Most of my camps
I had three month's available and wanted to start a crossing auf the South Island, using the most scenic, remote and adventurous route. I was aware, that three month's wouldn't be sufficient to hike across all of the island, so my finishing point was not determined. The long distance trail TeAraroa crosses the Island as well, but I had planned on walking on it only occasionally.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, certainly! Although New Zealand is a modern country, the Southern Alps where never populated. Coupled with the very steep terrain and the dense vegetation, this is a really wild area! All hiking apart of the TeAraroa and the Great Walks is very challenging, even on a global scale!
But there are some down sites as well:
As I like more open areas, many places were too thickly vegetated for my taste, which limits exploration possibilities, unless one likes very tough bushwacking...
Although the nature very often might look untouched, the many introduced species have had very heavy effects on plants and animals of the island, so much of the original nature is already lost.
My inspiration to that walk came from my friend Bernd Looft, who undertook such a crossing long ago. His website is an incredible resource for every wilderness hiker, but the South Island Traverse is not on it.
As usual I used Google Earth a lot, but New Zealand has a very good topographic map online as well, which is very detailed!
As China pushes on the international flight market, it is possible to find very cheap deals going to Christchurch, the hub for the South Island. Usually these flights are long and include a stopover in China.
In New Zealand exists a good bus transport system and hitchhiking is generally easy, so it poses no problem to reach supply points. The Southern Alps are almost unpopulated, so it is usually necessary to go to lower elevations for resupply.
Most towns have a so called i-site, where you can get all the information you need, buy bus- and hut tickets.
New Zealand has a fantastic hut system, even in very remote areas. While many of them are free, for others you need a hut ticket, which you can buy in advance at the i-sites. They are cheap, and even though one wants to camp mainly, almost everybody will enjoy a stay in a hut from time to time.
As always, it is very important to keep the weight as low as possible. It is possible to transport food and gear including packraft in a pack which weighs only one kilogramm!
Although the terrain in New Zealand is often very challenging, I would recommend trail running shoes. It rains heavily quite often, so a good tent, which doesn't need to weigh more than a Kilogramm and rain gear is necessary. In summer it doesn't get very cold even at higher altitudes, so no down jacket is needed.
I carried a packraft most of the time, but besides the Rangitata, it was never necessary.
As I already wrote, the terrain is really tough, often it resembles more climbing than walking. That is especially annoying in the high Tussock grass, which covers huge areas in the alpine. When it is wet, it is very slippery, I never felt on my butt as often as in New Zealand...
Many Rivers are quite difficult to wade, especially when the water is high. I couldn't imagine, how fast the waters rise after heavy rains...
In many places there are clouds of biting sandflies!
All distances are approximate and I probably walked more!
1. Abel Tasman - Marahau to Takaka
3,5 days, about 77 kilometers.
For the first two days I followed the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which is a popular Great Walk. There is lush forest and sometimes one walks on very beautiful beaches. As the beginning of December is not high season, the place was not too crowded, which can be very different at other times...
Then I turned on the Inland Track. This trail does not receive much use, altitude differences are high and the terrain is often very steep, a first taste of the South Island's Interior...
Good trail in lush forest
A Red Deer visits my tent on the Inland Track
2. Kahurangi 1
4 days, about 77 kilometers.
From Takaka I walked across pasture land to the Anatoki River, which I followed to the Anatoki Forks Hut. From there a very steep, partly trackless ridge route leads to Adelaide Tarn. After spending a night at the tiny hut on the lake, I tried to tackle the Dragon's Teeth High Route, but had to turn back because of weather and difficult route finding in steep terrain. I took the same way back to the Anatoki and then hiked to Lake Stanley. After crossing the Stanley River I followed the Kill Devil Route back to near Takaka.
The ridge towards Yuletide, left the Dragon's Teeth
Dragon's Teeth High Route
On the Yuletide Mountain,
Dragon's Teeth in the background
Endangered Blue Duck on Upper Stanley
Upper Stanley River
On the Kill Devil Route
3. Kahurangi 2
10 days, 180 Kilometers.
I took the shuttle from Takaka to Brown hut, the start of the 78 km Heaphy track. This Great Walk crosses forested mountains and moorlands, descends to the Tasman coast and then follows the ocean to near Karamea. There are not too many hikers, but the track is very well maintained and therefore fast and easy to walk. I took 2,5 days for it. From Karamea I walked to the start of the Wangapeka Trail, which first follows the Little Wanganui and then crosses a pass to the Karamea. Finally I left that river, went to the Wangapeka Saddle from where the adventurous, trackless Matiri Ridge Route starts, being on Top of the world for many hours, unfortunately mostly in fog and rain. I descended to Hurricane Hut from where I followed the difficult, overgrown Matiri Valley to near Murchison.
Heaphy- Aorere Valley
Heaphy- Gouland Downs
Heaphy- Hiking higway across bushland
Heaphy- Nikau Palms
Heaphy- Tasman Sea Coast
Above the Karamea
Walkwire on upper Karamea
Matiri Tops Route
Overgrown trails on the Matiri
4. Nelson Lakes- Murchison to Lewis Pass
Murchison- Lewis Pass
9 days, 131 Kilometers
This is the start of the Southern Alps proper, in Nelson Lakes National Park!
I hitchhiked to near the Tiraumea Valley, which I followed to Lake Rotoroa. From there I took the very steep Mount Cedric Route into the alpine. Mostly trackless I descended into the Sabine Valley, which I only followed shortly and then took a side valley to the Cupola Hut, where the trail ends. From there I crossed an unnamed pass trackless and descended very steeply into the forest at Sabine River. From there I walked on the TeAraroa up to Blue Lake and the very scenic Lake Constance. Then I tackled Waiau Pass and descended into the Waiau River, were I left the trails again. A fantastic alpine route followed, crossing Thompson and d'Urville Passes and finally descending into the East Matakitaki Valley, where at some point a trail started again.
I ascended West Matakitaki Valley and hiked partly trackless to the 3-Tarn Pass, from where I descended first without trail into the Maruia Valley, where I could use the well worn St. James Walkway to Lewis Pass. For resupply I hitchhiked into Hanmer Hot Springs.
Mt. Cedric Route
Across the alpine to an unnamed pass
Steep descent into Sabine Valley
| Blue Lake|
View back to Lake Constance
View from Waiau to Thompson Pass
Traverse to d'Urville Pass
Treeline on East Matakitaki
Trackless along East Matakitki
Walkwire on West Matakitaki
Near Bob's Hut
St. James Walkway