Walking and trekking
New Zealand has a completely bewildering array of options for the walker. The great thing about it is its variety: it’s an odd shape, and covers lots of latitudes at an extreme position, guaranteeing a spectrum of altitude dependant weather in much the same way as we in the UK – but higher. Plus, its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire guarantees an entertaining topography of burping sulphur cones, fertile green dales reminiscent of Yorkshire, sprawling wildernesses and snow-plastered mountains twisting for the sky that would rival (almost) anything in Switzerland.
Most alluring is Mount Cook, the highest mountain of this part of the world and an utterly gorgeous sight to behold. It is located on the South Island in the Southern Alps, which is the part of the country which draws high mountain lovers. Mount Cook (also known by its Maori name Aoraki) takes 4-6 days, is technical and best undertaken between November and April.
Other parts of the country are accessible most year, and while the north island may be shorter changed on Alps, it is home to terrain of equal charisma and considerably more quirk. Here lies the extraordinary volcanic terrain of the Tongariro Crossing, which has been auspiciously described as the world’s best day walk. It’s certainly one of the most unique, and includes the summits of active volcanoes Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.
The northern circuit of this walk is listed as one of the Nine Great Walks (nothing to do with the Nine Rings of Power) which traverse the country in varied and challenging manner, and include most of the truly must-see views of New Zealand. They include the South Island’s Milford Sound (it of the iconic triangular headland) and Routeburn (which passes through the exquisitely named landscapes of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring and is best described as a splice between the Canadian Rockies and Skye.) These walks aren’t a secret, though, and numbers are controlled. You can book a place between October and late April each year. Plus, as expected from a country with as much coastline as this, there are some walks which were made for ocean lovers – the Abel Tasman coast trek in particular.
New Zealand is spellbinding, a much-venerated walkers’ Graceland if ever there was one. Here walking – or ‘tramping’, the practice of throwing a ‘sack on and disappearing into the hills for the night – is considered part of the national culture. Their mountain names read like a tribute list to every great adventurer who ever lived, and those who are missing the UK can even have a bit of considerable novelty nostalgia: there’s a 7000ft Ben Nevis here! That, and the subtle absence of anything toothsome, particularly poisonous or hellishly extreme in the climatic department make you feel that Australia – a mere 1,400 miles away – should really be slightly annoyed.
New Zealand is the point on the planet that every adventure junkie gravitates naturally towards if placed in water. Here after all is where bungy jumping was born, and the adventure tradition of New Zealand shows no signs of wear.
Whale watching in Kaikoura, biking along the wild western coast, exploring the weird volcanic wastes of the northern island and the town of Rotorua – described as ‘hell on earth’ – and more canoeing than you can shake a paddle at are all on offer. In short, if you can do it outdoors, you’ll find it in New Zealand. So just go.
You are more likely to get sunburn in New Zealand as the hole in the ozone layer is directly above it: TRUE
The Haka is not in fact an ancient Maori dance: it was a marketing ploy invented expressly for the All-Blacks rugby team: FALSE
Must see and do
- Have a hangi
- traditional Maori meal cooked in the traditional way is an ideal way to touch base with the rich culture of the island. See the method at www.maorifood.com/hangi
- Visit hot water beach
- Dig a sand pit and when the tide is halfway out it will fill with warm spring water and create your own personal spa.
- Downhill bike Ben Cruachan
- Another Scottish transplant, this 2000m monster is home to some amazing singletrack for mountain bikers which – like Ben Nevis – isaccessible from Queenstown.
- Visit www.experiencequeenstown.co.nz.