New-Zealand is the place to be for wilderness adventures, without having to worry about snakes, bears, or other critters like most other outback destinations. Furthermore, the helpful staff at the numerous tourist information centers provides all essential information and even performs your bookings, thereby ensuring a smooth and relaxing journey. Check out the highlights of ALY’s adventurous hikers on their 7-week travel journey.
Where to go
New Zealand consists of two main islands, logically named the North and the South Island, and many smaller, offshore islands. Together, they comprise a variety of awesome sceneries, all within easy reach of each other. Since the distance between the most northern and the most southern point of New Zealand is roughly 2000 kilometers, many tourists tour the whole island in a couple of weeks, typically ticking-off the key attractions along the highway. However, based on our 7-week journey, we took our time to fully enjoy the richness of New Zealand’s nature by selecting particular regions of this beautiful country. The best place to really get off the beaten track and into the wild is definitely the rough west coast of the South Island.
Head directly to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital situated in the south of the North Island. In fact, Wellington is arguably the only city in New Zealand that is really worth a visit due to its delicious restaurants, as well as its great (and free!) national museum. Together, these will give you the perfect introduction to New Zealand’s gastronomy, history and geology. From Wellington, a beautiful 3-hour ferry trip will take you to Picton, in the north of the South Island. There you can rent a car (Apex and Omega Car Rentals are good low budget options or try Sunny Cars for hassle-free all ins arrangements) and the freedom to go anywhere you want with a trunk full of stash. Alternatively, hitchhike and/or use a hop-on/hop-off bus pass to get around. This way you don’t need to hike in loops to get back to your car. To head south from Picton, follow state highway six to Queenstown, but allow a detour to visit Abel Tasman National Park (near Marahau) and Oparara basin (near Karamea). From Queenstown, you can fly back home after a cruise or kayak trip in the stunning fjords of Milford or Doubtful Sounds.
What to do
New Zealand is a paradise for hiking (more frequently named ‘tramping’ by the local kiwi’s). The country is filled with numerous tramping tracks of all durations and levels imaginable. In addition, the department of conservation (DOC, http://www.doc.govt.nz/) maintains more than 900 wilderness huts across the country, which serve as the perfect (and cheap!) outback accommodations during a multiday hike. On the west coast of the South Island, tramping tracks lead you through a beautiful subtropical forest with spectacular views on rugged mountains, glaciers and the Tasmanian Sea. However, this unearthly combination of nature’s finest is sometimes difficult to enjoy due to the uneven terrain, which forces you to keep your eyes on the ground below. The ideal solution to this issue is to give your feet a rest, and take-in the surroundings from the back of a horse.
We experienced the pleasure of horse riding in Punakaiki, which is mainly known for its particular rock formations, called the ‘Pancake Rocks’. Although we had limited experience with horse riding, our friendly guide Marian quickly taught us the basics. Ten minutes later, we were confidently steering our horses across the private property of Karen and Neil, who have been organizing horse riding tours there since more than 20 years. We waded through beautiful rivers (without our feet getting wet!), felt the full strength of our ‘horse-buddies’ as we were marching through the wilderness, and rode along the craggy coastline of Punakaiki. Halfway through the trip, Marianne even conjured up a warm tea with cookies. Other routes are available, like riding into the Punakaiki valley and finishing along the beach. The Youtube movie below gives a good idea of this must-do experience. Don’t you dare to pass Punakaiki just to snap a quick picture of the Pancake Rocks!
Check out Karin & Neil’s horse trek offerings: www.pancake-rocks.co.nz/content/horse-treks
Don’t forget to book beforehand! They are open from early October to June.