A Travellerspoint blog

Tramping in New Zealand

Why and how you shouldn’t pay all that hard earned cash on the Great Walks.

all seasons in one day

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First of all, I need to tell you guys a secret.
When I was about 13 years old, I did some hiking in Switzerland on a summer camp kind of ordeal. I liked it a lot (although my main memories of it are all about a certain boy of course, as it should be when you’re a teenager). But since then I’ve never really been into it or just haven’t had the chance to do much of it. When I met Connor, things changed. He got me back unto the right path. He revived that need inside of me of wanting to go explore nature more again. I’ve always loved camping, so why not go off into the bush and do it more often, yeah? If you would have told me four years ago that I voluntarily would carry around a backpack climbing up steep unformed pathways for 5+ days I’d say you were crazy. Honestly. But now… I love it!!! It gets you in shape first of all. And fast. Being surrounded by nature and not modern society is a plus as well. There’s nothing more satisfying then hearing nothing but water and birds and the wind in the background while reading, relaxing or even dozing off in the afternoon sunshine. The continuous walking in silence clears my head and I always feel like I have accomplished something big at the end of the day. Therefore I highly recommend hiking to everybody. Plus if you ever find yourself thinking about a trip to NZ, do NOT skip the opportunity to do some walking! You will not regret it. With its hut system and very well organized and marked tramps, NZ is the perfect place to get into it. It has never been so easy basically.
You’ll find yourself dealing with DOC (Department of Conservation – or as the locals like to call them sometimes; the Department of Contradiction, because of certain policies DOC has associated themselves with) a lot when getting involved with tramping while you are in NZ. They are responsible for informing and helping you out with anything concerning taking off on a tramp. You book your huts through them, consult weather and track conditions and in some cases you’ll encounter them on the tracks or in the huts and they will give you even more useful information.
Unfortunately a lot of international tourists have caught on to the great walks NZ has to offer and therefore they have become extremely expensive because of the demand for better facilities along the way. Today when you go to stay in a hut along one of the great walks, there’s…. wait for it… in the middle of nowhere… electricity (solar), flushing toilets and warm water. That’s not really tramping anymore, that’s just a luxury vacation. Not even mentioning that a lot of them these days pay guides to take them up (already really well marked seriously overcrowded pathways, why there is that need.. I do not know), carry their backpacks and cook for them at the end of the day…. Really…
The old romantic huts that had room for less people, yes, had more of a convenient setup though. A stove in the middle of the room, to keep you warm at night. In these fancy huts you are actually stuck in dorm rooms with no stove present. You have gas cookers in the kitchen area, which is weird as well in my opinion. You don’t need them. You should just bring your own gear and be fine, yeah? So every real tramper that is always packed correctly with all you could ever need, gets stuck paying 50+ NZ dollars a night to sleep in a fancy hut, they don’t want to sleep in to begin with (because they liked the old ones better) but you have no choice, cause you are not allowed to camp anywhere anymore. So what’s the solution to this problem, when you have no money and want to enjoy all of these beautiful tramps? Choose more low key ones and not the great walks. You have no choice sometimes and that really sucks. There is a couple of loopholes though. One being that the great walks season goes from November till the end of April. So basically outside the season you can still walk the great walks at the normal prices (but the weather conditions might screw that up for you, sometimes they take the necessary bridges to cross the bigger rivers out as well, which makes it impossible for you to complete them). Another loophole is you can only do parts of the great walk maybe connecting it to your own made up tramp. I say… boycott DOC’s great walk policy and walk the less famous ones. Most important first step in the right direction get a backcountry hut pass.
For example a couple of my memorable tramps are the Cass Lagoon Saddle in Arthur’s pass, Greenstone-Caples, Rees-Dart (including a day trip to Cascade Saddle – the most beautiful one I’ve done so far). It won’t be long before these will be classified as great walks officially too and become more expensive, cause they ARE that great. You can make your own track combinations in some places with an extensive system so you can avoid paying all that money and will only encounter real trampers and not the ones who expect their dinner to be cooked at arrival in the huts.
Both the South and the North island have an amazing amount of tramps and they will not disappoint you. Huts are becoming more expensive and they are banning camping out slowly but surely. It’s becoming an elite sort of thing to be able to do these great walks and that is ridiculous. I understand the need to keep things under control and make nature your first priority. I’ll be the first to agree. But it didn’t seem to bother anybody before. When you make the access and luxury less, you attract only the real folks who are doing it for the right reasons and know the etiquette of camping in the wild. By creating this fancy resort-walks you attract people who do not care and therefore you’re creating this problem by catering for stupid people. You don’t need a flushing toilet on top of the mountain!!! You need a shovel or you carry it out, it’s that simple.
There, I had my say. I’m one of those who is willing to pay for all the work DOC is doing, but not so they can built a resort on the top of the mountain. Give me my rustic little hut back.. They are the best. I have not been able to do or complete any of these Great walks because I did not have a couple thousand dollars extra saved to walk them. I just think it’s wrong. Luckily there’s plenty of other tramps that are more low-key but just as precious! Thank god for that! Let’s hope that will last.

Posted by flemishgirl 03.07.2012 18:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged hiking camping huts doc tramping routeburn great_walks cascade_saddle rees-dart greenstone-caples milford_track backcountry_hut_passes

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