When we sent the call out to our readers to share their experiences of the Great Walks for our December 2010 issue, we got plenty of replies. Most were what we wanted: reminiscences of time spent on New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. But amongst the nuggets, there were also a few lumps of coal.
‘Rakiura strikes me as a marketing ploy’ wrote one. While another complained that the Great Walks were ‘over-rated…too much DOC money is spent on them’. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and there’re many more out there who share these sentiments, but sensing we had, in our focus on the Great Walks, created a feature Wilderness purists wouldn’t appreciate as much as we had hoped, we decided to do something that we think will be right up their valley: ‘Five Great Walks you’ve (probably) never heard of’. We inserted the ‘probably’ because let’s face it, in a country the size of New Zealand and with a population as small as it is, there’s a pretty good chance that in fact you have heard of some of the walks. But there won’t be many who have heard of, let alone done, all five. If you have, any skiting emails and letters to the magazine will need to be accompanied by photographic evidence (verified by a JP).
My wife and I had planned to walk the Milford or Routeburn next year. Well, we might be rethinking our options now. Always fond of the beach and thanks to Shaun Barnett’s marvellous description (p30), I feel Pelin might prefer the Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway. And because queuing to use the loo – especially a backcountry loo – has never been high on her wishlist of things to do while travelling, we might snub the mega-crowds of the southern tracks for a more solitary deep-bush experience in Whirinaki Forest Park.
The walks we’ve selected for our feature aren’t Great Walks standard – the huts, where there are huts, are often basic, the tracks, where there are tracks, are often actually routes. More often than not you will absolutely need a map. You may even need crampons and ice axes. Even so, one or more will be achievable by anyone of any level of experience, and one or two will be achievable for only the more experienced parties. Whichever you do, or dream of doing, I’m sure you’ll agree they are amazing.
Of course, despite the country’s small size, there are thousands more unheralded kilometres of track out there to explore. They don’t have to be ‘Great’ or popular to get our attention or make us want to explore them. The fact they are there is reason enough.
All the best for your outdoor adventures in 2011.