The objective was to have a true New Zealand adventure, something ‘naturally real’ and totally different.
The West Coast of the South Island, is well known for amazing scenery, constantly changing between farmland and mountains, rainforests and wild beaches and even a few glaciers.
We started the tour in Kahurangi National Park above Nelson and wound our way down the coastline to finish in the Adventure Capital, Queenstown.
Starting from the top
After picking everyone up at the meeting point, in Nelson we drove straight to the wilderness to start our hike.
The first day of the hike was gentle and simple, a good way to get used to carrying a pack. We had a quick introduction on how we could carry our gear, organise the food and distribute the group gear amongst us all.
We spent the first night under a cave, and sat around the first bon-fire of the trip. Kahurangi National Park is a park where you can see diverse alpine vegetation, waterfalls, wetlands with rich history and stunning mountains views.
Waking up to the sound of the weka (native New Zealand flightless birds) and smells of coffee, we went collecting fresh water directly from the source – a bubbling mountain stream.
Today we discovered the real meaning of a day’s hiking. The track was beautiful, undulating up and down we arrived nearly to the top of Mt Arthur and appreciated the breathtaking view over the mountains and out to the Tasman Sea. As a reward for all the hard walking, we spent the second night in a cozy cottage near the Buller River and had a wonderful organic vegetarian dinner.
The Wild Coast is calling
The third day we headed south west and arrived on the rugged West Coast. One of the highlights of the trip for me was about to start, hiking through the rainforest to get to the Ballroom Overhang before returning to the vehicle. The track weaved in and out of the river, meaning we had to cross the river many times. Dave, the true bushman - and our guide, taught us how to cross the river, by linking together like a crab with our backpacks on before walking as a line across the river. Great fun was had by all and lovely opportunities for pictures!
We spent the night under the Ballroom Overhang, making dinner all together and talking to the glowworms fixed on the rock just before falling asleep. The next morning, we made our way back out the river stopping to explore a cave and its darkness.
Once back on the road our first stop was in the little town of Greymouth for some grocery shopping. We had a lovely lunch in the town and met the second part of the team joining us for the last half of the tour.
Hokitika was our next destination, home of the Pounamu, also called ‘greenstone’. According to Maori history, the significance of the stone is to protect anyone who’s wearing it, and that was experienced by some of us.
Finally, we arrived at the beautiful village of Okarito with a campsite right on the beach. Here we relaxed and spent the next two days getting some well-deserved rest. We learned how to prepare a traditional Maori dinner – HANGI. Another genuine moment I really appreciated, we put up the tent for the night and took advantage of our free time to hang out at the beach. The glacier was visible from there - incredibly outstanding view. For dinner, we feasted on the hangi and enjoyed this beautiful scenery, the bonfire was made right on the beach and we spent the evening playing and singing different songs with Dave as bandleader… unforgettable.
The real kiwi walk
After these relaxing days in Okarito, it was quite difficult to leave this place. Further south we stopped by Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier and did gentle walks to get closer to the glaciers for impressive views. The scenery was lunar and so wild.
We took the road to get to a beautiful cottage and made burgers all together, an occasion to have a special briefing about the next few days. In fact, we had an 18km walk to get to the natural hotpools at Welcome Flat. This hike required more organisation, preparing food in advance, taking stuff for two days and keeping an eye on the weight of everything.
I was quiet stressed by this walk, the longest I’ve ever done. But everything went perfectly, Dave gave us good advice and the rest of us just had to realize we were all capable of hiking the distance. The track changed totally from the start to the arrival at the hut. All the way we walked along the river and marveled at the ice blue color. Scrambling over rocks and by crossing suspending bridges we get to the hut. Just near the hut we could experience a hot bath and take in a breathtaking view over the snow mountains.
I would say each of these eleven days were very different from one another, a real opportunity to discover the diversity New Zealand can offer by joining an authentic trip.