Tramping is the New Zealand term for hiking. A track is their term for a trail. So although I've been talking about hiking trails for the last several weeks, I've actually been tramping tracks.
It is only fitting that one of my final posts from New Zealand shares what I probably anticipated the most about this trip: my experiences on New Zealand's Great Walks. The nine Great Walks are multi-day tramping tracks, of varied degree of difficulty, that showcase the country's diverse landscape, scenery, and natural beauty. Since I know I am not cut out for multi-day tramping (Sleeping in bunks with strangers in a middle-of-nowhere hut? Let's be real.), my goal was to hike sections of at least several tracks around the country. I am so happy to say mission accomplished.
The South Island contains most of the nine Great Walks. With so much untouched land in Fiordland, Stewart Island, and the Southern Alps, it is no surprise. Not expecting to believe that the Southern Alps could compare to the majestic Swiss Alps... well, they made me a believer. Snow-covered Mt.. Cook at over 12,400 ft. (compare to the tallest European Alps peak Mont Blanc at 15,700 ft.) and The Remarkables, a jagged set of peaks that looms over Queenstown (and so named for being only one of two mountain ranges that run completely north-south in the world), are very impressive. Two of the Walks on my agenda, The Milford and Routeburn Tracks, are technically in Fiordland which skirts the Southern Alps so no matter how you slice them, these tracks produce stunning scenery. Milford, renowned as The Finest Walk in the World, was particularly memorable as it is only reachable by boat and I had a personal guide, Will, due to being the only English speaker in the group. Bonus!
My time on Stewart Island was not only spent birding (when will I ever say that again?). I tramped the Rakiura Track which was a healthy, five hours along the mostly rocky, rainforest-shaded cliffs of the island.
Ah the North Island...on which lies the Hike of Death, aka the Tongariro Crossing, which you have already heard about. And thankfully I was able to squeeze in one more Great Walk. Which isn't a walk at all. Kayaking or canoeing down New Zealand's longest and historic river, the Whanganui, is included. Both rain and rapids tried to deter me but, once settled into my kayak, I paddled my way downriver through some of the most beautiful gorges I've seen. The river was so still in parts that the water's reflections of what was above the surface were impossibly life-like.
Sure, I tramped it up around the country. And grateful for all the wow moments that came from those Great Walks.
Purakaunui Falls on the Catlins Coast (southern tip of South Island)
Snow-capped Mt. Cook; the highest peak in New Zealand
Canoeing down the peaceful Whanganui River
Suspension bridge in Whanganui River Valley
The Bridge to Nowhere in the Whanganui River valley