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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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31 2016 Jul

Tiritiri Matangi – July 2016

Well, who would have thought it…….?  The weather forecast wasn’t looking too good and it was touch and go whether the trip to Tiritiri Matangi Bird Sanctuary was going to be called off or not, but it turned out pretty much to be a perfect winter’s day!

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

If you’ve never been to this island bird sanctuary, if you’ve never heard the sound of what the New Zealand bush must have sounded like way – way back, then I definitely recommend a trip to Tiritiri!

Listening to the birds.

Listening to the birds.

We were all overwhelmed at times by the beautiful and very loud song and calls of all the different native birds. At times it was so noisy you had to raise your voice to be heard by the person next to you!

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Once we arrived, we were given a 2hr very informative guided walk about the history of the island, the birds and the native plants and trees.  Although we didn’t actually go very far on the walk, we saw so much and were constantly stopping to see the many tui, bell birds, saddlebacks, robins, kereru ……

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

After our lunch there was only time to go for a bit of an explore before we caught the ferry back to Gulf Harbour, (it only takes half an hour) and Auckland, (another 50 min away from Gulf Harbour.) The weather was starting to change, it was getting cold and windy, but it was a pretty calm trip back.   We were all feeling like we’d like to go back again for another visit and more of a look around.

I’m definitely thinking about taking a group over for an overnight trip.  There’s a lodge you can stay in there. Staying overnight means you can do a night walk to see the kiwi (hopefully) and the tuatara. The night sky apparently is incredible so there’d be some star gazing and then in the morning we’d be up early to hear the dawn chorus.  Sounds like a great weekend trip doesn’t it?!  Keep an eye out for it coming up in the summer months.


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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.)




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.


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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18 2014 Feb

“Glamping” on the Queen Charlotte! Feb 2014

If you want to combine fine wining and dining and sleeping in white sheets and pillows with 4 full days of tramping in one of THE MOST picturesque places in New Zealand, then doing the Queen Charlotte track as we did it, is the way to go!!

Day 1:   Arrival Day

QCS Track 002

Wining and dining at Twelve Trees Restaurant at Allan Scott’s Winery in Blenheim. Very nice!

We started off our luxury adventure with lunch at Allan Scott’s Winery in Blenheim before heading over to Picton and staying the night at Sequioa Lodge Backpackers.

Julie helped me to buy a huge big load of groceries at the local supermarket and then pack it into boxes for the various days on the track.  We were to make our own breakfasts, most lunches and a couple of evening meals to keep the costs down.

Day 2:   Ship’s Cove to Endeavour Inlet – 16km – 5hrs

Up early the next morning we loaded the van full of our suitcases, day-packs and food boxes.  On this track you get your bags transported to your accommodation by taxi-boat, all we had to carry was our day-packs.

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Imagine trying to carry this lot! So glad we just had our day-packs to carry.

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Our lovely Chalet accommodation at Furneaux Lodge.

Our taxi-boat transported us to the start of the track at Ship’s Cove and we walked around to Endeavour Inlet, about 5 hrs away, stopping on the way for lunch.  Our accommodation at Furneaux Lodge had been upgraded to the Chalet accommodation which was VERY NICE!  Our bags and food boxes were there waiting.


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Tip toeing over the stones into the water. So nice and refreshing!



After a refreshing swim we continued relaxing, doing some group stretching and chatting together.  Gourmet meals at the Furneaux Lodge Restaurant, a visit to see the gloworms and then off to bed in our white sheets… manky sleeping bags on this adventure!




Day 3:   Endeavour Inlet to Punga Cove – 11 km –  5hrs

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Looking across Endeavour Inlet to Furneaux where we had just stayed. The colour of the sea was incredible.

After a leisurely breakfast we headed off on this lovely easy walk to Punga Cove full of breathtaking views.  The sun was shining, (as it did every day on this adventure) the birds were singing (ditto above) and we were all happily chatting away as we strolled along admiring the views…….

We arrived at Punga Cove, ordered our Pizza’s and salads and sat in the shade sipping on cold drinks while our waitress brought us our food……

We spent the afternoon either sitting in the spa chatting ,  swimming in the pool or the sea, sitting on the little wharf eating an ice-cream and reading a book or resting under a tree….


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Enjoying our wine and nibbles before dinner.


Wine and nibbles in the late afternoon sun and Nacho’s with salad and lemon meringue for dessert finished off a perfect day.

The easy day walking and the restful afternoon were needed before our big tramp the next day.




Day 4: Punga Cove to Portage Bay – 24 kms –  8.5 hrs

QCS Track 023

The 360 views at the lookout were well worth the climb to get there!

A long hot day today!  We climbed out of Punga Cove and up onto the ridge where we had stunning views of inlets on both sides.  An extra climb up to a lookout point along the way was well worth the effort and was a lovely stop for morning tea.

There were lots of little stops along the way to take yet another photo, or have a drink (we needed lots of water) or to have a little rest.  We all loved our sandwiches that we made every morning and sooo looked forward to our lunch breaks.

After arriving at our accommodation at Treetops, we showered and headed down the hill to the cafe at the Portage Bay Resort for our tea.  We were all feeling quite tired so it was an early night.

Day 5:   Rest Day

QCS Track 031

Words honestly fail to describe how perfect our morning’s kayaking was.

Ahhhhh, the sheer bliss and beauty of kayaking in absolutely perfect conditions.  There was not a breath of wind, the sea was glassy and soooo still and calm.  The sun shone and sparkled on the water.  We paddled and we just sat….and soaked it all in.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing……..more wine and nibbles later in the day, lots of laughter and chatting and another delicious “home cooked meal.”  Tomorrow was going to be our last day on the track and we needed to be up early and on the track by 7.30am in order to be there waiting for our taxi-boat at 3.30pm.

Day 6:   Portage Bay to Anakiwa – 20km – 6.5 hrs

By the end of our walk today we were convinced that the DOC signs had an added hour or so onto their times as we made it to Anakiwa with 2 hrs to spare.  There is a little shop caravan at the end of the trail so we all enjoyed our reward of ice-creams, cold drinks or a coffee.

QCS Track 053We had walked 71km over 4 days with a rest day added in the middle.  The days were simply perfect and the views, the tranquility and absolute beauty of the Queen Charlotte Sounds totally won us all over .

Yes, the “glamping’ added an extra element of fun and ease to the walk but in no way did it detract from what is, we believe, one of New Zealand’s finest walks.

For more photos, check out the album in the Photos Gallery.

PS:  I’ve already “pencilled in” some of the accommodation for Feb or Mar 2015.  So if you missed out this year, then don’t worry, I’ll definitely be doing it next year!




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→