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New Zealand 2009


We travelled to NZ in January 2009 and spent almost 3 months tramping in South Island. Below is a brief account with some photographs of the main tramps that we walked. The tramps were:

1. Travers-Sabine

2. Abel Tasman

3. Heaphy

4. Routeburn and Greenstone

5. Rees Dart

6. Kepler

7. Hump Ridge

8. Rakiura


Travers-Sabine Tramp

This tramp is in the Nelson Lakes National Park. It starts and finishes at St Arnaud

This is us arriving at the DOC Kerr Bay campsite with enough food for about 2 weeks. The campsite has terrific views of Lake Rotoiti.

The next day we started off on the tramp, walking alongside the lake to its head and stopping for lunch at Lakehead hut. Our packs were very heavy since we were carrying full camping gear as well as food for 8 days.

It was very hot and we found the afternoon's tramp tough going. We were aiming to spend the night at the John Tait hut but we did not make it instead we camped.

The next day we continued up the Travers valley stopping at the John Tait hut for a second breakfast. As we came towards the head of the valley, the trees thinned and we started getting views towards the Travers Saddle.

We arrived at the Upper Travers Hut about lunchtime. The only other occupant was a Dutch girl although later Phil, an English guy now living and working in Wellington, turned up. Phil looks after the birds at Wellington Zoo and gave us lots of interesting information on the birds we were seeing.

The following day we all left early to climb the Saddle before it became too hot.

Views from the Saddle were great and then we descended about 1000 metres into the Sabine Valley. We continued down to the valley and spent the night in the West Sabine Hut. This was full of NZ trampers of the older generation and talking to them was very interesting.

The following day was an easy tramp to the Sabine Hut on Lake Rotoroa. Again it was a great hut the only problem was that there was no water in the rainwater tanks. We ended up getting water from the lake by dropping a cauldron into it off the end of the jetty.

The following morning we left the hut at 6.00 and started climbing the rough track up the side of Mount Cedric. The track was very steep but once above the bush line, the views were terrific.

We then walked along a long ridge over towards Mount Angelus. Finally crossing a large boulder field and dropping down to the Angelus Hut.

The hut was very busy by nightfall with every bed taken. The next day we left and climbed up to the Roberts ridge which then snakes its way back to Lake Rotoiti.

The walk ends at a carpark about 5 miles outside St Arnaud. We were really lucky though and a lady stopped and askeds if we would like a lift which saved us the last tedious leg along the road.

Abel Tasman Tramp

The Abel Tasman tramp is quite unlike any other walk we have done. The path is extremely easy and well maintained so boots are not really necessary. It passes through tropical forest and then emerges onto bays of golden sand lapped by an incredibly blue sea. It is extremely popular but if you camp like we did then the crowds do not intrude too much.

This is the visitor centre where the tramp starts. Next to it is cafe where we downed a last cappuchino before starting the walk.

Almost immediately we started getting vistas of incredibly beautiful bays.

This was the lunch spot on the first day at Stilwell Bay

We walked through to Anchorage Bay where we camped at the large DOC campsite. It was very busy with large numbers of kayakers as well as walkers. After our evening meal we walked round to Te Pukatea Bay where there was a small campsite. This was much quieter and would have been a better choice for us.

The following day we walked from Anchorage to Bark Bay where we camped - this time in a much quieter campsite.

The next day we walked from Bark Bay to Totaranui. This is Awara Inlet with the tide out.

We had to ford two rivers - this is Tilly crossing the stream outlet at Onetahuti Beach. Since the temperature was now in the 30s it was extremely pleasant wading across.

Often the path passed through quite dense forest - but the shade was very wellcome. We camped at the very large DOC site at Totaranui but we were the only people in the backpackers section. This was also the first place we saw Wekas - rather plump pheasant like birds which run around on the ground.

The last full day we walked from Totaranui to Whariwharangi. We could of easily continued to the trail head at Motueka but since the only bus went at 11.30 am and there was nowhere to camp, it made more sense to camp at Whariwharangi.

We passed by Mutton Bay which looked like a great place to camp.

We walked via Separation Point and saw seals swimming in the sea and basking on the rocks

The campsite at Whariwharangi was beside the hut which was an original settlers house dating from the end of the 19th century. The site was sheltered and very green.


Heaphy Track

We took a minibus from Nelson to start of the track close to Brown Hut. We had to go a day earlier than we had planned so spent the first night camped beside Brown Hut. We met up with 5 walkers from Auckland - who we inevitably dubbed the Auckland 5. Jon, Martin, Jerry, Louise and Annie were some of the nicest people we met in NZ.

Unfortunately when we woke up the next morning we found that the weather had turned foul. We walked up to the Perry Saddle Hut in pouring rain - it was so heavy that the side streams became cataracts which completely submerged our boots.

We camped outside the Perry Saddle Hut and it was a very damp and rather miserable experience. At least we were able to go into the hut and sit by the fire while we ate our dinner.

The DOC ranger at Perry Saddle said that the next day was going to be equally wet so we upgraded our booking to stay in Saxon Hut for the next night.  Of course the weather then turned fine and sunny!

On the way to Saxon Hut we passed this extraordinary totem pole strung with worn out boots.

We stopped at the Gouland Downs Hut for a morning break.

We also encountered some entertaining swing bridges

Saxon Hut was the newest hut on the Heaphy Track and we spent a convivial enening playing cards with the Auckland 5.

The next day we walked, again in rather damp weather to the James Mackay Hut where we camped on a wooden camping platform. We really liked the different coulours of all the mosses.

The next morning we were really lucky to see a giant carnivorous snail.

The next day as we walked from the James Mackay Hut to the Heaphy Hut, the weather improved.

We stopped for lunch at the Lewis Hut and were amused by the antics of a Weka.

As we walked down towards the Heaphy river, the vegeation became more and more tropical. What was quite amazing was the way in which plants were growing apparently out of the branches of the huge trees.

Jon powering down the track.

The first glimse of the sea.

The Heaphy River meeting the Tasman Sea.

We stayed the night at the Heaphy Hut rather than camping as the sandflies were terrible.

The final day was an easy walk along the coast to Kohaihai where we picked up a minibus to Karamea. We then stayed a couple of days there getting some R and R.


Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks

We were dogged by bad weather on these tramps which rather spoilt the experience.

This is the Shelter at the start of the Routeburn Track. The first day the weather was good and we had some great views despite the crowds.

This was our lunch spot at the Routeburn Falls Hut.

Once we reached the Routeburn Falls Hut we took the advice of the DOC warden and climbed up above the hut to get some fantastic views.

Unfortunately, the next day the weather looked bad with cloud billowing up through the valleys.

We donned all our wet weather gear and set off. Very soon we were walking in constant driving rain and I rather regretted my decision to wear shorts!

As we approached the Harris Saddle the visibility became even worse and the wind howled around us. We were very glad to take a short break in the Shelter - full of wet and steaming hikers.

The afternonn was pretty miserable. There were no views of the Hollyford Valley or the mountains beyond. The rain was driving and the wind relentless.

That night we had a wet and not very comfortable night at the Lake Mackenzie campsite. The next day was also wet and windy as we made our way to the McKellar Hut on the Greeenstone track.

We managed to dry out at the McKellar Hut and the following day the weather started to dry up and we got some views again.

That night we stayed at the Greenstone Hut which was modern and not crowded. The teperature fell quite dramatically and there were quite considerable falls of snow on the tops of the mountains by morning.

The last day the weather improved considerably. We walked out along the Greenstone Valley enjoying the views in the warm sunshine.

We met the transport at the carpark by the lake and were really pleased to find that we were going to return to Glenorchy by boat.


Rees Dart Tramp

This was one of the best tramps that we did in NZ although our view of the tramp was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that we had good weather for most of it.

We started by walking up the Rees valley to the Shelter Rock Hut. The first part was up a wide river valley with great grass flats but there were quite a lot of river crossings which made progress a bit slow.

After the grass flats we climbed up though the bush entering the Mount Aspiring National Park.

The following day the weather was good and we had a great tramp up the upper Rees valley to the Rees Saddle.

There were great views from the saddle.

Then we headed down towards the Dart Valley. The path was often quite steep and difficult.

Finally we reached the swing bridge which took us over to the Dart Hut.

The Dart Hut is modern and large. We stayed there an extra night so that we could do a side trip up to Cascade Saddle.

Extraordinary light hitting the hills at sunset as seen from the Dart Hut

Next morning we set off with a day pack to climb up beside the Dart Glacier to Cascade Saddle. When we stopped for a break this Kea came up really close.

The path winds up beside the glacial moraine which is remarkably ugly.

However once you get high enough you start to get stunning views of the river of ice as well views of the surrounding mountains.

From Cascade Saddle there is a great view of Mount Aspiring, the second highest peak in NZ.


Tilly looking back up towards the Dart Glacier on our way down.

The following day we set off along the Dart Valley to Daleys Flat Hut

For long periods we were walking through stunning river flats. This was one of the locations used for the Lord of the Rings.This is where they filmed Isengard the domain of the evil wizard Saruman.

We stayed the night at Daleys Flat hut which was full to overflowing and then made an early start the next day. The mists were swirling over the river flats which made the first part of our walk very atmospheric.

We reached the trail head carpark at about 12.30 along with all the other trampers. One of the things which made this tramp special (apart from the spectacular scenery and the great weather) was the group of people we ended up seeing each night. In particular there was this crazy group of men from Tasmania - the Tasmanian Irish Pirates - who were great fun. They are seen here with Alastair, a Kiwi who we had originally met on the Greenstone and who had become an honoury Tasmanian Irish Pirate.

Final view of Mount Earnslaw, taken from Glenorchy. We had walked round this on the Rees Dart Tramp.


For the Kepler tramp we travelled south to Te Anau. The Kepler is a four-day walk and is one of the NZ Department of Conservation’s “Great walks”. We had already booked the huts. We took a minivan to the start of the tramp although it’s only a 45minute walk. The track starts at the control gates of the Te Anau Lake and we started at 9.20am. The weather was not good - raining - so we had all our waterproofs on. The first part of the route is an ascent through woodlands to the Luxmore Hut. It was hot work climbing up and we were dripping with sweat by the time we came out of the trees. The weather was clearing up a bit and we had a great view down to the lake and of the surrounding mountains. We reached the hut about 2pm.

The Luxmore Hut in the evening sun

The next day the weather was bad again. We set off in full waterproofs.

Martin had now abandoned his shorts!

The well-made path climbed up towards Mount Luxmore but as the weather was so bad and the view had vanished completely we didn’t do the final ascent to the top. We struggled on against the lashing wind and rain to Forest Burn Saddle where there was a shelter and an amazing toilet perched on the mountainside. As we walked on the weather started to clear up a bit. We ascended a small peak and got a good view of the ridge ahead.

We reached another shelter (and equally amazing toilet) at Hanging Valley. Then along more ridge, often with wooden staircases, until we descended about 1,000 metres steeply through woods to Iris Burn Hut.

The next morning everyone in the hut got up really early and dashed off as they were getting transport out that day. However we were going onto Moturau Hut so we had a more leisurely start. We left at 9.30am and descended through the forest passing a huge landslip, which occurred in 1984 and was still very obvious. After some lunch sitting at a picnic table outside a DOC maintenance hut we came to Lake Manapourri. It was quite a long walk beside the lake until we came to the Moturau Hut about 3pm.

The final morning we left the hut at 8am and walked through the forest.

We passed Rainbow Reach where there is a bridge over the river and car park on the other side. A lot of people leave the track here. We carried on back to the start of the tramp at the control gates at Te Anau Lake, which we reached about 12.30pm. There we sat and had some lunch. The weather was a lot better now although still quite windy.


Hump Ridge

The Hump Ridge is a privately owned track developed by the community at Tuatapere in the Southwest of the South Island to bring tourism to the area. It is a 3-day, 2 night tramp. The charitable trust, which built and maintain the track, run the 2 lodges on the route. We checked in at the Track Office the day before to “sign-in” and arrange transport to the start of the track.

Tuatapere is a very quiet little town. We stayed at Shooters Backpackers Hostel, opposite the supermarket in this photo, which we liked a lot. It had a very amusing cockatoo in a cage who when it saw the ageing owner said “Hello granddad”!

The next day we caught the 7.30am minivan to the start of the tramp. The path led through forest down to the beach. We walked along a track at the back of the beach, crossed some rivers on swing bridges and walked through more forest to Flat Creek where we turned off for the Okaka Hut. An amazing 3km boardwalk led off through more forest.

We had lunch at a shelter built for this purpose with the other folks who were doing the walk at the same time. Like most organised walks in NZ it had its own toilet! After lunch the path steepened as we started to climb up the mountainside amongst mud and tree roots. At Stag Point we popped out of the forest and had an amazing view down over the coastline and could even see Stewart Island off the south coast. The walk continued, on boardwalk again, up towards the hut.

Just before the slight descent to the hut, we dropped our rucksacks, and carried on up to a boardwalk loop on the top of the ridge. It was a great day and we had wonderful views all around.


After dinner we went back up to the ridge to take in the view at sunset.

There are some tarns up on the ridge that made for some good sunset photos.

One benefit of the lodges is that they give you porridge in the morning (good if you like porridge, unfortunately Martin doesn’t!). We set off along the ridge, which leads eventually to Port Craig, on another boardwalk. The ridge was mainly covered in low trees but we popped out onto rocks from time to time. The weather was very good so we had great views over the bay below. Then it was a long and hard descent amongst the mud and tree roots down through the forest. About 1.30pm we finally came to the coastal track and the first of 3 amazing wooden viaducts built during a logging boom.

It was another 2.5hrs along the track, a tramway built for the logging business, until we came to the Port Craig hut. Port Craig had once been a busy community with its own schoolhouse (now a DOC hut) during the logging era. A book in our hut told the story of the harsh life of the inhabitants and the technology employed to cut the trees. The boom was short-lived (1917-25) as the costs of the logging were greater than the sale price. Now only the schoolhouse survives and some of the infrastructure that was once the port.

The Hump Ridge track hut is a large complex of buildings. We were staying in the dormitory but you can pay more and have a comfortable room with sheets, hot showers and even have your bags transported by helicopter!

The next day, after porridge, we left at 8am. We walked partly through forest and partly on beaches.

The day was overcast but it didn’t rain. We rejoined the path at Flat Creek that we had been on at the beginning and walked back along the beach. Unfortunately the sandflies made lunch a speedy and uncomfortable affair. We reached the car park and the minivan pick-up at 2.30pm and at 3pm drove back to Tuatapere. In the hostel the cockatoo was at full throttle screeching in the evening!



This tramp is a 36km 3-day, 2 night walk and is one of the Department of Conservation’s “Great Walks”. It is on Stewart Island off the South Coast of the South Island and starts at Oban, the only town on the Island. We had had a choppy sea crossing from Bluff, near to Invercargill, the previous day.


The beach and harbour at Oban, Stewart Island

We set off about 10am, in full waterproofs as it had been raining, and walked to Lee Bay – the start of the tramp. Then it was off on a well-made path through forest and along beaches to Port William Hut. Fortunately the weather started to clear up a bit but the whole island was soaking wet. Apparently the other hike on the island is a 10-day trudge through mud!


Port William Hut – brand new and very nice.

We reached the hut in time for a late lunch. There was 1 other inhabitant and only 3 other people turned up that evening so it was pretty quiet. The hut was situated in a grassy clearing just above the beach and it was a lovely view out over a small bay.

The next day we tramped all day through forest, mainly on boardwalk, Sometimes the boardwalk would stop and we had to deal with the tree roots and mud but soon it would start again. About 12.30pm we reached “Lookout Point”. Here we climbed a tower to get a view of Paterson Inlet. The whole Island is completely forested and beyond the water of the inlet the forested hills stretched into the distance. We reached North Arm Hut about 2.30pm after a steep descent to another inlet. This hut was not as new as Port William Hut but still nice. There were only 5 of us in the hut that night so again it was pretty quiet.

Our final day took us back to Oban. It began with more boardwalks up and down through forest. Sometimes we got peaks through the trees to inlets.


At Kaipipi Bay the boardwalk gave out and we tramped the rest of the route on an old road that led from a now defunct sawmill at the Bay into Oban. At 1.30pm we finally emerged from the forest at Fern Gully and sat at a picnic table, the weather was quite pleasant, had some lunch and discussed the tramp. Overall we felt the walk was a disappointment. It was mainly in woods so there hadn’t been many views. Perhaps the 10-day circuit would have been a better choice but we had run out of our time in NZ.

We returned by road to Oban and treated ourselves to a stay in the South Sea Hotel. The next morning we went for a walk before the ferry left for Invercargill. We saw these road signs but we didn’t see any Kiwis or penguins on Stewart Island! 

We saw some nice coves though like the one below.

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