Matt Hassam

Backpackermatt

Matt Hassam

Having spent my whole life in Brisbane without so much as a week off work - much less an actual holiday - in six-and-a-half years, I suddenly decided (on my 27th birthday) that I'd had enough and needed to get a life. So I quit both of my jobs, moved out of my apartment, packed anything I could fit into my car, and three weeks later I hit the road. Over a thousand kilometres later I ended up in a tiny little town that I had heard about from a friend, with only one street, a few pubs, a few backpacker hostels and a beach. That day was the 1st of June, 2006... I haven't stopped travelling since.



Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Kandersteg July 11th 2018

After turning my back on the Thunersee (Friday 6thJuly) for what I assumed would be the last time, I took a train south to Kandersteg and immediately checked into the Hotel des Alpes near the centre of town. My reasons for choosing the Hotel des Alpes over the International Scout Centre (where I had stayed when I passed through Kandersteg twoyears ago) were three-fold: 1) I wouldn't have to walk for twenty minutes out of town to reach my accommodation, 2) I wouldn't have to share the breakfast buffet with a couple of hundred obnoxious teenagers each morning, and 3) I would have a guaranteed venue in which to watch all four World Cup quarter-finals, without even having to go outside... which, with the rain still bucketing down upon my arrival in Kandersteg, would have probably ... read more
Three Peaks
Starting Out
A Long Way To Go...

Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Murren July 6th 2018

Two years ago, on my last trip to Europe, I had attempted to hike from Engelberg all the way to Leukerbad (about 130km in all) through the heart of the Swiss Alps, along a section of the multi-national Via Alpina trail network. Unfortunately though, having successfully crossed three reasonably high mountain passes (the Jochpass, Grosse Scheidegg and Kleine Scheidegg) on my way from Engelberg to Lauterbrunnen, I was then forced to abandon my attempt to cross by far the two highest passes on my route – the Sefinenfurgge at 2612m and the Hohtürli at 2778m – due to bad weather. While I was then able to complete the final leg of my through-hike from Kandersteg over the Gemmipass and down into Leukerbad, this left a gap of about 25km, stretching between the town of Mürren (above ... read more
V-Shaped Valley
Dramatic Backdrop
Tourist Town


After enduring a weekend of virtually non-stop rain which thwarted any sightseeing plans we might have had for Lake Tekapo or Lake Pukaki, Linda and I had headed to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park on the Monday with very low expectations indeed – and as a result had been pleasantly surprised when we were able to complete the 10km return hike from our campsite at the White Horse Hill DOC campground to the large lake at the foot of the Hooker Glacier without being rained upon at all. But if we had considered this small mercy to be a blessing, then we were about to be bestowed with a miracle! Rising from our slumber on Tuesday (14th March) to find the first small patches of blue sky that we had seen in four days, we ... read more
A sight for sore eyes
Green Lake
Glacial Lake


After returning to Westport on Tuesday morning (7thMarch), we finally put the West Coast in our rearviewmirror and headed inland through the scenic lower stretches of the Buller Gorge; before turning south and passing through the former gold-mining town of Reefton – which according to the local tourist propaganda was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to receive electric street lighting. With rain falling for most of the day – including a long-overdue downpour that finally washed away the past week's worth of West Coast gravel road dust accumulation – we wisely decided to call an early halt to proceedings at the Slab Hut Creek DOC campground, where I was able to finally finish reading Heinrich Harrer's excellent 'Seven Years in Tibet' while Linda indulged her inner German engineer by constructing a flood channel in ... read more
Spectacular Road
The Devil's Postcard
Stoney Stream


After witnessing our first brilliant West Coast sunset at Gillespie's Beach, Linda and I woke the next morning (Thursday 2nd March) and weren't at all surprised to find the mountains just inland from the coast covered in clouds... while we soon found ourselves covered in sandflies, yet again! But after cursing our way through a hurried breakfast, we were soon to hit the road when suddenly the clouds parted to reveal the highest peaks in New Zealand in all their snow-bound glory – from Torres Peak (3114m) on the right to Mount Tasman (3498m) on the left; while in the middle was the highest peak of all: Aoraki / Mount Cook, with it's summit piercing the sky an astonishing 3748m above sea level (about 3745m above where we were standing!). Unfortunately though this would turn out ... read more
River of Ice
Glacially-carved Valley
Lakeside Campsite

Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Wanaka March 2nd 2017

Leaving Fiordland behind (Saturday 25thFebruary) it seemed we had also left the good weather behind, as we headed first east and then north from Te Anau towards Queenstown, following the south-eastern shore of the lightning bolt-shaped Lake Wakatipu for the final fifty kilometres. If there is one destination in New Zealand that is more hyped than any other – especially in backpacker circles – it would have to be Queenstown. But as we arrived under leaden grey skies, the town's appeal wasn't immediately apparent; so after heading back to nearby Frankton to stock up on groceries, we passed straight through Queenstown and made our way out to the DOC campground at Moke Lake, located high up in a steep-sided valley to the north of Lake Wakatipu. And there by the shores of Moke Lake, we were ... read more
Lakeside Strand
Lakefront Location
High above Queenstown


After enjoying the scenic delights of both Kaikoura and Akaroa in previous days, Linda and I suffered a bit of a lull in the days following our departure from the Banks Peninsula (Saturday 18thFebruary), as the blue skies of the previous week gave way to grey and the monotonous flat landscape of Canterbury's eastern plains rolled by for hundreds of kilometres. Diverting our attention briefly along the way was the busy port town of Oamaru, which sports a remarkable amount of impressive heritage architecture for a town of it's size (much of which now houses funky art, craft and coffee shops) as well as having attained fame as the capital of 'steampunk' culture... though what that actually is I have no idea, even after reading the explanation posted outside Steampunk HQ in town! Arriving in Dunedin ... read more
Driving through the clouds
Coastal Campsite
Stunning sight to wake up to

Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Akaroa February 18th 2017

At 4:35am on the 4thof September 2010, an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale occurred 40km west of Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand (and second largest city in the country). As the earthquake hit in the early hours of the morning while most people were in bed, no fatalities occurred – and it seemed the people of Christchurch had dodged a bullet. Fast forward six months to the 22nd of February 2011, when at 12:51pm a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck just 10 kilometres south-east of Christchurch (and a mere 2 kilometres west of the city's port at Lyttelton). With many of the city's buildings already damaged from the earlier earthquake, the destruction this time around was much greater. But worse still was the fact that the earthquake occurred during ... read more
Seaside Stunner
Main Street, Small Town
Splash of Colour


Arriving on the South Island (Te Waipounamu) on the Bluebridge inter-island ferry, we were greeted by the same leaden grey skies that had bid us farewell from the North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) in Wellington a few hours earlier; though admittedly the last hour of the cruise did reveal some picture postcard scenery as we made our way through the inner reaches of Queen Charlotte Sound. Disembarking the ferry in Picton, we then had to tackle the incredibly windey Queen Charlotte Drive (with around 180 bends in just over 15km of road) before arriving at our overnight stop at the wonderful Smith's Farm Holiday Park, where if the warm banana and chocolate-chip muffins on arrival weren't enough to win us over, the chance to feed the resident goats and sheep certainly sealed the deal! The next day ... read more
Harbour Views
Beachcombing Bliss
Secluded Campsite


In Maori mythology, there once stood four great mountains in the area now protected within Tongariro National Park – Tongariro, Taranaki, Tauhara and Putauaki – all of whom were male. When a beautiful female mountain named Pihanga arrived nearby, all four of them fell in love with her. But since only one of them could have her – and with boys being boys after all – they fought over her. When the great battle of the mountains was over, it was the volcano Tongariro who stood victorious, having blown himself apart in order to prove his love to Pihanga. The other three mountains were given until sunrise the following morning to get as far away as they could, before they would be turned to stone forever. Taranaki fled westwards at a great rate, and by the ... read more
Between the Volcanoes
Mount Doom
Martian Landscape




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