretty sure one even fell out of a tree right next to the tent, hitting every branch on the way down. Like most trails in NZ this was a there and back but along with excellent trails and huts transport services shuttle people via water back to the trail head. On the day we chose to hike we were tramping in the middle of a half marathon, we cheered 80 or so people of very differet fitness levels as they made it to the finish line. We knew we saw the last of them when we came up on the five gothic teenage outward bound kids walking and smoking instead of sweating and running.
Arthurs pass- Just name
dropping that you are from CO does wonders, like our visit to Canada the year before we mentioned where we were from and the ranger gets excited, drops his usual blob about treks and pulls out the map and starts showing us routes he wished he had the time to take. We chose to combine two seperate trails and climb a high snow covered pass to get across. Armed with the topo in hand we set off - in the wrong direction. Whoops. After that we were pros navagating the contour lines of the topo. Our first day was in the Edwards valley, featuring a 80 meter waterfall and two distinct zones of vegatation. The second day was spent well above tree line cross under Mt Oats, up there the mountains looked very similar to the 14ers in CO, lots of screee and crumbling rock. Coming down into the Goat hut was unmarked and very steep, to make it down you had to claw grass and bush and lower yourself down.
Copeland Flat trail has one of the best destination huts in the south island, 32 bunks in a high narrow valley with a collection of 5 thermal pools,
shallow, hot and swarming with sand flys during the day. There is a sign that says you can contract amebic menigitis if you dip your head below the water. With those bastards you would rather take it. After the stars come out the sandflys go to bed and you can't see the pile of mud you are sitting in and all of a sudden the view is world class with a shadow of light from the moon. For the first time in my trip the bunk house was all American, even the hut wardern - she was from Detroit of course. There we met Caleb, a very nice Montana boy who was a serious hiker having worked for the National Park service. He was hitching his way through the south island and was flying out of ChCh the day after me so we offered a ride for the rest of the way.
Rees Dart- With Caleb and Jon we decided that I would drive them to the trail head and drive back to catch a shuttle and save ourselves some money. My navigators did a poor job and we took a wrong turn and we ran out of time
for the drive back to the shuttle, they had to huff it an extra 4kms into a 16 km day. A mellow day though the Rees valley was very wide with river bed exposing river rocks from all the directions its taken over the years. Towards the end the valley climbed steadily upwards towards a boxed saddle where the Rees Hut rests. Plenty of daylight for games of Shithead, cups of tea and bitching about sandflys. Heading into the Dart valley we woke up to a truely miserable day, our first day of tramping in muck all day. Caleb, Jon and I set out first and broke the saddle to cloudy but mostly dry trail. An added bonus the mountains were weaping with gorgeous waterfalls. On the way down we met the Hut warden whom I mistakenly called a Ranger. He was clearly miffed I didn't know the correct name. So I made it a point to rub it in a bit. We heard the Dart hut was new but, wow, its amazing when you live in a rich western country that spends its money of worth while projects, a palace in the woods. Down the Dart valley is like
running through the Sound of Music, wide grassy valleys, overdone trails inspires you to run with your pack on.
Cascade Saddle - This is accessable from the Rees Dart, its mentioned in a few books as one of the best one day hikes in NZ and it doesn't disappoint. Three glaciers, the source of the Dart River, a stunning saddle view with Mt Aspiring featuring a sheer 1000 meter drop off and a strenous vertical climb at the end. We ditched our gear in the Dart mansion and made quick time up the pass in a fortunate window of good weather and clear views. He who hikes Rees Dart and doesn't take the extra day for Cascade misses out.
There are more photos below