June 6th we ventured on to the longest of the Great Walks 79km!
The Heaphy Track is a popular tramping track in the north west of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located within the Kahurangi National Park and classified as one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks by the Department of Conservation. Named after Charles Heaphy, the track is 78.4 kilometres (48.7 mi) long and is usually walked in four or five days. The track runs from Kohaihai, north of Karamea on the northern west coast of the South Island to the upper valley of the Aorere River, inland from Golden Bay. We ran it in the other direction from Golden Bay to Kohaihai.
This was the toughest of the runs to arrange, we needed to ship a pack of dry clothes to Karamea a week before for after the run. We had to stay at Brown Hut at the start of the track because we had to start running at 6am, Brown hut is a freezing cold hut in June and the fireplace didn’t produce much heat at all. It was warmer outside the hut in the morning than inside.
We had great service from Golden Bay Air who we flew with and arranged the transfers of our bags, to Karamea and the pick up of our pack from Brown Hut after we started our run. They also arranged our pick up Kohaihai complete with a few cold beers! Even Speights tastes great after 79km.
We ate and stayed at the Karamea Hotel after the run, the steak was great and the breakfast was fantastic, a complete flied breakfast, eggs, bacon and sausage . True rural kiwi hospitality.
We flew back from Karamea over the Track the next day, it was a beautiful day and magic to see the country we had covered the day before.
Māori tribes are known to have settled along the lower course of the Heaphy River as early as the 16th century. Evidence has been found that the area crossed by today’s Heaphy Track had been explored in pre-European times by Māori seeking greenstone (pounamu) in the Gouland Downs sector.
The first visit to the area by persons whose names were recorded took place in 1846, when Charles Heaphy, Thomas Brunner and their Māori guide Kehu, supported by another guide Etau, explored the coastal sector of the track.
The first recorded crossing of the whole range approximately along today’s was by a European gold miner named Aldrige in 1859. Another visit by James MacKay and John Clark took place the following year.
During and after the West Coast Gold Rush of the 1860s the area was extensively visited for gold and the track was definitely laid out by various prospectors and surveyors, among them JB Saxon in 1888. No gold was found in the area and after thirty years prospecting came to an end and by 1900 the track was virtually forgotten and became overgrown and seldom used except by an occasional hunter.
The creation of the North-west Nelson Forest Park in 1965, which became Kahurangi National Park in 1996, led to the rediscovery and improvement of the track.
The track is now tramped by thousands of people every year.
Landscape along the track
The Heaphy track is renowned for the variety of landscapes crossed; every 20 km section is significantly different from the previous one.
Walking the path east to west, the journey begins through a forest where beeches (Nothofagus) are dominant. Some zigzags lead to the highest point of the track, at 915 m, with good views to the surrounding mountains.
From there on, tussocks replace forests, and the Gouland Downs are entered soon, a large featureless area drained by many rivers, with swingbridges helping to cross them when they are in spate.
Now woody patches regain over tussock moors; near Gouland Downs Hut, beeches covered by thick moss are reminiscent of the wettest forests of southern New Zealand.
After several kilometers of alternating tussock downs and bush, MacKay Hut is reached, with broad views reaching to the Tasman Sea. There begins a long descent through the bush. This time podocarps are dominant, including impressive large rimu trees.
At the end of this descent, the Heaphy River valley is reached at Lewis Hut. The river course is followed for 8 km of peaceful flat walk, crossing the Heaphy River and several affluents on long swingbridges. This leads to discovering the nikau palm forest, which is probably the most striking feature of the Heaphy Track.
The seashore is reached at Heaphy Hut, at the mouth of the Heaphy River. The last section is a coastal walk, alternating sandy beaches beaten by the waves and forest sections, where nikau palms dominate.
Repeated attempts, from the 1950s to the 1980s, by the South Island Local Bodies Association to have the Ministry of Works build the road were made. The Ministry considered the road proposal to be too expensive and did not view it as a priority.
The famed coastal strip with its iconic nikau palm groves was particularly at risk with any road construction. Even with simple track construction at Crayfish Point many years ago, the overall effect was to see major slips carry the groves into the sea. Those fighting roading proposals felt this could be the result along the very narrow, palm-covered coastal strip if road construction were to take place.
Up until the 1980s the threats to the track were real, as the local population and councils largely supported roading in the belief that a “tourist circuit” of the South Island would increase the access and popularity of the area. The track proponents argued the damage could never be justified and that the popularity would come more in the form of people being drawn to the area for days rather than those who would drive through and use “comfort stops”.
The campaign to “save” the Track and the popular support the conservation effort gathered over many years became pivotal in changing the attitude of the authorities to environmental matters. The New Zealand Government instigated many changes to curb unnecessary environmental destruction.
Following the major campaigns, track use grew substantially. Of more recent times track use has moderated to a point where it now forms an integral part of the great New Zealand walking experience.
As the popularity increased, more resources were put into track maintenance and facilities. Today, the track is well defined and serviced and capable of being walked by a wide age group. A number of commercial operators now provide guiding facilities and packing ability, thus allowing a wider age group to enjoy this extended walk.
Before the area became a National Park mountain biking was permitted on the track. As a National Park use of the area comes under the National Parks Act 1980, which stipulates that vehicles are not allowed to be taken off formed roads. This prevents mountain bikers from using the track and debate has been on-going to allow at least some access. The New Zealand Conservation Authority decided to permit mountain bike access again from May 2011 for the winter months when tramping numbers are low. Mountain biking will be allowed each year from 1 May for groups not exceeding six riders.
April 2015 we headed to Te Anau to run the Milford Track.
We had a fun side trip to Highland Motor Sport park, wow what a facility. Andrew smoked us on the first round of the Go Karts with Anthony getting revenge the second time round.
Anthony aka Whippet sorted out a great pad Birchwood Cottages, we sorted out some good home cooking for dinner and prepared our special sandwiches for the next day.
Anthony’s mate Sam had arrange Blue to take 7 of us to the start of the track at Glade Wharf in his boat, leaving Te Anau Downs at 6am, we headed out from the Wharf in the dark after stashing some beers in the lake for our return.
Here are our videos of one of the finest walks in the world
The Milford Track is a widely known tramping (hiking) route in New Zealand – located amidst mountains and temperaterain forest in Fiordland National Park in the southwest of the South Island.
The 53.5 km hike starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and finishes Milford Sound at Sandfly Point, traversing rainforests, wetlands, and an alpine pass.
The native Māori people used the Milford Track for gathering and transporting valuable greenstone. There are many Māori legends about the track and the native species found in it.
Donald Sutherland and John Mackay were the first European explorers to see what are now known as Mackay Falls andSutherland Falls, in 1880.
Quintin McKinnon was the trekker and entrepreneur that first widely disseminated information about the Milford Track to the general public. He began by guiding tours himself and expanded with a marketing campaign from there. Many parts of the Milford Track are named for Mackinnon, including Mackinnon Pass, the highest point of the Track. According to the official New Zealand Department of Conservation literature, Mackinnon also impressed with his “ability at cooking pompolonas, a type of scone from which one of the guided trip huts takes its name.”
With Milford Sound never really having an industrial or agricultural future, most visitors and investors from early on decided that tourism was to be the main draw to the sound, and the Milford Track was established to a large degree to provide a tourism function for guided treks.
The track was very famous with women from early on. Some parties consisted of three-quarters females even in the first half of the 20th century.
For a great length of its history, only commercial companies had the right to be on the track. Only later did the ‘Freedom Walker’ movement, led by New Zealand’s alpine and walking clubs, force a compromise which allowed individual, non-guided tours on the strictly “rationed” route. Today, the quota system allows approximately half the “capacity” of the track to be used by guided tours while the other half is undertaken by people walking on their own or in informal groups. Both groups use separate systems of huts.
Due to its popularity and the limited facilities available for overnighting (camping is not permitted), the track therefore remains heavily regulated.
Summer peak season
During the summer peak season of late October to late April, access to the trail is highly regulated. Walkers must complete the track in four days, travelling only in the northward direction. Camping is prohibited on the trail. Walkers can tramp the track independently, or as part of a more expensive guided walk with a guide company. A maximum of 90 walkers can start the trail per day (40 Independent, and 50 Guided). Usually these 90 places are booked out for many months in advance, despite the high cost of the guided walks.
Due to the one-way ticket system and limited hut capacities, trampers need to keep moving even during bad weather. During periods of especially heavy flooding, the DOC regularly calls in helicopters which fly trampers over flooded sections of the track at no further charge.
If hiking independently, each night must be spent in a hut owned and maintained by the Department of Conservation. The huts for independent walkers have basic facilities, which include bunk areas, restrooms, and cooking facilities; walkers have to carry their own equipment and food.
On a guided walk, walkers stay in lodges owned and operated by Ultimate Hikes. These lodges have facilities such as hot showers, catered meals, beds, lounge areas, electric lights, and drying rooms. Guided trampers need only carry clothing, toiletries, their sheets, and lunch while on the trail. Guides walk with trampers, providing as little or as much assistance as required.
During the off season from May to mid-October, the track is essentially unregulated, and can be tramped in either direction, over any number of days. It is however much more difficult and dangerous tramping in this season, as facilities at huts are removed, some bridges are removed to prevent avalanche damage. Advice to those contemplating using the track during the winter includes:
“…there are 57 avalanche paths in the area, some of which may cross the track and bring avalanche debris to the valley floor…. you must be competent at crossing large, swift, icy rivers…Mackinnon Pass is not marked and is often covered in deep snow…”
Name Description Distance Coordinates
Clinton Hut Night 1, shortly before Clinton Forks, after the marsh boardwalk 5.0 km 44°54′18.23″S 167°54′6.63″E
Mintaro Hut Night 2, Situated just before the start of the climb up to Mackinnon Pass 21.5 km 44°48′37.61″S 167°46′34.84″E
Dumpling Hut Night 3, A few kilometers after Quintin Lodge 35.5 km 44°46′07.18″S 167°45′56.35″E
On Saturday we set out on the fifth of our Great Walk Adventures. We headed up to Ohakune on Friday night and woke to a beautiful clear day. So beautiful that we couldn’t resist adding climbing Ngauruhoe along the way.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of the New Zealand Great Walks, is a three to four day tramp in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. The hike includes theTongariro Alpine Crossing, a day’s march that incorporates the Northern Circuit’s most stunning scenery. The complete trail forms a 50 kilometres long loop trail that circumnavigates Mount Ngauruhoe. Approximately 7,000 trampers complete the walk each year. This compares to the approximately 25,000 who walk only the Tongariro Crossing section. 
Tongariro Alpine Crossing showing the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake.
Begin 100 metres below the Whakapapa Visitor Centre at Ngauruhoe Place and along the lower Taranaki Falls track. After about 20 minutes the Mangatepopo track branches off from the Taranaki Falls track.
Heavily eroded in places the track crosses many stream beds. Ahead and to the right is Pukekaikiore, thought to be one of the older vents of the Tongariro complex. To the left is Pukeonake, a low scoria cone. Both Pukekaikiore and Pukeonake witnessed the last ice age when glaciers from Tongariro carved down through Mangatepopo Valley. The giant cone of Ngauruhoe and the flatter form of Tongariro are visible ahead. Ngauruhoe is a younger ‘parasitic’ cone on the side of Tongariro.
For the last hour the track skirts around Pukekaikiore until it reaches the Mangatepopo Valley track. The Mangatepopo Hut is five minutes off of the main track.
The track follows Mangatepopo stream up the valley, climbing over a succession of old lava flows from Ngauruhoe. The youngest, very black, lava flows were erupted from Ngauruhoe in 1949 and 1954.
A five minute detour at the head of the valley leads to the cold Soda Springs and waterfall, which emerge beneath an old lava flow. In spring and summer moisture loving plants such as white foxgloves and yellow buttercups thrive in the area.
The steep climb required to reach the Mangatepopo Saddle rewards climbers views of the valley and if clear, Mt Taranaki to the west. From the saddle the track crosses South Crater, not a true crater but a drainage basin between the surrounding volcanic landforms.
Ahead more recent lava flows can be seen spilling over from Red Crater. The climb up to Red Crater offers splendid views of Oturere Valley and Kaimanawa Ranges to the east.
The main track continues on past the rim of Red Crater itself. The spectacular formation on the far side of the crater is a dike, an old magma feeding pipe to the vent of the volcano. Harder than the ash and scoria around it erosion has left it exposed on the side of the crater.
North Crater is the large flat topped crater to the north. This vent once contained a lava lake which cooled to infill the crater.
Blue Lake is visible from the top of Red Crater, across the Central Crater – which like South Crater is actually another drainage basin. Blue Lake has formed where cold fresh water fills an old vent.
A scoria covered ridge leads down to the spectacular Emerald Lakes, which fill old explosion pits. Their brilliant colouring is caused by minerals washed down from the thermal area of Red Crater.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing continues from Emerald Lakes to Ketetahi Road.
From Emerald Lakes the track descends steeply into the Oturere Valley with views of the valley, the Kaimanawa Ranges and the Rangipo Desert. The track weaves through an endless variety of unusual jagged lava forms from early eruptions from Red Crater which filled Oturere Valley.
A magical place to visit especially on a misty day. The Oturere Hut is nestled on the eastern edge of these flows. There is a pretty waterfall over the ridge from the hut.
After leaving Oturere Hut the track undulates over a number of stream valleys and open gravel fields. Plant life here has been constantly repressed by volcanic eruptions, altitude and climate. Loose gravel means that recolonisation by plants is a slow process on the open and bare countryside.
The track gradually sidles around the foot hills of Ngauruhoe descending into a valley and crossing one of the branches of the Waihohonu Stream. Continue through a beech clad valley before climbing towards the ridge top. Waihohonu Hut is in the next valley.
The track follows the Waihohonu stream and gradually climbs to Tama Saddle. This area can be windy as it sits between the mountains.
From the saddle there is a very worthwhile side trip to the striking Tama Lakes, two infilled explosion craters. The lower lake is only 10 minutes from the junction, while the upper lake is up a steep ridge, taking 1 hour 30 minutes return.
Whakapapa Village is about two hours from the Tama Lakes junction. After the first hour the track meets the Taranaki Falls loop walk, one of the best short walks in the Park. There are two options to return to the village, both take about an hour. To view the waterfall, follow the lower section of the track down the steps to its base, then follow the Wairere stream through beautiful mountain beech forest back to the village.
Alternatively take the upper section of track through open tussock and shrubland back to the village.
Side trip: Ohinepango Springs
Time: 1 hr return from Waihohonu Hut
Crystal clear cold water bubbles up from beneath the old lava flow and discharges at an enormous rate into the Ohinepango Stream.
The springs are signposted on the Round the Mountain Track heading south towards Rangipo Hut.
Side trip: Historic Waihohonu Hut
Time: 20 min return from Waihohonu Hut; 10 min return from the Tongariro Northern Circuit Track
Time: 20 min return to Lower Tama from the junction, 1 hr 30 min return to Upper Tama from the junction.
Access half way between Waihohonu Hut and Whakapapa Village.
Tama Lakes, two infilled explosion craters, are named after Tamatea, the high chief of the Takitimu Canoe, who explored the area six centuries ago.
The lower lake (at 1200 m), is 10 minutes from the junction. Volcanic debris is slowly washing in and filling the crater. The upper lake (at 1314 m) is a further 40 minutes up a steep ridge. This beautiful lake is reputed to be very deep.
We headed to Stewart Island via Invercargill, had a short visit to the velodrome before flying the strait in a tiny leaky plane.
We spent the afternoon on Ulva Island which is amazing, a must visit.
The next day we ran the Rakiura Great Walk, we stayed at the South Sea Hotel and run from there to the start of the track adding about 3kms, it was really nice and made it a loop track so no extra transport required.
After the run we spent a few hours at the pub watching the rugby and eating cheese cake I missed out on the night before. The publican hooked us up with one of the local blue cod fishing boats who could take us out for a fish the next morning. We caught a heap of cod and took it back in chilly bags to Wellington. We ate fresh cod for 3 days straight! yummy.
Stewart Island is well worth a visit. It has beaches that more beautiful than Abel Tasman. We are taking the kids next year. The Walk was the easiest of the 8 and the most remote. We didn’t see another person on the track until the last 2kms where we saw 3 day walkers!
Ulva Island (from Scottish Gaelic: Eilean na Ulbha) is a small island about 3.5 km (2.17 mi) long lying within Paterson Inlet, which is part of Stewart Island/Rakiura in New Zealand. It has an area of about 270 hectares (670 acres), the majority of which is part of Rakiura National Park. It was named after the island of Ulva in the Inner Hebrides ofScotland and was formerly called Coopers Island.
Ulva Island’s relative isolation, but easy access from Stewart Island has allowed it to become an important natural resource area. It is a sanctuary for both birds and plants, holding species that on the mainland of New Zealand are rare or have died out. In 1997, the island was declared rat-free, following an eradication program, and extirpated birds have been reintroduced to the island. The birds include the South Island saddleback(tieke), yellowhead (mohua) and Stewart Island robin (toutouwai). Other birds on the island that are rare on the mainland include the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi (tokoeka),Rifleman (Tītitipounamu), Yellow-crowned and Red-fronted Parakeet, and South IslandKākā or forest parrot, as well as several other species. The endangered Yellow-eyed penguin uses the island for breeding sites.
The Rakiura Track is a 29-kilometre (18 mi) tramping track on Stewart Island/Rakiura, New Zealand, and one of the New Zealand Great Walks.
It lies within the Rakiura National Park and can be walked over a one- to three-day period. It generally follows the coastline for a large parts of its length, passing small inlets, large bays and mudflats, before crossing steep hills covered in bush (dense forest) during its middle section. There are two huts on the track, at Port William and the North Arm of Paterson Inlet, and many people overnight at each. There are also camping sites available at Maori Beach, Port William and North Arm.
Large sections of the track have been gravelled, without this, the track often degrades into mud. This is due to two factors, the peaty nature of the soil, and the large amounts of rain that Stewart Island receives during the year. In general, the track is well-maintained, and of easy to medium difficulty. The given track length does not include several additional kilometres of paved road at the start and end of the walk from Half Moon Bay.
The track is equipped with huts for the use of trampers, though these must be booked in advance. The huts are equipped with firewood, flown in by helicopter as no roads connect to any of the huts and trampers are not allowed to cut their own wood. There are no cooking facilities in the huts, therefore trampers are advised to carry their own stoves and cooking equipment. There is a store in Oban where gas canisters can be purchased as well as other necessary supplies.
Walking the Rakiura Track also offers the unusual opportunity to see kiwi in their natural environment.
Visitors can reach Stewart Island either by commercial ferry or by flying from Invercargill Airport on a service operated by Stewart Island Flights.
The boys headed out on the third of our Great Walk Adventures into the beautiful Abel Tasman Coastal Walk
We were kindly put up by David and Trish and treated to some fine hospitality, thank you!
We started out from Marahua and were picked up from Wainui in the North and driven back to our car to time to watch the Rugby, eat a fine BBQ and rehydrate with a brown sports drink called beer.
We had great service from Trek Express for the end of track pick up, we phone them from the payphone at Totaranui before we ran the last 1 or so of the track.
The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 51 km (32 mile) long walking track within the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. It extends from Marahau in the south to Wainui in the north, with many side tracks. It is one of two main tracks through the park, the other being the Abel Tasman Inland Track, which stretches for 38 km between Tinline Bay and Torrent Bay off the main coastal track. The coastal track is well sheltered, and with mild weather in all seasons, it is accessible and open throughout the year.
As one of the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) Great Walks, the coastal track is well formed and easy to follow. It is the most popular tramping track in New Zealand, and caters for approximately 200,000 visitors every year. It can be walked independently or with commercial operators with guiding, camping, lodge stay and boat stay options. Following a protected coastline, many people combine walking and sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park.
To walk the entire 51 km track takes from 3 to 5 days. Single-day walks are popular, as many points are accessible by boat from beaches along the track. Commercial water taxi and boat operators provide pick-up and drop-off services. One of the most popular sections for walkers with limited time is from Bark Bay to Torrent Bay (or vice versa), a distance of 7.8 kilometres, which incorporates some steep paths, beautiful views over the bay and a crossing of the Falls River by a 47 m swing bridge.
To stay overnight in the National Park, visitors must use officially recognised accommodations. Independent travellers use DOC campsites and huts that must be reserved in advance during the most popular months. Commercial properties occupy private land within the boundaries of the National Park and provide lodge-style accommodation. Backpacker accommodation is provided by boats moored off the National Park coast.
With one of the largest tidal ranges in New Zealand, the coast track includes