New Zealand Tracks
One of the best ways to see New Zealand is on foot. The country is full of fabulous “tracks,” or what many people call hiking trails. When you head out in your hiking boots, it’s called “tramping.”
There are countless day hikes, but if you have the time and are more ambitious, you can keep tramping for several days.
My first hike was in the north of the South Island on the Queen Charlotte Track, not too far from Picton where the ferry connects the two islands. I just had time for a day hike, but even though it was still peak season, I saw very few people on a picture-perfect day. The sun was bright, but much of the section of track I walked was shaded, the brilliant blue of the water peeking through the trees.
There was a bit of up-hill, but nothing too steep, and most of it was relatively flat. I took about 4 hours, from Anakiwa, where I stayed at a very nice little hostel a 2 minute walk to the trail head, to Mistletoe Bay, stopping for my sack lunch with a view on the way (and of course lots of pictures), and then took a water taxi back. These high speed boats are common in New Zealand, so you don’t have to re-trace your steps if you don’t want to.
Next, I headed to Nelson, a charming artsy town full of galleries and great restaurants, as it’s a gateway for my next hike on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, and also to meet up with Carene, a French novelist I’d met wine tasting in Blenheim. Many hostels are pretty boring box-like buildings, but every once in a while you get lucky, and I stumbled upon a hostel in a beautiful old house up on a hill. Carene and I met for dinner, and she agreed to join me on my hike the next day!
Abel Tasman is a gorgeous track along the shore, overlooking golden beaches and turquoise water. It’s pretty flat and easy, so it’s very popular, and a bit crowded, but still definitely worth doing. You can rent kayaks there, or take water taxis as well.
We enjoyed a picnic on the shore, and Carene surprised me, pulling out a cloth for the table. “I may have lived in New Zealand for over 20 years, but I’m still French!” she told me.
And near the parking lot, there is a small artists colony, with beautiful wood carvings, jewelry and crafts for sale.
There are some very famous tracks, like Milford, Kepler, Routeburn, Rob Roy, and Franz Josef on the South Island, and the very popular Tongariro Alpine Crossing traversing a volcanic plateau on the North Island. Some, like the Milford Track, you have to book well in advance, as they allow limited amounts of people on them, and they can get expensive (I was told that Milford is $2000 including food and accommodation in the huts if you go on a guided tour, and that you need to make reservations 6 months in advance!). But most are free, just park, lace up your boots, hoist your pack and go. Make sure you have plenty of water, sun screen, and warm clothing, as the weather can change quickly and dramatically.
More hikes were ahead for me on my visit, but I’ll include them in my posts on the glaciers, Wanaka, Mt. Cook and more. I wasn’t able to fit in any overnight tramps, so I guess I’ll just have to come back!!