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7 2017 Feb

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2017

What a perfect day we had for this adventure!  We certainly appreciated that fact when we found out that the day before had been unfavourable conditions and as it turned out, the day after was thick with fog!

We headed off from Auckland on a very hot, sunny afternoon and drove via Tirau to pick up the 4th member of our group.  Just a small group but the van was full of our chatter!

Walking in to the local pub with Mt Ruapehu to our left.

We arrived at our very comfortable, self-contained, holiday house and settled in before heading off to the local pub for dinner.  It was pretty much full of other trampers with very few kiwi accents that we could hear.  This was to be our experience on the crossing too, loads of other trampers and all seeming to be from different countries (and all much younger!) We all had an early night so that we could be up early and ready for our 6.45am shuttle van.

7.40am at the start of what turned out to be an almost 8 hr trek. (Lots of photo stops…)

We awoke to a lovely fine, clear day and joined the masses being transported to the start of the crossing.  Bus loads were being dropped off and we wondered what it was going to be like, all jostling for space on the track.  Luckily we did all span out and it was only at the toilets or the “slowly and carefully” parts of the track that we all ended up in queues.

 

On the boardwalk at the start.

 

The first part of the track is easy, boardwalks and pretty flat terrain.  From Soda Springs the track starts to climb up the long ascent known as the Devil’s Staircase, (I think there are a few walks in NZ with a Devil’s Staircase!)

 

 

On the climb up the Devil’s Staircase.

 

 

We were all very pleased to get to the top, have a rest, find somewhere out of the wind to have some food and then head up to the Red Crater. It was during this part that we all noticed a young man on a BMX bike trying to cycle the track!  Mind you, when we saw him he was carrying his bike and I’m sure he would have had to do that for a fair bit.

 

 

The awesome Red Crater! Photos just do not do it justice…

The red crater was absolutely stunning!  So dramatic, almost like something from another planet!  Deep, rich, dark blood red, rusty browns and ominous black walls steeply disappearing into this huge crater.  The fierce cold wind only added to it’s stark beauty.

The magnificent Emerald Pools.

Once again, we sheltered out of the wind whilst admiring the panoramic view.  From here it was a bit more of a climb and then below us was one of the most magical scenes of the whole trip,  the Emerald Lakes.  These honestly have to be seen to be believed.  All around us was this rocky, sparse terrain and in front of us was a huge scree slope heading down to where these 3 magical lakes sparkled and shone in turquoise splendour.  All around us people were taking advantage of the perfect conditions and taking photos and videos.

Slowly and carefully making our way down the scree slope.

We joined the long, slow procession carefully snaking down the crumbly, scree slope.  Many a slip was had but luckily no-one was seriously injured.

 

 

On our way down to Ketetahi car park with the Blue Lake ahead of us.

We walked across the vast Central Crater, the sun shining down, enjoying the ease of the track.  From here it was an easy walk to the Ketetahi Hut and it was about here that we realised that we didn’t have quite as much time left as we thought we did.  Despite starting to feel a little bit weary and foot sore, we needed to up the ante to make sure we were back by our pick up time of 3.30pm.

The track down through the alpine scrub and down into the forest is actually really lovely, especially with the pretty little river rushing alongside.  However, we didn’t get to really appreciate it due to the rush to get back in time! Needless to say, we made it back and thankfully settled in to the air-conditioned shuttle bus and drowsily nodded off on the ride back to National Park.

It had taken us almost 8hrs with lots of stops for rests and photos and we were all feeling very satisfied with ourselves.

Once we were showered and rested, we sat back with wine and nibbles and celebrated the day.  We ended up celebrating a bit too much, or maybe we were just too knackered, and decided to stay home instead of going down the road for dinner.  Yes, it was an early night that night too!

We woke the next morning to this!

And as I said at the start, look what we woke up to the next morning!  Thick fog that lasted all day, in fact, they closed down the track.  Were we feeling a little bit smug and pleased with ourselves that we had done the track YESTERDAY……..damn right we were!

 

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30 2016 Aug

Bay of Islands – August 2016

Well, what a weekend that was!  We had perfect weather, a great group of women, a lovely place to stay, an absolutely beautiful walk on both days…..the Bay of Islands really turned it on for us and definitely lived up to its reputation as the “winter-less north.”

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

What we hadn’t expected to happen was a broken ankle!!

A slight hollow in the track, a misplaced foot, the ankle turned and down Helen went, painfully landing on her bent leg with the ankle underneath her and, to make matters worse, it was her previously broken ankle!!

There were lots of “luckily’s” that then followed.  Luckily, we were very near a road end so we could get transport, luckily she could be piggy backed out, luckily there was a guy in a little dinghy who could take her the short distance from the track across the water to the little bay with the road end, luckily our taxi driver who I rang, was an ex ambulance driver and chairman of the St John’s, (it was quicker to get him than to send for an ambulance), luckily she could be easily lifted into the back of the taxi van and taken to nearby Kawakawa for x rays etc.

Needless to say, despite all the “luckily’s” she was gutted to have had the accident and missed out on the rest of the day’s hike from Paihia around to Russell.  We were very near Opua when it happened so a good 2 hrs into the hike. One of the other women, her cousin, went with her to Kawakawa and the rest of us continued on, catching the 5 min ferry from Opua over to Okiato and from there we walked to Russell.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

 

As I said earlier, we had perfect weather.  The sun was shining and one by one the thermal layers starting coming off.  We climbed up the bushy hillside, up and down along a ridge and back down lots of steps to the water’s edge.  We stopped for lunch at the end of a little jetty.  It was such a quiet and tranquil spot with a lovely little breeze that refreshed our sweaty brows.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

 

 

We continued on, along the boardwalks, beside the road and finally into the streets of Russell.  We were a pretty tired out bunch of women but also very pleased with ourselves and what we had done.

 

 

 

 

A happy but tired bunch of women.

A happy but tired bunch of women.

We caught the next ferry, met up with the 3 other women, (one of whom had just done a shortened version of our walk), commiserated with Helen who was now hobbling around on crutches and hopped into our vehicles and headed back to Auckland.  what an adventuresome weekend it had been!!

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18 2016 May

Great Barrier Island – May 2016

A rushed ride to the ferry and a panicked ride to the airport bracketed the beginning and the end of what was otherwise a fabulous four days of exploring  Great Barrier Island.

On our way into Tryphena from the ferry.

On our way into Tryphena from the ferry.

We left at 8am from the Sealink ferry terminal in Auckland for what was supposed to be a 4hr trip…….5 hrs later we arrived in Tryphena after a very choppy crossing with most of us feeling a bit green around the gills.

However, the sun was shining and the sea was now calm and sparkling beside us as we walked along the road into the little township of Tryphena.  Stopping at a General Store we bought some basic supplies for our meal that night and breakfast and lunch the next day.  We divvied up the food between us, squeezed it into our already full day packs and set off for the approximately 3 hr walk over to Medlands Beach, following the Kowhai Valley Track.

At the start of the Kowhai Valley Track.

At the start of the Kowhai Valley Track.

It was a long climb up Rosalie Bay Rd to the start of the track and by now the sun was slowly slipping towards the horizon.  We hoped we would get to our accommodation before dark.  Did we make it ………..well …… no. The last 10 minutes or so we walked along the road in the dark with our headlamps blazing before finally making it to Medlands Beach Backpackers.  It had been a long and eventful day and we were all ready for showers, dinner and an early night.  The bottle of wine that one of the women had stashed in her backpack went down a treat too!

looking out over Whangapoua. Just gorgeous.

Looking out over Whangapoua. Just gorgeous.

The next morning we were picked up by Lianne from GO Great Barrier and taken to the start of the Heretaonga Coastal Track.  This pretty track meanders gently around the hills overlooking the coast with all it’s stunning secluded bays and coves.

 

We couldn't resist stripping off for a swim.

We couldn’t resist stripping off for a swim.

We made it in plenty of time to our pick up spot at Heretaonga Bay so decided to check out the beach and couldn’t resist stripping off and running in for a very refreshing swim.  We couldn’t believe the water was so nice for May!

Lianne picked us up and drove us to our next accommodation at Crossroads Backpackers, stopping to look at the gorgeous views of the island along the way.  We were hosted by the very friendly and chatty Kate and Bruce.

Our evening at the local Sports bar.

Our evening at the local Sports bar.

Dinner that night was at the local Sports Bar which was pretty much right next door.  This was a  lovely big open plan wooden building with a big blazing fire, which wasn’t really necessary but added to the ambience. We all thoroughly enjoyed our evening there, chatting with the locals and of course the great food.

Day three and we were up, leisurely breakfasted in the sprawling comfy kitchen/dining room and off up the road to the start of the Te Ahumata Track that would take us up and over to Whangaparapara and our next accommodation at Great Barrier Lodge.

Quad stretch at the top of the Te Ahumata track.

Quad stretch at the top of the Te Ahumata track.

The Te Ahumata Track is an easy walk with an hour loop up to the look out at the top of the big flat ridge.  It was another lovely blue sky sunny day as we ambled along, chatting and laughing, enjoying the day. The view from the top, though slightly hazy, was still well worth the climb.

Our well deserved lunch at Great Barrier Lodge.

Our well deserved lunch at Great Barrier Lodge.

We strolled down the road and into Whangaparapara to the Great Barrier Lodge where I had phoned ahead to let them know we’d be wanting lunch.  I was so glad I had as we were all feeling pretty hungry and wolfed down the BLT’s, toasted sandwiches, moist carrot cake and plunger coffees!

Exploring the tranquil bay.

Exploring the tranquil bay.

Some rested after lunch and some of us went off kayaking, exploring the calm and tranquil bay. Tui’s sang from the nearby trees, the water was glassy and smooth as we silently paddled, absorbing the beauty.

Fresh snapper and salad for dinner, sitting out on the deck of one of the cabins, rugs over our knees, talking together, sharing our stories…… just perfect. Once again, I’d been blessed with such a lovely group of women to share another adventure with.

Heading off to the Hot Springs.

Heading off to the Hot Springs.

Our last morning on what was to be an exciting and almost disastrous day. We were up early and on the track to the Hot Springs by 7.30am.  We were running to a relatively tight schedule to get to the hot pools, have a soak and walk out to the road to be met by Steve, (Lianne’s husband) and taken to Claris to get our 12.30pm flight.

Loving these hot springs!

Loving these hot springs!

All went beautifully to plan, we had plenty of time for our walk, loved our long soak in the natural hot springs pool, got out to the road with 10 minutes to spare…… 40 minutes later we were still waiting!

We were starting to get worried as our flight would be leaving in half an hour and we still had to get the rest of our stuff from the Lodge which was in the opposite direction to the airport.  We managed to flag down a local and get them to ring Steve, (there was no phone reception where we were) and soon Steve turned up apologising profusely. He had read our pick up time as 1.30, not 11.30! A speedy dash to pick up our bags (as much as you can on the winding Great Barrier roads) and a then a return rush into Claris to the airport where we made it with 2 minutes to spare! As much as we all loved being over there we all had lives to get back to on the mainland.

We made it! Our flight back to Auckland.

We made it! Our flight back to Auckland.

We clambered into the little 8 seater plane and had a lovely flight back, (just ahead of a big storm, thankfully) marvelling at the beauty below us.

Goodbye Great Barrier.

Goodbye Great Barrier.

Once again, Great Barrier Island seduced us all with her beauty, her friendly locals, her laid back lifestyle and sense of New Zealand as it used to be.  I’ll be back again with another group next year, count on it!

 

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22 2015 Sep

Bay of Islands Tramping Weekend – Sept 2015

The forecast wasn’t looking that great for the weekend but we headed off anyway, feeling positive and optimistic that we’d cope anyway (and think of a Plan B just in case!)

We did a bit of a “tiki tour” on the way stopping at Kaiwaka to check out the huge kauri carvings at The Art Factory (well worth a look.)

From there we travelled up to Whangarei stopping for a delicious coffee break at the i site. They do these wonderful coffees with coconut milk and oil added to them….The tourist shop right next door proved to be a great little shopping spot and we all got some excellent bargains.

Whangarei Falls.

Whangarei Falls.

The next stop was the Whangarei falls just out of Whangarei and a very easy 10 min loop to check them out, (worth a look.)

 

 

BOI 2

The Hundertwasser toilet block in Kawakawa.

Our last stop was at Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser toilet block (again, well worth a look.)

 

 

From there it was just a short distance to Paihia.

Haruru Falls.

Haruru Falls.

Lunch, (according to my itinerary), was to have been on the beach but with the rain spitting down we decided maybe not, and went to a cafe instead.  From there we caught a taxi up to Te Haruru Falls and followed the track out to Waitangi and back into Paihia, walking in the pouring rain!

Dinner out in Paihia.

Dinner out in Paihia.

Showered and warm and dry, we headed out for dinner in Paihia and then back to our motel for a good night’s sleep before our big walk the next day.

 

We walked on coastal pathways….

The morning dawned bright and blue skyed but with big black clouds on the horizon. By 9am we were breakfasted and on the coastal track from Paihia to Opua.

The full circle day walk is a delightful mixture of coastal pathways, beach walking across little bays, bush tracks, boardwalks and through the streets of Russell.

                                             across pretty little bays…..

through beautiful bush.....

through beautiful bush…..

 

 

 

 

 

From Opua we caught the 5 min ferry over to Okiato and on to Russell.

BOI 9

along boardwalks in the rain……

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were on again, off again with our rain gear as rain clouds came and quickly went.

Happy little trampers!

Happy little trampers!

In Russell we only had 2 minutes to spare to catch the ferry (or wait for another 40 min).  Big ice-creams finished the day off nicely and we clambered back into the van for the trip back to Auckland (no tiki touring this time.) It had been an excellent weekend, spitty, showery rain and all!

 

 

 

 

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3 2015 Mar

Great Barrier Island Adventure – Feb 2015

There I was sitting up the front of the little 6 seater plane, (we’re talking ‘front’ as in right next to the pilot with my own little steering wheel and foot pedals wiggling away in front of me) zooming down the runway and lifting off into the bright blue sunshiney sky! I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face but managed to stop myself whooping out loud! What a thrill – I can see why people get into learning to fly!

Climbing into our little plane.

Climbing into our little plane.

Due to some unfortunate last minute cancellations there was just the 3 of us heading over to Great Barrier Island for 4 days tramping. And what glorious 4 days they were! Perfect weather conditions, absolutely stunning scenery, awesome tracks, lovely friendly locals, quirky accommodation, beautiful swimming, kayaking, wining, dining……we had it all!

 

Coming in to land at Claris

Coming in to land at Claris

 

Flying out over the Hauraki Gulf was amazing…seeing and identifying all the different islands below us then watching as Great Barrier Island came closer and closer. Before we knew it we were bumping over the grassy runway at Claris. It seems the tar sealed runway is for take-offs and the grass is for the landings….

 

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

 

We were picked up by the very friendly and informative Lianne from Go Great Barrier Island shuttle service and taken over to Medlands Beach where we started our first track, the Kowhai Valley Track, over to Tryphena where we were to stay the night. We had a steep climb up and then over the ridge and down the gravelly road into Tryphena. At the top of the climb there was this cute little art gallery “Top of the Rock” with some lovely art pieces and photography and an honesty box for you to pay for what you bought. Not often you see that these days….especially in an art gallery!

 

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

We stayed at one of the oldest establishments on the island, The Innkeepers Lodge at the Irish Pub which as far as accommodation goes, has seen better days, though the pub was great and had a few locals sitting there strumming and singing with their guitars.

 

 

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

The next morning we were picked up and taken up near the top of the island to do the Harataonga Coastal Track and it was absolutely stunning! Beautiful bay after beautiful bay…..it was almost a case of, what, another stunning bay! The track was easy and meandered gently up and down overlooking the bright turquoise sparkling blue ocean.

 

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Lianne was waiting for us at Harataonga bay, (another gorgeous bay) and took us to Claris and our accommodation at Wiltshire Manor (a rather pretentious name) but still very comfortable and cosy accommodation. We can highly recommend the museum there that the owner, David, has built and put together. You could easily spend a couple of hours just reading and looking at all the stuff he has there.

 

That evening as we strolled along the road to ‘The Club’ for dinner, a local woman picked us up and gave us a lift and then on the way home we got another ride in the back of a ute (and we weren’t even hitching. :))

We climbed up and over this - Te Ahumata.

We climbed up and over this – Te Ahumata.

We were up bright and early the next morning for the Te Ahumata Track which would take us over to Whangaparapara. We ended up getting a lift to the start of the track with Lianne and a van load of other trampers. Apart from this group, we saw no-one on the tracks the whole time we were over there. This track took us right up to the top of a flat topped rocky precipice which looked way harder than what it actually was, and the views……..INCREDIBLE!

 

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge - so tranquil...

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge – so tranquil…

We sauntered down the road into Whangaparapara; tui’s whistling, cicada’s singing, sun sparkling on the water, the gentle lapping of the sea….paradise…. We sat on the rolling green lawn in front of the Gulf Harbour Lodge and basked in the beauty, letting the calm tranquility soak into our souls. After a leisurely picnic lunch and a good rest under the big pine tree, we took the kayaks out for an exploratory paddle around the bay and into the inlet. A lovely refreshing swim later, a shower and a fresh change of clothes and a cold, crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting on our deck in the late afternoon sun, completed a beautiful day.

 

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs - bliss!

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs – bliss!

Our last track, before we flew out at lunchtime the next day, was along the Tramline Track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. We set off just before 8am in the soft early morning light along the wide easy old tramline track, up some steeper hills and across some trickling streams. The hot springs were just heavenly and we were so glad that it was a cloudy day as it would have been too hot if the sun had been shining! We wallowed and totally relaxed in the hot mineral water, no-one else there, just us. A very easy, almost wheel chair friendly track, took us out to the road where Steve, Lianne’s other half, met us and dropped us off at the Claris airport.

Great Barrier Island had worked its magic on us and we were three very chilled out, happy and relaxed women as we boarded the plane back to Auckland. Don’t worry if you missed out on this trip, I’ll definitely be doing it again!  Check out the photo gallery for more photos.

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18 2015 Jan

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2015

Heading off in the shuttle van to the start of the Tongariro crossing on a mild, sunny, blue sky morning, we were quite sure the met service had got the weather report wrong. It wasn’t going to rain, even our driver said we had more chance of getting sunburnt than wet…….. how wrong we all were!

Heading towards Soda Springs.

Heading towards Soda Springs.

 

We strolled along the easy pathway and board walks, enjoying the tussocky landscape, stopping to peel of layers as the day heated up and being overtaken by literally hoards of other trampers.  Luckily the track is long enough to sort of disperse them, until you get to the toilet sheds and the steep rocky bits! People were dressed in all manner of clothing….some wearing and carrying very little which was quite worrying to see especially later on when the weather turned.

 

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

We took it slowly up the steep, many staired Devil’s Staircase, pausing to admire the views, have something to eat and marvel at all the people dotted here and there…..  We stopped long enough at the top at Red Crater to oooh and ahhh at the crater, take photos and then get a move on as it was pretty darn cold and windy.  The layers were back on and we were all very pleased to have all the thermals and rain gear ready in our packs.  The cloud closed in and a persistent  drizzle started up that kept going pretty much all the way to the end. Eating sandwiches in the rain isn’t much fun and can make for a soggy lunch!

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

We stopped at the Ketetahi Hut, as did scores of others, and quickly backed out of the warm, damp smelling fug of wet bodies huddled in there out of the rain.  We continued on down the never ending zig zag track through the tussock dotted with alpine daisies, through the stunted ti trees and down into the leafy green forest.  We were hurrying now, on a mission to get to the car park before our shuttle left at 3.30pm.  We got there just in time….well 5 min late and it was a relief to finally sit down and rest our sore feet.

 

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

 

 

 

Back at our ‘Book a Batch’ accommodation we got showered and cleaned up and enjoying a wine or two before we headed out to dinner.  It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day despite the weather.  In fact, I think the weather kind of added to the enjoyment of the day.

7am, Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them.

Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them. Looks quite easy from here!

 

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1 2013 Jul

Bay of Islands Tramping Weekend – June 2013

Saturday morning 8.30am and my van was loaded and packed with 7 other women and our gear for our tramping weekend in the Bay of Islands – and what a perfect weekend it was!

We arrived at the Base X backpackers (they had a great deal of; accommodation, free glass of beer or wine – and we’re talking a good healthy sized glass of wine – and a really good hearty BBQ), we got ourselves settled in and strolled ofBay of islands June 2013 039f into Paihia for our packed lunch sitting on the wharf watching the busyness. After lunch we literally “hitched” a ride with a friendly local tour opBay of islands June 2013 041erator who took us up to the top of the Haruru Falls.  With all the rain we’ve been having the falls were very impressive.  We learnt that Haruru Falls is one of only two waterfalls in the world that is horseshoe shaped.  The other one is Niagra Falls…..just a bit bigger!  We walked along the very pretty track and out onto the Waitangi Reserve where we visited the grounds and the Treaty house.

A PD (pre-dinner drinks) stop at Shippey’s Bar on the old Tui boat was very welcome, before we continued on our walk back to the backpackers.

Some of us had a not very hot spa 🙁 before our delicious BBQ meal of steak, sausages, baked potatoes and salads.

Highlight of the day – the 2 lt tub of ice-cream drizzled with Kahlua shots that we all shared!

The next morning we were up bright and early, it was a very chilly morning, there was even ice on my van….I didn’t know they got ice up in the “winterless north!”

After a good Bay of islands June 2013 050healthy breakfast we were off on our 6 hr Full Day Circle Walk.Bay of islands June 2013 045

Starting from Paihia, we strolled around the waterfront, along the beach, over rocks and followed a coastal path as it meandered around some very pretty little bays and into Opua.  A coffee stop at the local general store right on the wharf and then we caught the 5 min car ferry over to Okiato.   From there the walk was easily signposted.  There were a few hilly bits as walked through the bush track but nothing too challenging at all.

We came out to a lovely little bay, “Orongo Bay” where we stopped for our packed lunch.  It was one of those stunning sunny, calm and clear mid winter days.Bay of islands June 2013 053

 Around the bay a bit further and heading for Russell was the ‘boardwalkey’ bit.  Lots of lovely long boardwalks that made for very easy strolling along. Bay of islands June 2013 056  A little bit of road walking before we were back on the track and coming in to Russell.  We then ambled easily along Florence Ave and right into the heart of Russell.  Russell is such a pretty little place, hard to believe it was once the “hell hole of the Pacific!”

Within half an hour wBay of islands June 2013 060e were on the ferry and on our way back over to Paihia.  This was definitely a walk I would highly recommend.

Highlight of the day – sitting on the little jetty eating our lunch in the sun in such a beautiful little bay.

19 2013 Mar

Kepler Track Hike – Milford Sound Te Anau, New Zealand

19 2013 Mar

NZ Tramping Video

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19 2013 Mar

Debbies Top Tramping Tips

Independent Hiking in New Zealand

Independent hiking, tramping or walking is a very popular activity in New Zealand; something you need to consider if you are planning an overnight hike.

Throughout the New Zealand summer (December – February) and school holidays, many top tracks – especially Great Walks like the Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track and Abel Tasman Coastal Track – are in high demand, so it pays to book hut accommodation well in advance. Read more→