It’s hard to believe that I have been living in New Zealand for over 6 months now. I have been aiming to write a blog for the international page for months… this is testament to how busy life has been. I have been studying at the University of Otago in Dunedin (named after the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann) and I could not recommend it more. Located in the striking landscape of the South Island, there is no better place for someone who loves the outdoors. Having not really done much hiking, or tramping as it’s called in NZ, I have decided to write this blog about a new passion of mine.
Tramping is one of the major attractions of the South Island and I have been lucky enough to do some of the “great walks” of New Zealand and other amazing day hikes. In July, myself and a group of friends decided to climb Roy’s Peak which gives stunning views of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring. None of us had quite appreciated that it was middle of winter and we would be going 1,578m up. It’s safe to say I would not recommend to anyone to do this hike in the winter! There were some hairy moments and many falls but it made for a good adrenaline rush and a huge sense of achievement (once we had all made it down in one piece). Another standout tramp was a day hike up Ben Lomond in Queenstown, 8 hours in total and 1,438m of elevation, we persevered in freezing cold and hit snow pretty early on, but this did not stop us. The views going up of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountain range made us forget our sore thighs and tired lungs. We felt on top of the world, and again being the middle of winter, there was no one else on the track, it was incredible.
In the mid-semester break a group of us thought we would head to the infamous west coast and try out one of the “great walks”. We woke up at 5am and headed to the Kepler Track, packs full and sleeping bags clipped in, we intended to hike the 6 hours to Luxmore Hut where we would spend the night. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and the snow started to roll in. We checked the forecast and it was meant to be even worse the next day and the avalanche risk was on high, at this point we decided to count our losses and head back down. This made for a pretty gruelling 12-hour walking day! The views from the track of the Fiordland National Park were unforgettable and the sleet even created a rainbow for us to enjoy on the way down.
I can confirm that tramping in the summer is much more achievable and certainly much safer. I was lucky enough to have two friends from the UK join me in December and we completed the 16km return tramp to Isthmus Peak which straddles Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, giving some pretty spectacular views. The only downside to the summer tramping scene is the amount of people who suddenly join you on the tracks. There is certainly an increased sense of adventure in the winter months when you can go hours without seeing a soul.