Surprise! The next Great Walk is in… Southland.
You may think I’m being sarcastic, but I really am surprised. The announcement that the Hump Ridge Track will become the next Great Walk bumps the number of such walks in the deep south to five – two more than the number of Great Walks found in the entire North Island.
The reason I am surprised is because I had pinned my hopes – and expectations – on the Te Paki Coastal Track, near Cape Reinga, getting the nod. When the search for the next Great Walk began, one of the priorities was to find a suitable North Island track and the Te Paki was shortlisted. Oops, Far North, Deep South – easy mistake to make.
The reason for Te Paki being overlooked at this time is because there are issues to work through with Treaty of Waitangi partners. Fair enough and I hope they can be resolved. A Great Walk in the upper North Island will benefit local communities and provide an enhanced outdoor experience for those trampers – i.e. the majority – who live north of Taupo.
Another reason I was surprised the Hump Ridge Track was made a Great Walk is because of my experience walking it. But, my opinion of the track is a classic example of how conditions and gear can affect the experience. And, my opinion is in stark contrast to other people I’ve met who have walked it and absolutely raved about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time on the track when I walked it a few years ago. I loved hearing the history of the trail and how it helped Tuatapere recover from a devastating logging ban. I also enjoyed staying in the luxury of the private rooms, replete with double beds and duvets which meant I didn’t need to carry a sleeping bag.
But when I walked the trail, it was pouring with rain – for three days straight. There might be some lovely views from Okaka Lodge and from other viewpoints along the trail, but all I saw were wet shades of grey.
And by the end of the tramp, my feet were killing me. Each day on the Hump Ridge Track involves walking 20km over extremely hard surfaces – kilometres of boardwalks and former railroads. I literally hobbled into the car park on the third day.
But, I have to admit, this month’s cover photo has me thinking I’m being too hard on the track. It looks amazing.
Whatever your view of the walk, its upgrade to Great Walk status will bring further benefit to Tuatapere. The track has a wonderful story, a community behind it and that, as much as anything else, is Great.