One of Hiking New Zealand's directors, Dan Murphy, sat down with Great Walks Magazine to talk about why he considers his job at Hiking New Zealand the best in the world.
What's your earliest bushwalking memory?
Well, we call it tramping in NZ, but it would have to be organising a two day hike with my friends which crossed the Ruahine Range near where we lived in the North Island. My older brother had to come along as we were only about 12 years old at the time. I had an old frameless pack I bought from an army surplus store and a pair of really uncomfortable boots, but I loved every minute of it!
What got you into the walking tour business?
While on my big ‘OE’(extended working holiday) and thoroughly fed up with big city life I stumbled upon the dream job for me - a hiking guide in the South of Spain. I spent two years guiding in Spain before returning home to NZ. I had loved being a guide so being a guide in NZ seemed like the obvious progression. I found work with Hiking New Zealand and several years later, along with my wife Anne we were able to buy into the business.
Where do you take your clients?
We take them all over New Zealand, linking up some of our most beautiful and iconic national parks and wilderness areas.
What's a highlight of their trip?
I think it is getting that quintessential ‘kiwi tramping experience’, staying in the backcountry whether in huts or camping, spending quality time with like-minded people while doing something they love. Even the multiple river crossings (with boots on), that are necessary on some routes in NZ, becomes a highlight. In a nutshell it’s probably just that great feeling of contentedness at the day’s end, when you find yourself in these wild and beautiful places, engaged with nature, enjoying great company, even food tastes better after a day in the mountains!
Why do you love the area you explore?
The sense of wilderness. The areas we visit feel very dynamic and are constantly being influenced by natural processes and as a human being you feel pretty insignificant. The people you meet along the way really add to the experience, whether it’s meeting someone who is on some huge epic hike or someone on their first tramp, we are so lucky to have these diverse wilderness areas throughout the country.
Why should someone book a tour in this region rather than DIY?
There are a number of reasons, safety and logistics spring to mind quickly, but no less important is the local stories and knowledge that a good guide will share. Being part of a group of like-minded people is fun and inspiring. There will be conversations over campfires that you will remember for the rest of your life!
What's a bushwalk (here or overseas) you're yet to do but will one day do?
It's not so much a walk but spending more time in the South West of the South Island, or what’s known as Te Wahipounamu – the South Westland World Heritage Area. There is over 2.6 million hectares to explore, from ice carved fiords and mountains, ancient podocarp forests and a wild coastline. Walking the South Coast from Jacksons Bay to Martins Bay, along the Hollyford track to the Hollyford Valley Road, then hiking up the Deadmans Track and on to the Routeburn Track at Harris Saddle and out to Glenorchy is definitely on my ‘to do list’
Bushwalking equipment you'd never leave home without?
Well after years of carrying a heavy and durable backpack I have been converted to the world of lightweight backpacking. My new 56 liter cuben fiber, titanium frame pack that weighs 600 grams as opposed to my old one that weighed 3.2kgs is pretty cool! What else….. a pocket knife, head torch (and spare batteries) candle, cigarette lighter and something good to read! I always carry a personal locator beacon aswell.