Great Walks of New Zealand

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January 20th 2011
Published: June 4th 2012
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What's not to like about the great outdoors right here in New Zealand? Hell, we go away to all these fantastic places around the world, but right here we have natural, open spaces that people in most parts of the planet would crawl over broken glass to get to. And we have it. Right here.

We never take it for granted and you only need to go away somewhere and then come back to remember how lucky we are. We've even gone a bit further than that. We get out there for one big multi-day walk a year. Thats not counting the day trips, taking in the superb walking and bike tracks we have all around Queenstown. We do it as a family and the boys think nothing now of throwing a pack on their back and off we go.

Where have we been in the last few years? Well, we've been up the Routeburn for a couple of overnighters, one when we booked out the Flats Hut for my 45th birthday, and once with the Ryalls when we went up to the Falls Hut for the night. Both times the weather was superb - sunny and settled, the air crystal clear. My birthday is late March so it cooled down just enough when the sun dropped behind the mountains to deter any mosquitos. There were four other families with us, the kids kept themselves amused playing by the creek that meanders across the flat. The parents just chatted away over a few wines, and solved the problems of the world yet again.

Seth was only 5 but never complained. In fact it was nearly me who did on the few occassions when I let him off the hook and carried him. I remember on the way back out to the carpark, an awesome, mostly flat walk through native bush on the edge of the river, keeping him, Brita and Chlora going. There was a deer up ahead. Honestly, there was. It was just up and around the next corner. Always the next corner.

When we went to the Falls Hut Richard took us to some pools in the stream a few hundred metres further up. This is high country, the snowline well and truly a lot of the year. But I swear the water in Rich's pools was like a bath. Not like the river where
Mitchy up top Mitchy up top Mitchy up top

Kepler Track
we had stopped for snadwiches on the way in. There it was icy cold, snow melt, We had a competition to see who could keep their legs in the water the longest. I didn't survive the throbbing stage. The boys lasted longer, at least their legs were numb before they pulled them out. The Ryalls won hands down.

The Routeburn is like our "house" walk really, although I did the Greenstone once with Alistair Metherell and a friend of his and it was superb too. Not a family trip that one though. We tented the first night halfway along the Greeenstone in the tussocks just off the river. Just past where we'd seen a few deer grazing on the edge of the bush. We thought we'd be safe from the mozzies but no, we got nearly eaten alive. In the end that night, the only flesh I still had exposed was the skin around my eyes. Mind you it was mid January and mild. At that stage though, the idea of relaxing over a four course dinner and then having a hot shower anf going to bed on a real bed, like they do in the "hut" just further
Vantage point Vantage point Vantage point

Abel Tasman
up the valley, sounded good.

The next night was at Greenstone Hut just around the crook in the river. Safe from mozzies. On the swing bridge over the river to the hut I saw the biggest lazy trout I've seen for a while, just calmly feeding on whatever morsels flushed down in his direction. Smug in the knowledge that no walker could get down the ravine to catch him.

Susan and I also did the Bank's Peninsula Walk in 2007 in late January. Summer heat, especially on the last day. None of the days were that long, but the start of the walk is straight up. Just to get you to make the connection - this is going to take some effort. Each night was spent in an old farmhouse set up just for people like us, on the track. The highlight was the third night where you could soak under the stars in a luxurious old outdoor bath, beer in hand, the bathwater heated by a fire under the bathtub.

We did another one before we started dragging the kids along with us. That was the Tuatapere Humpridge Track in Fiordland, which we did in 2008 with Kelvin and Marie Maker. That was stunning. Day one straight up. Day two straight down through the bush and the odd muddy bit where they haven't put boardwalks yet. Day three along the old historic railway line to the coast, and day four back out and along the beach. Every day was different. The first was hard slog. Spotted some deer from the deck of the "hut" and checked out the tarns up the top. Then on the coast there were schools of porpoises no more than a few metres from the rocks.

We really started our long family walks in 2010 when we ventured up to Nelson and did the Abel Tasman Track. We thought the kids could handle it because they'd had a few goes already, up the Routeburn and also locally up Sawpit Gully and around Lake Hayes, and up Skippers. Plus once around from Lindsay and Gill's place to Moke Lake one Sunday.

The good thing about the family walks has been that we've always done them with friends. Not only does it keep the kids going but the grown ups get time to do grown up things like drink wine and chat. The kids all amuse each other. They would stride out and get to the next hut in good time, sort out their bedding arrangements, then get down to the serious business of playing cards.

This was the theme on the Abel Tasman in January 2010, and then again on the Kepler Track at Te Anau, which we did one year later. Two totally different adventures. Abel Tasman was warm and each day we ended up at a different beach. Beautiful golden sand and amazing, almost green, sea in the bay. Which was different to the sea out in the Straights, which was being whipped up by howling westerlies, pretty much the whole time we were there. Beach and bush. With bush right down to the beach. Black oystercatchers nesting in the sand were not that welcoming, But it was good to see there were plenty of them.

The Kepler was warm to start with but then, once you came out above the bushline you found yourself in a classic alpine setting - wind blown tussock and occasional squally showers. So day one was tough. Being New Year's day probably didn't help for some of us, certainly not the DOC ranger in the first hut who was suffering a bit from the excesses of the night before. Day two was true alpine tramping along exposed ridgelines with views for miles across the lake and the vastness of Fiordland before zig-zagging very steeply back down to the next hut at river level. Again, magnificent native bush and a pristine mountain-fed river.

Further along, after walking out the Kepler Valley, we came across huge fields of bright green ferns, and then to Manapouri where the water was warm enough for a decent wash and a swim. By then my knees and calves were gone. That downhill had just about done me, especially with a decent-sized pack on my back including everything imaginable. No wonder I put on weight the first coupel of days on these walks. I'm trying to finish off as much food as i can quickly so I don't have to carry it. It is always annoying though when I run out of scroggin too early.

The plan next is to do Milford Track in December 2012 with Michellle and the Christchurch cousins. Susan has done it before but I haven't, so that something to really look forward to.

Additional photos below
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Abel TasmanAbel Tasman
Abel Tasman

Bush shelter

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