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Days: 7 days
(River crossings and some uneven terrain)
Start/Finish: Nelson iSite 8:00am
Queenstown 6:00pm (approx)
September 2018: 9
Period 1st Jul 18 - 30th Jun 19
The pickup from Nelson at 8am is followed by a picturesque drive around Tasman Bay and up to the top of the Takaka Hill and Canaan Downs. This rugged marble mountain forms a natural boundary between the Nelson and Golden Bay regions. At Canaan Downs we pack for our first overnight hike among a middle earth like setting of ancient beech trees rolling meadows and craggy rock formations. Our hike takes us up on to the Evans Ridge where there are spectacular views of Abel Tasman National Park. After this short climb it is mostly downhill following the Inland Track to Castle Rocks hut. The track is rugged at times and can be quite slippery – so it is still a challenge even though its mostly downhill! We set up camp outside the quaint Castle Rocks hut and enjoy our first meal together. Includes lunch and dinner.
After a relaxed breakfast we make our way down to sea level at Anchorage. The golden sands and sparkling blue waters will feel like a real contrast to the rugged trail and dense forests you have negotiated to get here! We relax on the beach and maybe take a swim before catching the water taxi back to Kaiteriteri. Time to rest the legs on the drive to tonight’s campsite near Murchison, overlooking the confluence of the Buller and Maruia Rivers. We pick up our scrumptious and organic dinner on the way, from ‘Zens kitchen’. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After driving down the Buller Gorge to the West Coast, the first stop this morning is Cape Foulwind. Here is an opportunity to observe a breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals – almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s. After lunch get packs ready and hike up a spectacular limestone river canyon in Paparoa National Park. Established in 1987, the park covers over 30,000 hectares. It has natural attractions including mountains, limestone cliffs, caves, rivers and wilderness areas. The hike involves several river crossings (your boots will get wet). Collect firewood along the way and set up camp under the massive Ballroom Overhang. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Before hiking back, splash up a beautiful side canyon, following the stream until it disappears into a cave. After the hike there is a stop in Punakaiki and a chance to check out the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes before continuing down the coast to tonight’s accommodation in the sleepy and charming village of Okarito where we stay in simple cabin accommodation. End a great day by watching the sun set over the pounding surf. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Start the day by exploring the area’s main attraction – the exceptional Okarito Lagoon. Here you can observe some of New Zealand’s famous native birds, including white herons and tui, all from the comfort of your sea kayak. Paddle up secluded river channels where 60m tall native Kahikatea trees tower above you, and admire the snow-capped Southern Alps in the distance. After lunch, we drive to Franz Josef Glacier. We will hike the “Roberts Point Trail” a challenging hike with some cool suspension bridges and an amazing view of the Franz Josef glacier. A spectacular vantage point to view this monstrous river of ice, one of the only glaciers in the world to descend into rainforest. After the hike we drive to the nearby village of Fox Glacier where we stay in cabins. We take the night off from cooking dinner tonight and head out to one of the local restaurants for dinner. Includes breakfast and lunch.
Today is a chance for a rest as we drive through the South Westand World Heritage area. We will make a couple of stops on this wild and picturesque coast before turning inland and heading up the majestic Haast and Landsborough Valleys, crossing the main divide at Haast Pass. The scenery changes dramatically as we drive alongside the large glacially formed lakes of Wanaka and Hawea. We pass through Wanaka and up the Matukituki Valley before putting on our packs one last time and hike the valley to Aspiring Hut. The majestic mountain scenery is revealed as you hike gently up the valley. Through the dips in the high peaks glimpse views of the Matterhorn-like Mt Aspiring (3033m) in the distance. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Relax and enjoy the stunning mountain scenery over breakfast before wandering back down the valley. Take a worthy side trip up a valley to view the Rob Roy Glacier (you can leave your pack at the bottom of the valley and pick it up on the way back). Cheeky kea (alpine parrots) often mingle with us at lunchtime, so watch out that your gear is not borrowed, or eaten! After soaking up the views we hike back through the beech forest to the vehicle. The afternoon drive takes us up and over the Crown Range and down into the Wakatipu basin and the bustling, adventure capital of New Zealand – Queenstown (where the tour ends). Includes breakfast and lunch.
Average of 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 7 hours on the longest day.
Altitude gains of up to 800m.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic, and have good agility.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.
Note on most days your backpack (with sleeping bag, food and equipment etc) will weigh approximately 10kgs.
New Zealand's weather is changeable and we can experience extremely cold weather at any time of year, especially in the mountains. Our huts/camps vary in altitude from sea level to over 1000 metres. It is necessary to have warm clothing. Jeans are not suitable for hiking.
Watch the video of our Kiwi-Style Hiking packing list.
Optional items: (but highly recommended)
Gaiters, binoculars, earplugs, walking poles, camera.
Therm-a-rest sleeping mat, tents, cooking equipment, plates/cutlery, first aid kit, safety equipment and maps.
We allow space for 120 litres per person (one large pack plus one day pack). You may be required to forward excess luggage if you exceed this. Any gear you do not need while hiking can be locked in the custom-built trailer. We highly recommend travel insurance.
*Ultimate New Zealand only - for the flight between Wellington and Nelson, the checked luggage allowance is 23kgs per person, with a carry-on luggage allowance of 7 kg.
We have high quality hiking equipment which you can hire for our Kiwi-Style Hiking trips. Please arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.
The average driving time per day varies, some days you are in the wilderness and won't see the vehicle for 2 or 3 days! On other days you might be in the vehicle for 2-3 hrs or occasionally more. The driving time is a chance to rest and enjoy the fantastic scenery which is forever changing. You will travel in a 12 seat minibus towing a custom-built trailer with camp equipment and your luggage. They are also equipped with a range of natural history reference books. There will be a range of roads - sealed and unsealed. The guide will often stop the vehicle if there is a great photo opportunity or primo ice cream shop!
As well as being the time to rest, refuel and recharge, meal times are also a great time to get to know your fellow travellers better, sit back and enjoy the amazing surroundings and enjoy some great food! Everybody has a turn with the preparation and cooking of meals: barbecues, salads, pancakes, curries, pasta, stir-fries, hangi... Vegetarian meals are no problem. On the "wild nights" the group will usually eat pasta and rice meals (special "secret" recipes used). There is always a lot of hiking food - chocolate, nuts, raisins, biscuits. The vehicles carry a full range of cooking equipment including gas burners, woks, frying pans and billies (cooking pot). When you go on an overnight hike the group will carry a portable stove.
"Wild nights" vs nights in civilisation...The Ultimate South is a combination of “wild nights”, which are the nights where you are truly in the wilderness, staying in backcountry huts or camping in locations that may be several hours walk from the nearest road or populated area, versus nights in civilisation where you may stay in cabins or camp by the vehicle at Department of Conservation campsites. Some of these locations may still be relatively remote and in the wilderness but they can be reached by the vehicle.
Huts - New Zealand has an excellent network of backcountry huts and you will stay in huts on several nights. They are equipped with mattresses, running water and an outside toilet. Cooking is done on a portable stove. Huts are only accessible on foot and shared with other hikers. You also have the option of camping near the hut if that is your preference.
Lodges - You will stay in lodge type accommodation on some of the nights, the lodges are usually conveniently located near the start or end of a hike and have multi-share and sometimes twin/double rooms generally with shared bathrooms.
Camping - You will camp in a range of campsites. On the "wild nights" you may camp under natural rock shelters, on remote beaches or even sleep out under the stars (single tent available on request)! On the non -"wild nights" you will camp near the vehicle in Department of Conservation campsites. If the weather is not great for camping, eg very wet, stormy or cold conditions, your guide will seek out alternative accommodation, eg lodge, cabin or crib.
Cabins/Cribs - Some nights may be spent in private cribs (summer house) or cabins at a campground. Staying in the cribs is a real authentic New Zealand experience and you may even start to feel like a kiwi on holiday! Often you can put a tent up if you want a 'room' to yourself on these nights.
Bathroom facilities - On the wild nights there will be long drop (pit) toilets. There will be rivers or lakes nearby for washing, and sometimes there are even natural hot pools! The Kiwi-Style Hiking Tours are set up so after a couple of nights of "roughing it" in the wilderness, you will stay somewhere where you can enjoy a shower and a few home comforts (including laundry facilities) before the next foray into the wild!
Meals: Nearly all the meals are included in the trip price, we take the night off cooking on day 5, and suggest you try one of the local bars or restaurants for dinner.
Optional activities: All activities as stated in the itinerary are included in the trip price.
An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. That is why we work hard to make sure we hire the best guides. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. Our guides will ensure that your time with us is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.
Please be gentle with your guide - good guides are hard to find!
Chai Pyle is the current Hiking NZ record holder for diverse work experience. Nepal rescue Kayaker/trainer to YMCA kids instructor to dementia carer to apple picker to adventure photographer to corporate caterer to coffee barista to semi professional wheelbarrow racer. Hopefully not all these skills are used on Chai’s trips. Chai is pretty interested in sustainability - permaculture practice and healthy sustainable self-sufficient ways.
Linda Pugh somehow finds time to work for us in between her hectic schedule of sea kayaking and tramping. She rates the 142 day 'Te Araroa trail' as one of her best trips. In 'all' her spare time Linda and her husband run a craft sheepskin and possum products outfitter business. Linda is a superb camp cook - ask her about the famous cinnamon apple fritters!
Dave Murphy has spent a lot of time overseas honing his wilderness skills. He has recently come back to New Zealand after hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. Dave’s geology degree (including years of geology experience in Asia and Australia) and his solid understanding of environment bring a wonderful depth of wisdom to his trips. But more importantly Dave holds the current Hiking NZ pancake distance record.
Graham Frith as had a lifetime of teaching, instructing and guiding and continues to take the odd hiking trip for us. Graham (a.k.a "Grum") has spent the last two and a half years cycling around the whole planet raising awareness for prostate cancer. Grum also teaches wilderness first aid and risk management and is an avid mountain biker.
John Williamson has a BSc and has ridden a horse across Mongolia. It made enough of an impression on him (the Mongolian adventure not the BSc) that he set up a horse trekking business in Mongolia over ten years ago. He now combines guiding in New Zealand with the treks in Mongolia during the New Zealand winters. John is often complimented for his stylish retro hiking attire and usually takes out the “most stylish guide” award.
Eigill Wahlberg don’t be fooled by the exotic name, this guy is a true kiwi bushman if there ever was one! Eigill has spent most of his working life in the backcountry of New Zealand. A lot of this time has been spent working for the Department of Conservation as a ranger, a hut warden and in pest control. Three years in the army gave him superb marching skills - and occasionally you might hear him muttering to himself “left, right, left right…”. He is a great cook and has been known to bake a cake over the campfire!
Justin Cowan doesn’t just talk conservation, he’s written a thesis on it (biodiversity and sustainable development). Previously with Department of Conservation Justin also ran international conservation volunteer projects before we snaffled him. On quizz night you want this guy on your team - and don’t make the mistake of thinking he only talks environment! His sport / history and general knowledge also go the distance. As do his long legs.
Kath Watzig pretty much lives off her land in the Far North and her home is a beautiful wee mud-brick house she built herself. Amongst a myriad of other things, Kath is very active in Northland conservation groups and a keen sea kayaker - her energy seems boundless. Kath is more convincing than a politician’s PR company and has more grit than the Lake Waikaremoana road - basically she is a legend.
Simon O’Donnell is an experienced climber, kayaker, mountaineer and bushman with many years professional instructing under his belt - from rafting to climbing to hiking. Now back studying in the winter, Simon joins us for the summer guiding seasons.
Rory Hart has well and truly earned his “hiking badge”. Rory clocked up about 2900 kms when he walked the Te Araroa Trail over the summer of 2014-2015, a long distance hike which spans the length of New Zealand. He took a couple of weeks off before heading to America and walking 4300 kms on the Pacific Crest Trail from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. A geologist by trade, Rory has an amazing knowledge and understanding of glaciers and spent several weeks camping on New Zealand's Tasman Glacier while researching for his thesis, followed by a six week stint camping on the grounding line of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Despite the long periods of enforced solitude, Rory does like people and is a great fun guide to be around!
Malcolm O’Neill has a BSc in physical geography. He co-authored the guidebook Classic New Zealand Adventures, which involved lots of fun all over the country. Malcolm’s interests include mountain biking, travel, skiing/boarding, photography, making furniture and jumping into rivers. Malcolm does more business stuff than guiding these days as he is a director of Hiking New Zealand, but he can still be found getting his hands dirty!
Daniel Murphy studied something years ago at university but can no longer remember what it was! From agricultural roots he worked on farms and in the rural service industry before adventures and travel lured him overseas into the tourism industry. Hiking, mountain biking and day dreaming about great adventures are his main hobbies. Dan is the Operations Manager and a director for Hiking New Zealand. Dan is either a fantastic liar, or has had the oddest things possible happen to him - be sure to probe him for stories.
Other guides may be used during peak periods.
Does everyone get involved with camp duties?
Everyone is fully involved with the running of the Ultimate South, from collecting firewood, to setting up camp and cooking meals. You are expected to do your share of work. If you are not a great cook, dont worry - your guide and other people in the group will help you.
Does it matter if I am travelling alone?
Most of the people on our kiwi-style hiking trips are travelling alone. The kiwi-style hiking trips are strong on group activities and participation including playing outdoor games, going for swims, helping one another to cross rivers, exploring secret places, and overcoming obstacles and challenges. You are encouraged to participate in activities, but if its not your thing that is also OK. Time is allowed for people to be by themselves on the trip if they need it.
What do I do with my valuables (passport, airline tickets, money, etc.) while hiking?
Keep them with you in your hiking pack. You can pack all those things in plastic bags to keep them dry and keep them with you while hiking.
I have specific dietary requirements - is that a problem?
Vegetarians, gluten free and dairy free hikers join our trips regularly. Please let us know in advance as meals take more planning. Everyone takes a turn in meal preparations, if you have complex dietary requirements you may need to be involved more frequently. It is advisable to join the trip with some of your own food items if you are worried. Once you are on the trip the guide may ask you to join him/her when they go food shopping. Preparing meals for several different dietary requirements in the wilderness with limited facilities can be challenging but with your help we can make it work.
What is the weather going to be like?
New Zealand experiences very changeable weather - especially in the remote mountainous regions where you will spend most of your time. Some days you can be broiling in 30 degrees and then the next day you could be freezing in a cool southerly from the sub Antarctic. It is best to be prepared for the worst conditions you are likely to expect - see the 'What to Take' section. You may get some rain on the trip so a good waterproof raincoat is important.
Who is in my group?
A small group (maximum 11 people), with a range of ages, nationalities and work backgrounds. Seventy percent of people are between 20 and 40, though there are sometimes people from 17 to 72. On average, half are women and half are men. Everyone shares an enthusiasm for outdoor adventure and an appreciation of nature.
What if I can't keep up with the rest of the group?
The group hikes together, stopping often for snacks and a good lunch. Some activities are optional if you feel like having some time out.
Can I charge my camera/phone/laptop, etc. while on the kiwi-style hiking trip?
About two or three times per kiwi-style hiking trip you stay at places that have electricity so you will be able to recharge batteries. If you have a vehicle adapter, bring it along as there may be an opportunity to charge items while driving.
Can I do laundry on the kiwi-style hiking tour?
Yes, at least once, usually half way through the trip. It is recommended that you bring items that are quick drying and plenty of spare pairs of socks and underwear, since you will most likely have to line-dry clothing.
For bookings four or more months in advance of the departure a 25% deposit can be paid with the remainder due 65 days prior to your trip.
For bookings within four months of the departure, full payment is required.
More than 20 days prior to departure – 80% refund of full ticket price.
20 to 10 days prior to departure – 50% refund of full ticket price.
Less than 10 days prior to departure – NO REFUND.
We strongly recommend that you have comprehensive travel insurance. We ask you to fill out a disclaimer before you begin a Hiking Tour. You must follow the instructions of your guide at all times. World Nomads Travel Insurance provides online quotes.