If you want a hiking trip overflowing with varied habitats, great company and food then this is the trip for you. The Heaphy Track is a five-day walking trip capped off with a day of travel back to your starting point.
Diversity is a key feature of the Heaphy Track, and for me the variety was apparent from the first day. The trail wound through a landscape of dense forest that is a mix of podocarp and beech trees. The birdlife was amazing. They sang their hearts out to me as I climbed up to 910 metres above sea level. I stopped to take photos, enjoy the views and chattered away with my fellow walkers.
My nightly accommodation was in the new Department of Conservation huts. They are very warm and comfortable, especially after dining on a cheese board and sumptuous dinner of roast lamb. I chose to camp outside and as I drifted off to sleep I could hear kiwis calling.
On Day 2 I woke up to rain, but it didn’t dampen my spirits. I crossed the Gouland Downs with my eyes peeled for the native carnivorous snails Powelliphanta. These snails are beautiful and they range in dimension from the size of your little fingernail through to about 5 centimetres in diameter. At lunch the group cranked up a fire and we warmed ourselves with hot soup and sandwiches.
A frosty morning greeted me on Day 3 but I was all primed, ready to go. This was going to be a big day for us; we had 24 kilometres to cover. The hiking was gorgeous. I was rewarded by a changing landscape of subalpine vegetation, podocarp forest and a subtropical coast of nikau palms.
Day 4 was an easy day after the hiking of Day 3. The group enjoyed a gentle wander off the coast. My views at stops along the way were peppered by giant northern rata trees and masses of nikau palms.
Arriving at my destination it was down to the river for a quick swim and freshen up before lunch. The evening’s dinner needed to be collected so I wandered to the beach to hunt for mussels. The menu of the night listed fresh mussels, fresh fish and salad, all washed down with wine (the fish, salad and wine were walked in the back entrance by our driver). It was a sensation on my taste buds after a few days of hiking in the hills.
The final day of walking had me meandering along the coast. It was fantastic walking with the waves rushing in and out and crashing against the rocks. I wasn’t even remotely tempted for a swim because I could actually hear stones being pulled back off the beach by the strong current.
As I journeyed back to Nelson and Motueka via the Buller Gorge on Day 6, I reflected on the beautiful 82 kilometre-trail I had just hiked. Saying our final farewells we departed for Australia, the North Island, and Christchurch, our heads full of fantastic memories and great stories of our adventure. Having experienced such a range of sights, I felt like I had visited three worlds in one trip, and had a wonderful time worth reliving to anybody that wants to listen.