Tramping means hiking or trekking to a New Zealander – a term which the British seem to think is done in the streets or by those of loose or questionable morality. Among outdoor enthusiasts and hikers, New Zealand boasts some of the greatest walking trails in the world and have classified the most accessible as ‘Great Walks. The parks, trails, and over 900 huts with running water, a fireplace, foam mattresses and toilet facilities are taken care of by the Department of Conservation (DOC).
My wife and I wanted to check out Abel Tasman National Park, one of the ‘Great Walks’. It was the low season and I knew the park would be quiet so we hopped into our Kiwi friend’s car, drove out to the parking lot but along the way he explained about the tramper’s unwritten code of conduct – keep the huts clean – sweep up – replace the firewood when you leave as trampers may arrive wet and cold, and pack out all your rubbish.
The first day we spent alone tramping along the pristine beaches, watching penguins, seagulls and cormorants. The trail would turn into the rain forest next to the beach and cross stunningly clear fresh water creeks over wire and wooden bridges. The wide and smooth trail would then wind back to the three km of fine sand beach. We hiked fast but not as fast as the Kiwis in their short shorts, Kevin Bacon would call them ‘budgie smugglers’. At the end of the long tramping day we had a relaxing evening in the warm secluded beach hut. With the soft fire light flickering through the glass door of the wood stove we ate a massive Parmigiano pasta with garlic vegetables, and lay on the stacked mattresses letting the exhaustion and the calming sound of waves carry us off to sleep.
On the second day the rain drizzled while we sipped espresso in the hut. The mornings walk along the well hard packed gravel trail passed an abundance of bird life, palms, ferns, grasses, rain forest, and day walkers. Quickly walking through the wilderness I thought that this trail was better than some city sidewalks with more fantastic scenery and not as many sex workers. The trail climbed up hillsides through temperate fern filled jungle landscapes then down again to cross a river and then back up another hill. I was running out of energy, it was time for a refuelling. A quick stop in the shelter of some trees out of the rain for hot coffee, muesli bars and the last of the chocolate was enough to lift our energy levels to hike the last hour.
Since the Abel Tasman tramp is part of the “Great Walks” it can be very popular in high season. This post may sound like a pitch for NZ tourism but it is not I actually had to pay ninety dollars for a six month hut pass. I tramped eleven other tracks for a combined total of 48 nights and 700 km of tramping. New Zealand’s national parks are gorgeous and the work that DOC is doing to maintain the walks and huts is absolutely top-notch.