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Cody Lebow
(CLebow)

Locale: Orange County
New Zealand for a month on 03/18/2012 14:19:48 MDT Print View

I'm trying to plan a trip NZ from Jan 7 to Feb 4 and am feeling overwhelmed with all the things to do and planning involved since I have absolutely no oversees experience so any direction will help. I'll be there with about 6 people most likely for the first 2 weeks and they all have low to moderate experience backpacking multiday trips and rarely more than 10mi a day. I want to be sure to cram as much backpacking with them in as possible without wasting them. I was leaning towards 2 or 3 of the great walks because it seems like it would be a little easier logistically and seem less strenuous. Thinking of combining Milford and Rouetburn as a 6-7 day (you can do that right?) and then shooting up and doing the Heaphy track. Half the group wants the communal hut experience to meet new people and the other half (me included) wouldn't mind a bit more solitude for a few days. I know Milfords quotas will be full most likely but how crowded to the other tracks get? Other suggested tracks I shouldn't miss? Books I should buy?

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
North or South Island? on 03/19/2012 04:17:04 MDT Print View

Since you're talking Routeburn, heaphy and Milford, it looks like you're planning a south island trip.

You're right, milford trek fills up fast. and the others can as well especially when the weather is good. the best thing to do in NZ is go to the tourist "i" site - you'll know it by the blue lowercase cursive letter "i" sign. In there will be many helpful people who can help you arrange everything for treks and all travel and lodging for getting on your selected trek and away. For example, at a single "i" site, you can book, trek permits, wilderness hut passes, bus tickets, hostel reservations,for before and after your trek, sending on extra bags you're not trekking with, etc.

I did routeburn and heaphy back-to-back in 2006, great treks! I'm sure you'll enjoy those, but also check out some of the other treks besides the great walks if you have time.

On the great walks, the wilderness huts are quite posh. they are equpiied with nice pads on the bunks and propoane stoves, so you won't need to carry those if you're sticking to the GWs.

Spencer Goodwine
(spencewine) - F
routeburn milford on 03/19/2012 14:20:58 MDT Print View

You cannot combine the Milford and Routeburn via any hiking path that I'm aware of. You would need to catch a shuttle at "The Divide" (the end of the Routeburn)to Milford Sound and then a ferry to Sandfly point. This is easy to do because all buses headed to Milford must pass by "The Divide". I've only hiked the Routeburn and caught a shuttle to Milford Sound at the Divide and went on a cruise around the sound after the hike. The Routeburn is amazing, I went in May and had some luck with weather - it was good for 2 days and bad while I was hiking over Harris Saddle. It went from rain, to sleet, to full-on snow, to sunny in the span of about 3 hours. A relatively easy 3 day hike though, so it should bode well with your friends. The Shelters are really nice, I mean, it almost feels too nice. But it is really fun to sit and chat with people from all over the world. On my ride to the Routeburn Shelter, the guy who was driving had hiked many of the great walks and the Routeburn was his favorite. I'd say the hike over Harris Saddle and along the ridge toward Lake Mackenzie was the highlight.

Another option to consider is to combine the Routeburn with the Greenstone to make something of a horseshoe. It would still require a shuttle pick-up at the end.

Lonely Planet's Tramping in New Zealand is a must buy.

BTW, this is just my 2 cents, but I think you should stay in the shelters... it's kind of part of the "Great Walk" experience, IMO. If you want solitude and wilderness, you will probably not find it on the Great Walks during the time of year you are going.

Edited by spencewine on 03/19/2012 14:40:48 MDT.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Re: routeburn milford on 03/20/2012 18:22:11 MDT Print View

I agree with the Lonely Planet book as a good place to start. Also the Dept. of Conservation website for further info and booking on the great walks. www.doc.govt.nz. Currently booking for the 2012-13 season open 9am (NZ time) Monday 7th May 2012. You will need to pick up tickets in Te Anau prior to departing on the track.

Another NZ tramping website is tramper.co.nz with lots of trip writeups and an active discussion forum.

The Milford can only be walked one way starting at the Te Anau lake end taking 4 days, finishing at Milford Sound. It is the most heavily regulated (and costly) tramp in NZ. Because of that regulation the track doesn't seem that busy, only at the huts in the evenings, as people tend to spread out along the track during the day.

You can catch a ride up to the Divide and then walk the Routeburn but that means carrying about 7 days food with you when you start the Milford as the options for buying food for the Routeburn in Milford Sound are very limited.

Personally I would consider going to Queenstown, doing the Routeburn/Greenstone first, then travel to Te Anau, and do the Milford.

As a kiwi, over the years I have done all the Great Walks, (along with a great many trips to more remote wilderness areas). I sometimes feel like a foreigner in my own country such is the cosmopolitan nature of the hikers on the trails. While I much prefer more isolated wilderness, I can accept and enjoy the different nature of the Great Walks. The Great Walks are spectacular and physically relatively modest, and with high quality huts and walking track, they are justifiably popular.

Although more expensive, booking a place in a hut for the night means you do meet a lot of interesting people, there is no rush to find the best camping spot and you don’t have to carry the weight of the tent/tarp/fly. Also the Great Walk huts have gas cookers meaning no need to carry a cooker either. Most/all of the Great Walks have camping restrictions, Milford basically allows no camping anywhere, the tracks allow camping at designated tentsites.

The Heaphy is awesome too, very different to the Routeburn/Milford passing through several different bush environments.

Other tramps to consider: the Kepler Great Walk, a 3-4 day loop just outside Te Anau. For a slightly less popular route than the great walks consider the Rees-Dart circuit but quite similar scenery. Over on the west coast the trip to Welcome Flat and the soak in the hot pools amongst the mountains is pretty awesome. As something quite different the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk is one I would highly recommend. Instead of walking you can sea kayak to each hut, and you can fit a lot of stuff into a sea kayak.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
NZ for a month! on 03/21/2012 12:17:09 MDT Print View

Enjoy your time in NZ; it's a beautiful country and the Kiwis are great people. I've spent, all told, about 8 months in NZ over two trips about 8 or 9 years ago.

Both Spencer and Barry have lots of good suggestions which I would give a +1 too.

When I did the Routeburn (May or June, can't exactly remember any more), we combined it with the Greenstone Track. You could also combine it with the Caples Track, I think. Either way, it makes for a semi-loop from the lake outside of Glenorchy, not too far from Queenstown.

The hut system is pretty sweet and makes for luxury camping. It's fun to read the hut journals, visit with others, etc. Plus, when the weather's nasty, you'll be happy to be warm and dry inside the hut with a pot belly stove.

One of my regrets with visiting both times during NZ's winter is I never was able to hike the Milford Track. In fact out of several attempts to just get to Milford Sound, I only actually was able to make it there once due to bad weather and dangerous snow conditions along the road. Anyway, the track looks beautiful and it seems worthy of making the effort to add to your itinerary.

The trip from the town of Fox to Welcome Flat is a fun trip too. Watching the alpenglow from the hot spring is tough to beat! As is a kayak/camp trip through Abel Tasman NP up on the northern area of the south island. If you planned it right, you could probably even kayak one way into the Abel Tasman, then have your kayak picked up by the water shuttle and then hike back out. Best of both worlds!

There was another trip, I wasn't able to do because of winter weather but that a friend did the previous (NZ) summer. I don't remember the exact location, somewhere out of Haast, but he took a helicopter ride into the Siberia Range, was dropped off and hiked out. Just from driving by the general area, I can only assume the scenery along the tramp was stunning. Not sure on the logistics for pulling this off, perhaps one of the resident Kiwis can help, but if I went back I'd look into this area.

Finally, not treking really, but the Catlins area between Dunedin and Invercargill is a really beautiful lonely stretch of coastline worth spending a day or two exploring.

Diana Vann
(DianaV) - MLife

Locale: Wandering
Re: New Zealand for a month on 03/21/2012 12:29:11 MDT Print View

Cody and All,

I'm hoping to do a 2 or 3 month trip (probably solo) in New Zealand within the next year or two, so I appreciate all of the great information everyone has been sharing. I may go next January, or I might wait for the following year. While I'm there I'll want to visit the major cities, but my main focus will be a LOT of hiking and some kayaking.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
@ Diana on 03/21/2012 13:29:00 MDT Print View

Diana, with that kind of time, you could easily add in the north island as well if you wanted to.

I would suggest flying into one island and out the other so as to minimize backtracking. This works pretty well in NZ.

Cheers,

Nick

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Re: New Zealand for a month on 03/22/2012 01:58:08 MDT Print View

If you go to the north island, Tongarero Crossing or Trek are a must. As is the Wanganui River "GW", which is actually a kayaking trip from hut to hut or campsites.

And ofcourse, my favorite part of NZ is the tastey brews - Celtic Red and Radler - and the black, but i don't remember it's name!

Drop Bear
(DropBear) - F
Montieths Beer on 03/22/2012 06:02:32 MDT Print View

I have done the tour of the brewery in Greymouth twice. NZ$10 and at the end we got to serve your self from the taps including the competition brew.

I can still remember the lime in the radler and the chocolate malt of the black beer.

Montieths

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Re: Montieths Beer on 03/23/2012 06:05:21 MDT Print View

As an university student in Christchurch 20 years ago I would only drink Montheith's Black back when it was produced by the Greymouth brewery only. It's still one my beer's of choice now.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Montieths Beer on 03/23/2012 06:11:27 MDT Print View

Dropbear - I think I love you!

God, I "beerly" made it out of that tour alive! I woke up late, but undaunted and excited, I lept out of bed, kicked up my heels and headed out the door. So having no breakfast, off I went to the tour!

The brewery was a scintilating, shiny jumble of pipes and vats, but we all knew why we were really there - free samples!

Yipes, the "all you-could-tap" closing minutes were whirlwind of slurping, glugging, frothy goodness! When they called time, I had two pints of the wonderful black greedily clutched in my hands, which I had to quickly drink before they scooted us from behind the bar and out the door. Merrily spinning, we burst giggling out into the street, having made new friends and wobbling down the road looking for a late lunch!

Aw, memories, I must go back. I feel the road calling me!

Cheers!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Friendly Kiwis on 03/23/2012 10:07:26 MDT Print View

I agree with others that the hut system is a wonderful resource, social venue, and it should also help your less-experienced friends get introduced to backpacking with less weight on their backs and warmer, dryer (!) nights.

I'd say stay on the South Island. Could you see all of California in a month?!? Good grief, no! So don't try. NZ is the same size, but there is NO 70 mph interstate down its length and there's that wet bit in between the two islands to deal with. We did both islands on a survey trip and regretted the time spent driving slow windy roads (scenic, sure, but we'd rather have been hiking).

My other NZ tip is to be preprared for the locals be amazingly friendly. We'd heard that from enough other world travelers, so when someone offered to loan us gear or house us, we didn't blow them off as weirdo potential-axe-murderers as one would in the USA. Met a guy as we hiked in Abel Tasman. He invited us to couch surf in Christchurch. We did and therefore met his friends, went on hikes with them, got to little teahouses up on the ridge, etc - all things we wouldn't have found/done on our own, plus the whole cultural and social interaction was something we valued.

Also, they are very tourist-oriented. You can't drive past a stretch of coast and think, "tasty waves!" or a over-vertical cliff without finding a surf shop or bungie-jumping business within a few miles. If you can swim/surf/float/climb/jump/hike/bike/soak in it, kiwis have been doing so for a long time and help you do so, too.

Sabine Funk
(SabineFunk) - F
Re: "New Zealand for a month" on 03/29/2012 09:03:47 MDT Print View

After spending a year in NZ, 2 months out of that backpacking around Queenstown, I can just recommend you not to stick to the Great Walks. Your trip will be in the summer vacation of NZ, so it´ll be crowded and (on the Great Walks) expensive. To me the Great Walks felt like freeways - a lot more people than on the JMT in august.....

A better thing is to do stuff like the Heaphy Track that you mentioned above.
My favourite track is the Rees-Dart, also going out from Glenorchy. 4 days, 3 nights. No booking required! Takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes the country offers. It's not a complete loop, but you can easily (!!) hitchhike to the carpark on the other end or to town, even with a small group, there'll be plenty of people.

Another thing is going out from Makaroa on the Wilkins-Young circuit. Haven´t done that but I also heard lots of good things about it.

For maps just visit a DoC-Office. There is one in Queenstown, in Wanaka, in Makaroa and in Te Anau.
For the rough pre-trip planning go to http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/
On the very right bar on the website of a track they often have brochures you can download.
Don't get turned off by long hours of hiking. Usually hikers don´t need that much time.

Last thing to keep in mind - there´s a lot heavy rain in NZ. If your hiking buddies aren´t used to crossing streams, be careful with some tracks and keep an eye on the weather forecast. Rangers get a daily forecast so you can stay informed on the track. NZ definitely doesn´t have stable weather... It can turn from heaven to hell and back in less than an hour.

Last but not least: have fun =)
It´s definitely worth the long journey!!!

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Milford Track on 03/29/2012 09:54:21 MDT Print View

Sabine's right that the Milford Track is crowded in the NZ summer. Access is controlled, you purchase a permit for set days and must overnight in the designated lodges (for "guided" visitors) or huts (for "unguided") on the scheduled days. No off-trail exploring allowed. All that said, I thought it was terrific. Fairly easy walking, spectacular scenery, and real camaraderie among the group of trekkers. I still correspond with several.

I'm jealous that you have a month or more - so much to see. And the Kiwis are as friendly and welcoming as all the others have said. Have the time of your life!

Carl Zimmerman
(CarlZ993) - MLife
NZ Treks on 03/30/2012 15:49:45 MDT Print View

I spent 6 weeks w/ my wife & another couple last year (left Christchurch before the quake hit in Feb). We flew into Christchurch and out of Auckland. We did 4 hikes total: Kempler, Routeburn, Abel Tasman, & Tongariro. Plus a lot of tourist stuff. Weather is always an 'iffy' thing there. Don't skimp on rain gear. It rained a lot on Kempler (except last day), Routeburn (except 1st day), and Tongariro's 2nd day. Very little rain on Able Tasman.

Of the four hikes, my least favorite one of the bunch was Abel Tasman (the only one we tent-camped). I just prefer alpine hiking over forest/beach hiking. Personal preference. My favorite day of hiking was day one on Tongariro Loop. Had clear weather and views of the volcano.

We though about doing Milford but it was just too costly compared to the others.

Anyway, have fun and bring lots of money. Stuff costs more there than in the States.

Cody Lebow
(CLebow)

Locale: Orange County
Re: Re: "New Zealand for a month" on 04/05/2012 09:12:56 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the input. Im going to have everyone going take a look at this thread and we will figure it out.