Tramping New Zealand Style
Fourteen hikes into New Zealand and I am starting to get used to the way things are done here. First off, they are not called hikes. Short distances are usually referred to as walks and longer distances are called tramps. So we have actually only done five walks and nine tramps. But then it all changes when you talk about the epic hikes in the country, known as the Great Walks of New Zealand, which are actually multi-day hikes. Hmm...maybe I haven't really figured things out.
Regardless, there are a few things I have learned about walking and tramping in New Zealand that are worth sharing.
Distances Tramping in kilometers (the unit of measure here) is far better than walking in miles - both because I am never quite sure how far we have to go and also because they go by so much quicker than miles. One kilometer left to go? It's done in no time! The New Zealand Department of Conversation signs also tell you how long that stretch should take so we make it a personal challenge to always be faster than the sign. We have been 99% successful and it makes us feel pretty good about ourselves on even the steepest climbs. On a hike along the Inside Track of Abel Tasman National Park, we killed our legs on a 17 kilometer hike and beat their recommended time by two hours. Thanks New Zealand for the ego boost (and the sore legs the next day).
Always a Workout Steep uphills are not lost on New Zealanders. The trails always make you work for it here and the tough climbs are typically rewarded by incredible views. I have been on a few hikes in the States where a couple hours of uphill walking gets me nowhere. It is a double win in New Zealand - we get a great workout and are rewarded with something special at the end of a hard hike.
Animals There are no worries about wildlife here unless you consider sheep and birds a threat. I dislike birds more than anything - mostly pigeons given their propensity for leaving their marks on my shoulders - but the sweet sing song of the birds in the forests here is like a private symphony along the trail. It is hard to catch a glimpse of them while walking through the trees, but their song is a soothing and fun companion. Sheep can be found on the trails or lining pastures leading to trail heads. Our one run in with sheep was on a tramp up to the summit of Colonial Knob outside of Wellington, where we joined 100 sheep as we meandered through their pasture. They are pretty scared of humans and always ran off as we approached and we were only scared of stepping in their droppings, which were everywhere. As a small island nation, New Zealand hasn't been infiltrated with bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and other menacing creatures we may typically care about on trails in North America.
Free! An added bonus to all of these things is that we have not had to pay an entrance fee to any of the parks or trails in New Zealand and they are some of the better maintained trails I have used. Rangers aren't as present as parks in the U.S., which means limited insider knowledge at entrance kiosks. But it is nice to see a country care enough about their natural spaces to invest in them for the long haul.
One thing that hasn't changed from the States -- we typically cart a picnic up to the top of the hill and enjoy the views and a bit of wine. You can take us out of California, but you can't change us that much!
The pictures below capture some of our favorite walks / tramps during our time in New Zealand that we haven't shared yet, its beauty continues to impress us. Some were short trips to something significant, others a long walk to a great view.
Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park
Colonial Knob Summit outside Wellington
Te Mata Peak in Hawke's Bay