an informal guide to tramping in the South Island and Stewart Island

An in-depth, full-on, all-you-need-to-know, but not-complete-hand-holding, slightly opinionated, guide to Te Araroa and 28 other multi-day tramping tracks and routes in the South Island and Stewart Island.

Well, there’s information on most of the useful stuff about tramping, various long distance tracks and routes, mountain passes, huts, hut passes, etc. And plenty of images to get a feel of what any particular track or hut is like. Yeah, a heap of images.

Yay! There’s even suggestions about those questions mum likes to know:

Where to go? Here’s a few ideas for multi-day tramps to get you going.

Stewart Island is as good a place as any, there’s the Rakiura Great Walk, or the more energetic North-west Circuit, perhaps adding on the Southern Circuit for the full Stewart Island experience. Don’t try the Tin Range route, getting as far south as you can by foot in New Zealand, unless you have plenty of tramping experience.

Further north, what about the highly recommended Travers-Sabine Track in Nelson Lakes National Park, the full Nelson Lakes circuit, or cutting that short by doing the Lewis Pass to St Arnaud straight through; wandering the Leslie-Karamea track in Kahurangi; the Alpine Route out the back of Nelson that leads over the tops to St Arnaud; or, heading Harpers Pass, through Lake Sumner Forest Park to Arthurs Pass National Park, the St James Walkway, or for something more demanding, the Harman Pass route.

Even some Great Walks, although, frankly, they are all great walks. The very hard to get onto Milford Track, the scenic Routeburn Track, the terrific Kepler Track, the overly popular Abel Tasman Coastal Track, the diversity of the Heaphy Track, and the short Rakiura Track.

There’s a few non-Great Walks that can be accessed from Te Anau: the Greenstone and Caples Tracks, the Hollyford Track, and turning it into a circuit with the Pyke-Big Bay Route.

That’s a start, just to get you in the mood. More routes will be added over time, Dusky Track, Rees-Dart, etc.

What about the weather? Actually, there’s not much you can do about that.

What basic gear do you need? A pack, boots, and clothing in general. Clue: the lightweight, but robust, variety usually helps.

What other stuff, ie, maps and GPS, etc, is needed?

How about some camping equipment like a cooking setup?

Where are those 950 backcountry huts that you can use? And official DOC campsites. This website has information on about 250 of the most popular huts and campsites.

What to eat? Just in case you can’t make up your mind what’s for dinner.

And, of course, what’s it likely to cost?

Need any more incentive?

You can always read about someone else’s Little Adventures:

beyond 47ºS—the Tin Range to Port Pegasus,

85 days from Bluff to Ships Cove sort of on Te Araroa,

walking the Kepler, Milford, Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples Tracks in quick succession,

15 days on a leisurely wander around the Hollyford and Pyke Tracks,

a big 19 days in Rakiura National Park, ie, on Stewart Island,

14 days in Nelson Lakes national park,

or 11 days in Kahurangi. It’s almost like being there.

Or, a shorter track, just the 5 days, climbing Mt Richmond after a long time contemplating the prospect.

Tramping is a great way to experience the New Zealand landscape. Sure you can rip through the Great Walks but, maybe, that can wait until you turn 70. If you are keen to really experience the New Zealand backcountry, to have a trip to remember the rest of your life, you can get off the Great Walks, ie, overcrowded trails, into the lesser travelled parts that still have a decent level of amenity. More of a challenge.

In an island as big as the South Island there are plenty of tracks to explore that hack through massively scenic territory and have the benefit of plenty of solitude.

Maybe this website might just inspire you to get out there yourself. There’s a massive swathe of exciting terrain to explore.

And a heap of fun on your own Little Adventure.

Here’s a few random articles to get you started. This website has over 640 informative pages to choose from . . .

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Dragons Teeth route | Kahurangi National Park

The Needle, Anatoki Peak, Dragons Teeth, Mt Douglas and Adelaide Tarn. | Dragons Teeth route, Kahurangi National Park

For experienced trail adventurers only, and that would be 0.001% of the population, the Dragons Teeth offers a decent challenge. This isn’t your standard DOC marked track. It sure is exhilarating up there amongst the crazy, jagged Dragons Teeth/Anatoki Peak.

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tramping clothes: the wet set

West Ruggedy Beach on the west coast | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

For what it’s worth here’s my wet set list …

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winter/spring tramping in the South Island

Wet snow can really slow you down and cause considerable extra effort.| near Hunters Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Overseas trampers can have considerable experience with winter conditions and snow.

The situation in New Zealand can be very different from that overseas experience.

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Port William Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Port William Hut, Rakiura Track, Stewart Island 1

Sited at the location of an early settlement from the 1870s although little evidence remains except for the large gum trees.

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100 Days | Walking Te Araroa ebook

During the summer of 2014–15 I spent 100, err, 101 days walking the 1300km length of the South Island of New Zealand, the world’s 12th biggest island. As a pre-ramble the first 16 days were spent on Stewart Island/Rakiura, attempting to get as far south as is sensibly possible in New Zealand. Like beyond 47º S.

Sensibly, hunh?

If it’s so sensible, why was I the only one doing it?

Yup, a great Little Adventure. Here’s what happened …

Download 100 Days | Walking Te Araroa from the Amazon Kindle Store. Or click on the image.

Length: 101,000 words — equivalent to a 278 page paperback, ie, it’s big

File size: 4085 KB

File format: .mobi — read in the Kindle app

Cost: $US4.99

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Here’s an extract:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Yahoo!!

I let out a scream, spontaneously, thinking I’d sound like Tarzan, I guess, but with a dry throat my voice cut out unexpectedly. Fortunately there was no one within 20 km of me, perhaps. I didn’t try again, but I did feel exuberant.

I had traded possessions for experiences, security for freedom.

This was the payoff.

There it was. Hugeness, remoteness, wilderness all rolled into one.

Up there I could sense my own remarkable insignificance, one small individual humbled by the unfathomable sparseness in front of me.

At this moment I had everything I needed, my pack lay on the ground with my physical essentials, my mind’s relentless wandering for once still and at peace.

We surround ourselves with people, possessions, activities to avoid this confrontation with ourselves in our routine lives. Here I was: stripped, alone, and strong. This was one of the most significant moments in my lifetime. The present was right in front of my eyes, no need to dwell on the past, or contemplate the future. Everything important was just in front of my eyes, all new, not able to be grasped in its entirety, that was enough, if not too much. All senses operational without the need for thought or processing.

It was awesome, as in the archaic sense, filling you with awe, not in the current, diluted meaning — yeah, pretty good.

I felt a surge of life. Pure exhilaration.