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Hiking in New Zealand

By William on Fri, Jan 2nd 09 at 06:01PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

I just went on probably the most enjoyable hiking trip of my life.  It wasn't as adventurous as some, or as breathtakingly beautiful as others.  It was just fun.

The scenery, while not as spectacular as in South America, was gorgeous and varied tremendously.  One minute I'd be walking through a grassy valley along a sparkling clear river, then I'd go around a corner and find myself in a forest of ancient gnarled beech trees.  I might then cross a river and suddenly the entire forest floor is covered in huge ferns.

The first night I camped by myself, in a nice open forest area where the ground was so soft I could have slept without my ground pad.  It would have been perfect were it not for the one big nuisance to be found in New Zealand - Sand flies.

Sam and I had encountered them in small numbers before, little gnat-like flies that buzz all around your head, and really enjoy biting hands, feet and any other exposed skin they can get to.  We could bear them when camping from the car, but to be out in the woods surrounded by millions of them was nearly unbearable.  I frantically cooked my food while swatting at them and running around my campsite to keep from getting bitten and then when my food was finally done, grabbed it and jumped inside my tent for the night.  After that I decided I would be staying in the huts.

The entire second day I walked through a forest of beech trees where nearly everything was covered in moss.  The tree trunks, ground, rocks - everything.  I almost felt like I was in a different world, and not seeing anyone for hours, felt like I had the forest all to myself.  I kept picturing scenes from fantasy books I have read being played out in the woods around me.

On all of the major trails in New Zealand there are what they call "Backwoods Huts."  They are basically hostels in the middle of the wilderness, with bunks, sinks, and bathrooms.  You can sleep in one for 15 NZD a night, or camp outside and use the facilites for 5 NZD a night.  Which meant for less than 3 american dollars I could set up my tent outside, then go in and cook food out of the rain, and away from the sand flies.

It is an awesome system because I got to hike by myself all day, which I really enjoy, but at night I could stay at a nice place and enjoy the company of fellow travelers from all over the world.  Within 4 nights I met someone from Israel, Germany, Sweden, Australia, England, and the Czech Republic.  We had great fun chatting about the differences between our countries, playing cards, and telling of the things we'd seen hiking that day.

They have turned backpacking, which is mainly an activity done alone or just with friends, into a very social activity where it is easy to meet fellow hikers and like minded people.  It was a fantastic 5 days of hiking, which I will not soon forget, and it made me sad to be leaving New Zealand so soon.

Comments

Mom wrote on January 4th 09 at 04:09PM
Too bad about the sand flies, sounds like us trying to fish at the Partin's lake with knats everywhere. Your trip sounded wonderful, can't wait to see the pictures. Love You!!!
anna wrote on January 6th 09 at 05:33AM
William, I have continued to follow your adventures! I enjoy checking out the website almost everyday to see what is new. You guys are brave and awesome and so good to share your adventure with everyone who cares to check. Take care Love, Anna
stephen brown wrote on January 8th 09 at 11:33PM
William, Carol's family lives in Fortaleza, Brazil. I don't know if you plan on going there, but I could probably hook you up if you need anything there. Let me know. Cakes told me about this. I love it!
Jamie Powers wrote on January 9th 09 at 09:51AM
So cool! You describe it so well I felt like I was there! Sooo cool about the huts! Sorry abt the sand flies. Remember when the moth got in your cat that one time? ...yeah, I wouldn't have done well out there!
Dustin wrote on January 15th 09 at 03:58PM
Always funny and fits rather well with your experience.

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2009/01/11/120-taking-a-year-off/
David P wrote on January 17th 09 at 11:41PM
Hey William, good entry, the moss covered woods sounds amazing. Also cool to hear about them socializing the hiking experience!
Jenny wrote on January 19th 09 at 05:22PM
Nice trip, well planned! Good call on the backwood huts!
Markus wrote on January 30th 09 at 01:40AM
Good on ya' guys! For those of you who'd like to see what New Zealand backcountry huts look like, here are some photos http://www.skylark.co.nz/gallery2/v/nzw/kah/hut/
The incredible story of how two recent college grads are traveling around the world on an impossible budget.
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