Talanoa Treks goes tramping in NZ

“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart”…..Focus Marita, you’re supposed to be writing about our last Christmas trip tramping in NZ as a reflective lockdown activity.

People find it strange that we go hiking when we’re on holiday. ‘Isn’t that a lot like work?’

We set up a hiking company because we love hiking. On our trips to New Zealand, Patagonia, the US and the UK – all of which would involve hiking – we would return to Fiji and wonder why no one was making it easier to explore the fantastic trails in the interior here.

And so with the encouragement and guidance of village elders in the communities we partner with, Talanoa Treks was born. Six years on and we still love hiking in Fiji and on holiday. And conveniently, the off-season in Fiji coincides with the South Island in New Zealand’s main tramping season – the closest place we can escape to to get our fix of temperate, alpine treks and snow! No swimming in these waterfalls!

So when friends invited us to join them on their holiday to the Wanaka area we jumped at the chance to return to one of our favourite hiking destinations – and managed to persuade Gina to join us for a few days in the Matukituki Valley to see what all the fuss was about.

Early morning in the shade of the mountains
Early morning walking along the valley bottom

Mount Aspiring Hut would be our base for two nights giving us the option of walks along the valley floor or more challenging climbs into the hills, depending on what the weather was doing. Our luck was in and despite battling rain and headwinds on the hike to the hut, we woke the next day to bright blue skies – perfect conditions for something a bit more adventurous!

The first couple of hours along the valley bottom are straightforward as you edge closer to the towering mountain ranges above. We grabbed a quick snack and energy boost before the climb – which was just as well because there was no easing into it! The track made its intentions of putting our quads and glutes to the test pretty early on. We climbed steadily, thankful for all the tree roots to hang on to, a track reminiscent of the upper parts of our Mt Tomaniivi climb. As we reached the edge of the treeline, the track becomes more exposed and there is no escaping the spectacular views of just how far we’d climbed. Not one for those scared of heights! Going up required just leaning into the incline and pulling yourself up. Going down was going to be interesting!

Steep climb up from the valley, reminiscent of the route up Mt Tomaniivi
Under the canopy the steep track is reminiscent of climbing Mt Tomaniivi

Liverpool Hut – our target for the day for a lunch stop – is aptly coloured Liverpool red for the football supporters among us – and is precariously positioned on a flattened spur surrounded by peaks and with a perfect view of Mount Aspiring herself. The longdrop was out on a ledge in a spot that would be a popular instagram shot in a more accessible location.

The sun was out, and the weather showed no sign of turning, so a leisurely lunch on the deck felt pretty incredible

Toilet with a view, Liverpool Hut, Mt Aspiring Park, NZ
The toilet at Liverpool Hut has a commanding view

The descent was indeed slightly hairier, though accepting early on that spending most of it on your bum was a good strategy, helped. Another similarity to Tomaniivi.

We were back at the Hut by 5pm, and after an early dinner, the main challenge was staying awake until a respectable hour. It got to 8pm which felt late enough to crawl into our sleeping bags, despite the fact that it was still bright daylight outside, to rest some weary legs. Definitely one of our more memorable days hiking in New Zealand!

And a good initiation for Gina, who got to experience the excitement of the stunning alpine scenery on a sunny day, with a dose of realism of the headwinds and rain that New Zealand can throw at you any day of the year.

Her verdict? She’d come again! Her tips for new trampers included getting her layers right – which included base layers, quick dry sports tops, sports tights, a beanie, a windproof and waterproof jacket. Things she’d do differently? Invest in proper hiking or trail shoes – and some waterproof socks for the river crossings.

And as New Zealand looks to be getting things under COVID-19 control we’re exploring the possibility of offering future Talanoa Treks trips to New Zealand from November 2020 onwards. Watch this space!