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Days: 7 days
(River crossings, some uneven terrain, you need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic)
Start/Finish: 7:00am, pick up zone outside Sky City, 20m from Sky Tower base, corner Victoria and
Federal Streets, Auckland (Rotorua pickup by arrangement)
Wellington 3:30pm (approx.). Option to bus or train to Auckland from National Park (not included).
November 2018: 20
Period 1st Sep 18 - 31st Aug 19
We head south to Rotorua, with a café stop at 9am for those who missed breakfast.Rotorua is renowned for its steaming thermal vents, bubbling mud-pools and stunning lakes. The area is also rich in Māori and early European history, including the violent 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption that buried a Māori village.
We enjoy a quick stop by Lake Rotorua before heading away from the beaten track – southeast into the Whirinaki. This huge park preserves a remnant of the vast forests believed to have covered the super-continent of Gondwanaland more than 150 million years ago.
After a picnic lunch we hike a loop beside the stunning Whirinaki River, exploring ancient podocarp trees on our way to a waterfall. We stay in the counytryside with a mix of camping and simple cabins. Often, we’re the only people here. We cook a meal together and chill out by the flames of the outdoor brazier. Includes lunch and dinner.
In the morning we drive east, into the rugged forest ranges of Te Urewera. This is the traditional home of the Tūhoe (Māori tribe) and one of the last places to have been reached by European settlers.
After two hours winding through the most incredible rain forest, we reach the western arm of remote Lake Waikaremoana. We continue to the end of this lake before stopping for a picnic lunch.
After packing our backpacks for the first hike, a water taxi skims us across the lake towards the trail, which forms part of one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. We usually drop our packs at the lake-side hut or at the campsite above a small beach before hiking for two hours to a pretty waterfall.
Upon our return, we set up camp and cook a meal together. This is a time to bask in our surroundings – the tranquil lake, the ancient forest and mountains, the song of native birds. On a still evening we might hear the call of the kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This morning we shoulder our packs and ready ourselves for some spectacular views.
We climb up the Panekiri Range through bright green tawa and beech forest until we’re 500 metres above the lake. From here, we hike along the range offering breath-taking vistas for many kilometres north, south and west.
Stopping at Panekiri Hut, we devour a well-earned lunch before following an undulating trail along the ridge through gnarled beech forest, passing many brilliant viewpoints before descending to a road.
A 20-minute early evening drive takes us to a camping area with sweet little cabins. Here we relax, sit on the nearby wharf and enjoy a drink. We cook a meal together in the communal kitchen. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Today we drive southwest to the Taupo volcanic plateau, stopping for lunch and to explore an extraordinary thermal park (price included).
We stop to bathe in a natural hot river, one of those secret spots known only to locals. We also stop at Huka Falls, where we feel the spray of New Zealand’s longest river, the mighty Waikato, as it plunges 11 metres into a deep circular basin.
Later we arrive at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. Incredibly, this 600 square kilometre crater lake was formed in 186 AD by the most powerful volcanic explosion in recorded history.
At Taupo we either grab takeaway food (own cost) or rustle up a quick ‘trailer’ meal at a lovely lake-side spot. Here we can relax on the unusual pumice beach or enjoy an evening swim. We might catch a pretty sunset before driving the last hour to Tongariro National Park. Includes breakfast and lunch.
We’ve entered the oldest national park in New Zealand and the fourth-oldest in the world – a UNESCO mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Site.
Although many hikers walk the busy one-day Tongariro Alpine Crossing, only a fraction explore the remote and drier east side of this volcanic range like we are about to do, and almost no one does the side trips and short cuts that we know about. Rest assured that we will hike the famous Crossing – considered one of the world’s finest day walks – and that we will aim to do this when less people are walking it.
After arriving at the trail start, we hike through waving tussock-grasslands near soaring volcanoes to a hut set in native beech forest. Here we lunch before traversing stony deserts to an alpine hut at 1400m, on the edge of an old lava flow. We stop to enjoy fantastic views of the Park’s three main peaks: Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. The latter starred as Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. It’s an extraordinary landscape of active volcanoes and lava valleys.
Evening provides an opportunity to share an alpine hut with hikers from all over the world. We usually sleep in the hut, but very occasionally camp. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We hike through a moon-like valley of lava flows and ash fields before climbing steeply to the remarkable Emerald Lakes, which have graced the covers of many guidebooks.
From here we join the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The next few hours of hiking take us through an unforgettable wonderland of lava valleys, steaming craters and brooding volcanoes before our descent through bonsai-like alpine foliage and mineral-infused streams. In good conditions, we have the option of climbing high on the volcanic peaks.
An evening drive takes us to a lodge in the heart of the National Park – the perfect place to relax with a beer and enjoy million-dollar volcanic views before dining in the alpine village. Includes breakfast and lunch.
We begin the day checking out the informative Park Visitor Centre before it’s time to go.
Those of us heading north to Auckland can be dropped at National Park Village mid-morning for today’s bus or tomorrow’s train.
Those of us driving south will leave the volcanoes to descend through the beautiful river valleys of the Rangitikei and along the coast to Wellington, where we arrive mid-afternoon after a café break.
Wellington is so much more than New Zealand’s stylish capital, as it is also the nation’s hub for arts, culture, cafés and politics. Enclosed by hills and a harbour, this compact city has many attractions within easy walking distance.
Options include enjoying the quality exhibits of the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) or watching the political shenanigans of the ‘Beehive’ (Parliament House). Many visitors immerse themselves in the vibrant café scene and the accessible downtown area. Includes breakfast.
Note: Returning to Auckland by bus or train? Contact us for the latest timetable information.
Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days.
Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26lbs) on some days*.
Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft) per day.
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings.
No multi-day hiking experience necessary.
Agility and fitness required.
You need to be reasonably fit and enthusiastic.
Terrain mostly tracks. Some may be slippery or rough; some off-track hiking and river crossings.
*Will vary depending on the weight of personal discretional items.
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 times 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 North 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, lodges 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.
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.
Lodges - You will stay in lodge type accommodation on some of the nights, the lodges are often conveniently located near the start or end of a hike and have multi-share and sometimes twin/double rooms.
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 that are not included in the trip price are detailed at the bottom of each day’s itinerary.
Optional activities: There are normally no additional activities on the Ultimate North. All activities are included in the price: Thermal Park and Lake Waikaremoana boat cruise
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.
Can I do more than one kiwi-style hiking Tour?
Yes. The Ultimate North has been designed in conjunction with the Ultimate South to make the complete package which we call the Ultimate New Zealand.
Does everyone get involved with camp duties?
Everyone is fully involved with the running of the Ultimate North, 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 this 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 a 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 trip?
Yes, at least once, usually half way through. 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.