A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand

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

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 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

Hitchhiking in NZ

The easiest and cheapest way to get around... no doubt

all seasons in one day

Many people would hesitate but eventually find an excuse to not stop when they see a hitchhiker alongside the road. The car is full.. Oh it’s too late now… or the most honest reasoning would be that they don’t really want to as it’s not easy to trust strangers. Some just ignore because they are plainly said not in the slightest bit interested in helping other people out. Well, all the above are very understandable. Except for the last one, those people need to re-evaluate their lives…
Connor and I have been hitchhiking quite a bit while we’ve been doing our around the world tour. We just stand somewhere safe, have a sign, plenty of room for the person to pull over, not too much of a speed limit, a friendly helpful population and voila!!! You got yourselves the most interesting way, sometimes most efficient as well, to travel around and connect with the country of your choice. I wouldn’t recommend it in all places, but I’ve personally done it in Hawaii, Australia (including Tasmania) and NZ and encountered nothing but friendly folks wanting a chat or wanting to help us out. But how about all those murders on the news involving hitchhikers? Well, think about it… usually it is the hitchhiker that is at risk, by getting into a car they don’t know, not the driver. Another thing to think about; tragedies involving hitchhikers will always reach the news because of its adventurous nature, it is news worthy. There are people disappearing, getting shot at, dying in accidents, getting raped or murdered every second of the day somewhere in the world, but those don’t always make it into the papers, do they??? I’d say you are perfectly safe hitchhiking if you are being smart about it. Just as you’re safe crossing the street using the crosswalk and the green light. Never had one dodgy person wanting to give us a ride. We are a couple though and Connor’s quite tall, but we look like legit decent travelers. We try not to look too scruffy or dirty and also to not smell too much. Which is pretty much impossible after coming out from tramping in the bush for multiple days, people must have thought we smelled pretty bad sometimes. I guess we could have bought a car and have spent half of our hard earned money on petrol getting around, but let’s be real. Our way of traveling would have put that car 75 percent of the time parked and forgotten somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Plus getting a ride with locals just gives you so much more valuable info and sometimes free food, alcohol and a place to stay even. What more could you want? Hitchhiking has proven extremely useful to us and sometimes was better than your average expensive taxi or shuttle service. As there are sometimes no busses at all to be spoken of in certain remote regions, it’s your only choice of transport anyways. I got used to it and still think it was the best way to travel around certain countries like New Zealand for example, where we were for the last 6.5 months.
Now we are in Fiji and the rules are different here. You can hitch with any vehicle but you are expected to pay the amount it would have cost for you to take the bus. As people are poor and busses are not many (in remote areas) and everybody who does have a vehicle is trying to make an extra buck or two. So the genuine hitchhiking is non-existent here, but that’s not throwing us off. We’re enjoying taking extremely bumpy and overly long bus rides. We’ll see how things will go when we get to our next destinations, but as soon as we have found a country where hitchhiking is done I’m jumping back on board!!

Posted by flemishgirl 18:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland cities roads car road new_zealand nz friendly south_island north_island abandoned hitchhiking easy helpful thumb thumbing_it

“Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud : Unplugged”

AKA New Zealand, most definitely one of my favorite places in the world.

all seasons in one day 12 °C

Out of our 6.5 months in NZ, we spent about 4 over the summer on the South island enjoying the beautiful scenery and doing some tramping (= trekking + camping = hiking). The last 2.5 were spent discovering the North Island which is poles apart. It’s like comparing chocolate and cheese, a saying we’ve heard Kiwi’s use frequently. (Kiwi= New Zealander) We’ve experienced this country in every single way possible and walked (or rather flew) away very satisfied and with, what we feel is, a correct view on a very isolated and enormously beautiful, friendly place on this planet. A country that has a very green image, but we know now that is not completely true.. When you hitchhike and stay with the locals, conversations are very enlightening . We had a blast traveling around this country, making new friends, meeting up with old friends, NZ will always keep a special place in my heart.large_548289_376..38362_n.jpg

Hitchhiking, helpXing, couchsurfing and tramping… is all (you need) we needed to get a real insight into what New Zealand is all about. We’ve stayed and worked on farms, climbed some mountains and saddles, did the real touristy bit when my dad came over for three weeks, cruising around the country showing him all the good stuff. We know Maori names for plants, trees and birds…We can tell the difference between a Kauri and a Puriri tree. We know how to recognize the call of the Kiwi bird at night (if it’s a male or a female – not a Morepork , which is a small owl who makes a similar sound) and how to spot one. A 85-year old Maori woman named Jean taught me how to weave different kind of flowers with flax, a native plant with big strong leaves of which they use the fiber it produces off for just about anything. Unlike Australia, where the possum is cute, well loved and considered to be a protected species, it is an all-around pest in NZ. The debates heat up massively at times for what the best method is to get rid of them humanely. It suffices to say that we’ve been offered to shoot some at many different occasions (which Connor successfully did a few times) and have been shown how to set up traps. It surprises me sometimes, when I think back, how much NZ actually has taught us. No need to say, it has left a huge impression on me. I loved the country, it’s amazing wild nature and especially the extremely helpful and friendly people. Basically I wish I could go back already..

It’s the perfect country for the keen hunter or fisherman. Many pests to get rid of including deer (you can shoot as many as you like basically). So many unspoiled waters for fishing. I, myself caught a 15 pound snapper just of off the coast in the Far North (top of the North island), which a lot of kiwi’s have complimented me for as they themselves had never caught one that big before.

Here’s a little itinerary so you’d have a good idea of what we’ve done and where we’ve been during our time in NZ.

December, we arrived in Auckland made good friends with the Davis family (located on the North shore) and scooted in hurry over to the South Island, because the summer had arrived and the tramping season had officially begun. We wanted to take advantage of the good weather and start taking in that elusive grandeur that the Southern alps and Fiordland are famous for. Made a little stopover in Nelson to get ourselves sorted (where we exactly were going to start our exploring). We then decided on Arthur’s Pass for Christmas and New Year as there is always snow to be found on the mountain tops there and we hadn’t seen snow in ages! (It still feels weird being in the Southern hemisphere when it actually is summer when I’m used to seeing snow and ice for Christmas). So we worked in the Bealey Hotel for a couple of weeks, helping in the kitchen, working behind the bar, changing sheets. Not the most glamorous job in the universe but it had some fun folks to hang out with day in and day out (wink to our Argentinian friends, who are living it up for the snow season in Queenstown right now). Being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, immense wild braided river flowing right underneath your window, most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, admitted it was pretty awesome.. I’m trying not to forget to mention the local wildlife which pretty much only consisted of sandflies and Kea’s due to the altitude. Sandflies must be NZ best well kept secret. You don’t really hear about them until you actually encounter them. They are tiny little black flies that bite kind of like a mosquito. The bites are nasty and itchy though. Fortunately once you know about them and get used to them, you’d be able to outsmart them by covering up and spraying wrists and ankles especially (as they like those the best). Kea’s are the NZ’s ONLY alpine parrots. They are pretty looking and extremely inquisitive. They tried to fly off with one of my hiking boots one day at one of the campsites. They’re quite big and have very colorful wings (mainly green and a bit of red). We encountered them while tramping quite often. Terrorizing the neighborhood in packs, you have to watch out for leaving food out and they have been known to break into tents and cars… You’re asking me how? Very sharp beak and very smart, that’s how…

January, we said goodbye to Arthur’s pass and went more south. Through the Canterbury plains, through the Southern Lakes region, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki. Some glaciers and hitchhiking rides later we made it to Wanaka and really started to get a feel for the South Island. Queenstown was next and we stayed in this area for about a month. Working on a farm just outside of Glenorchy 45 minutes north from Queenstown at the top of the lake there is an substantial amount of South Island beauty to be found. Anyone ever going to Queenstown should rent a car for the day and explore more north. Much better than only a visit to the super famous action capital of the country. Seriously, don’t stop at Queenstown, get your ass up there. Until this day this is still one of my favorite places in NZ. Riding horses (who almost guaranteed were in the Lord of The Rings movies, as they were all filmed in this area), tramping the different valleys and mountains are still part of my most memorable accomplished activities. This region borders Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Park which are world famous for their great walks. We did some 5 day tramps and they are indeed Great… It’s a magical place. large_552088_376..77999_n.jpg

February, we met up with friends and went to Abel Tasman national park for my 30th birthday. Did some sightseeing and camping at Golden bay and tramping.. Success! After a very fun week hanging out with our American friends from home, we needed to get down to the more Southern part of the South Island as summer was threatening to disappear on us soon. Made our way down the east coast, saw some penguins and seals and weird looking boulders on a random beach. Crossed through more dairy farm country and landed in Invercargill for a while. Worked at a very hilarious hostel, waiting out the rain. Got to Te Anau and realized how immensely beautiful and wild this country is.. again. Did some tramping around Lake Manapouri and got on a very successful Doubtful Sound day cruise. Oh my…. That was an incredible experience. Dolphins came by and said hi… waterfalls were plenty..there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so the water was quite calm and we were able to get out into the Tasman Sea in our little boat to have a look back onto Fiordland…. One Word: Breathtaking.

March, we finished our time down south and made our way back up to Christchurch (6.5 months in NZ and I did not feel ONE earthquake, which is very rare, as going to CHCH basically guarantees you one…. It was earthquake central for the last 5 months and will be for another while they say.) We spent a marvelous time on the Banks Peninsula, learning how to look for Paua (abalone) and huge green lip mussels for dinner. Learned a bit more about Maori culture and took my dad later back there to go camping on the beach in one of the spectacular looking bays. Flew out to Auckland to go get my dad from the airport, jumped in a little cheap campervan and started a 5000km adventure on both the North and South Island showing him, what we thought was, the best NZ had to offer… in about 3 weeks. It felt like a success afterwards… but in comparison to the way we normally travel, it was way too fast and not enough time. The glowworm caves in Waitomo stick out in my memory though and Rotorua’s smell! Should have spent more time in Kaikoura as the dolphins and seals and tramping opportunities were plentiful! Our Milford Sound trip turned out to be the most divers one we could have ever hoped for. We had rain, snow and hundreds of thousands of waterfalls in every shape and form to admire during the first half of the day driving from Te Anau towards Milford Sound. That road is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. Once we got on the boat, the sun decided to come through so we had a good view of the very famous and picturesque Mitre Peak before encountering more dolphins, seals and an amazing amount of rainbows. What good karma us three must have, cause good god.. for a minute there before we got on the boat the outlook didn’t look very positive.

April, we dropped Dad off in Auckland and put him safely back on a plane to Belgium and had a good rest at our favorite family’s place. Stayed on the North island from now on. A fishing trip to Coromandel got us some yummy fish dishes for a while.. the amount of fish we caught fed us for a week! Northland was next on the list and we really lived the good life up there… Digging up Kumara (sweet potatoes), went fishing some more and looking for seafood almost every day. Had a good night out with some local Maori boys in Hokianga (who picked us up hitchhiking and in return we picked up little bit of the local dialect – chur brew!). Went looking to catch a ride on a boat to one of the pacific islands in Whangarei and in the Bay of Islands, but decided we weren’t done yet with NZ.
May, Hawkes Bay and Napier is indeed all it’s cracked up to be. Drove a quad on the beach at low tide to go see Cape Kidnappers from up close. It was starting to get real cold now. Not cold like European standards for winter but frosts started occurring overnight and frequent Southerlies (wind) made it chilly. It was no longer comfortable camping, so we were getting excited about leaving on a jet plane to Fiji! Finished off some tramping in the centre of the North island in the shadows of the mystical three volcanoes who by now had very snowy tops, which made for exceptional picture taking. Got a good view of Mount Taranaki and enjoyed a steep tramp halfway up the mountain. Too much rain and cold weather made us go up north again.large_532857_420..33668_n.jpg

June, ending our NZ adventure with one of the best helpX experiences we’ve had so far. Between Thames and Paeroa, in the Maratoto Valley (bordering Coromandel peninsula) we planted heaps of little native trees and had spiritual bushwalks hugging some Kauri trees. Learning how to correctly do Light Clay wall stuffing and talk to fantails. My wisdom tooth started to act up and it was decided that it had to be surgically removed (I’m writing this 10 days after this has been done and it still hurts! My jawbone was drilled into… trust me when I say mind-blowingly painful). Then after saying bye to the Davis’s and getting a new tattoo, we finally jumped on a plane to Fiji.

It’s warm and coconutty here…. And I miss kiwiland.. (fail) Smiles!

Posted by flemishgirl 17:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged snow queenstown fishing boat snowboarding wildlife hiking locals fiji sun new_zealand dolphins camping milford_sound maori lotr south_island north_island seals hunting hunter doubtful_sound hitchhiking glenorchy lord_of_the_rings tramping couchsurfing helpx far_north

The Land of the Long White Cloud has taken me.

Aotearoa aka New Zealand has taken me hostage. All I want is more and more.. of epic adventures situated in this magnificently beautiful country.

all seasons in one day 18 °C

There is not enough time in a day.

I still need to sleep as well and once in a while chillax and watch a movie. This country is filled with too many things for me to want to do.
You must forgive me for not writing about all of our little adventures separately. Things are different here in this one. Not at all like Australia.

I fear that for the next month or two there'll be heaps of excitement and loads of moving around as well. So keep your eyes on my facebook page if you want to keep being updated with our progress. We do put our pictures up there once in a while and in massive amounts. So please do have a look and if you have any questions. Ask away.

And I, Tine Lhoest-Anderson, promise, sincerely, that I will write a highly successful and complete piece about my adventures in NZ. Soon.

here are the links to the many pictures taken by myself and my lovely husband of our travels in Kiwi-land so far.







Posted by flemishgirl 21:09 Archived in New Zealand Tagged queenstown island friends south north new_zealand adventures pictures kiwi glenorchy tramping facebook kiwi's great_walks farmwork

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