Greenstone River - Glenorchy NZ
The weekend family trip to the new Greenstone hut reminded me that tramping is not always about scaling peaks or stomping long tracks. Sometimes, moving at a slower pace, seeing the ‘wanderlust’ on ‘newbies’ faces and hanging out with some ‘younguns’ can be an experience in itself.

Jill and Ray were our ‘Camp Mum and Dad’ for the weekend and somehow they kept all 17 trampers relatively organised. Having taken the van to the trailhead on Friday night and pitched our tents, on Saturday morning we walked along the shores of Lake Wakatipu and headed inland towards Lake Rere.

Shauna @ Sam Summers Hut
Queenstown, in Central Otago, has just over 27,500 permanent residents and accommodates an astounding 1.9 million visitors every year. Known for its commercially orientated tourism industry, on the surface, it seems that the town has been designed for adrenalin thrill seekers, snow enthusiasts, and wine connoisseurs. However, there is a lot more to Queenstown than bungy jumping, snow sports and a 24/7 nightlife.

Ten kilometres along the Glenorchy Road is the start of the Mt Crichton walkway. I went on an adventure Shauna and Gareth Roughley of Roughley Originals Photography and Leah of Leah Travels. We discovered that you can stroll past the remnants of a Chinese gold mining village, wander through a sluiced canyon, and after 45 minutes walking through the forest, explore a fully restored gold miners hut. 

Sarah Bond - Mt Luxmore
The Kepler Track is a true circuit and the start is within walking distance from Te Anau township. Most people take three or four days to do walk the track and make the most of Gucci facilities at Luxmore Hut, Iris Burn and Moturau hut.  

I wondered if there was some irony in the name as Johannes Kepler, a 17th Century German astronomer discovered that planets travel in an elliptical orbit. Turns out, it was James McKerrow - an early surveyor, who named the Kepler range in 1862, long before the track was built.

Geoff and I decided to go adventuring out at the Taieri Mouth and we wandered up to the John Bull picnic area. The name Taieri has its origins in the Māori word ‘taiari’ which means 'spring tide', and at 200 kilometres in length this is the fourth longest river in New Zealand.

The headwaters are up in the Lammerlaw Range and the waterway winds around the Rock and Pillars before crossing the Taieri Plaines and melding with the Pacific Ocean, some 30 kilometres south of Dunedin. Middlemarch, Outram, Mosgiel, Henley and Taieri Mouth are all small townships dotted along the river, and the water flow generates power at Patearoa and Maniototo. The Taieri also feeds Lake Waihola, and Taieri Lake, both popular holiday destinations.

Looking back into ancient times, moa bones have been found on the rivers muddy banks, and during the early 18th century, there were two Māori pa’s in the area. The Tititea tribe had a fortified pa at Taieri Mouth and the Tukiauau people had their pa on the edge of Lake Waihola. Some gold was found in the river during the gold rushes but nothing compared to Gabriel’s claim. Farmers have worked the Taieri Plains since the 1860’s, making use of the southern regions most fertile farmland. Names like Jeffery and Milne are synonymous with early agrarian efforts in the area.

The John Bull picnic area is about 1½ hours walk along a DOC track that starts at Taieri Mouth. The picnic area was named in honour of the ‘Hermit of Taieri Mouth’, whose real name was John Edward O’Neil. After doing some research I can only assume that the tag line ‘Bull’ came from ‘The Hermit’s’ immense strength. John was known to do almost anything for a wager; he made some extra coin by proving that he could carry a five hundredweight cannon ball from the Otago Heads to the Māori kaike, and a sack of flour from Dunedin to Clutha.

Today, the first twenty kilometres of the Taieri River is navigable by boat, which makes the John Bull Picnic Area popular with both boaties and trampers. When we had our lunch at a railway sleeper table at the water’s edge, speed boats, kayaks and jet skies all floated by as we munched on our sandwiches.

John Bull Gully can also be reached via the Otago Regional Council’s Millennium Track which has a somewhat gentler gradient compared to the Taieri River Track. However, the views from the lookout high on the hill reveal the river mouth and Taieri Island and make the uphill slog worth it.

Conservation is not just about protecting the ‘real scenery', such as the mountains and glaciers, it is also about the lowland forests and wetlands. The Waiho flats, near Franz Josef Glacier village, were once covered in thick kahikatea forest. Today, after the clear felling to create farmland in the early 20th Century, only 2% of the native forest and wetland is left.

In 2010, the Nature Heritage Fund, purchased the 378 hectares adjacent to the mouth of the Waiho River at the edge of the Tasman Sea. This section of virgin kahikatea forest and wetlands, ticked all the Fund’s requirements, and it is now managed by the Department of Conservation as the Waiho Forest Scenic Reserve. You can cycle or walk through the virgin lowland kahikatea forest to the Tasman Sea, and gain a whole different perspective of the enormity of the Southern Alps.

Drive down Waiho Flat road, past South Westland Horse Treks and the Air Safaris airport. If you have a 4WD, and Docherty’s creek is low you can drive to the start of the Waiho Forest track. Be warned that Docherty’s creek can rise quickly, so be careful not to get trapped on the other side. If your vehicle is not that robust, park at Docherty’s Creek, and walk or cycle past the farm buildings to the first intersection. If you go straight ahead you can follow the 4WD track to the beach, if you turn left, you will see the sign at the start of the Waiho Forest Walk.

Follow the old forestry road from the start of the Waiho Walk, through the regenerating bush to Neil’s Creek. Turn right at Neil’s Creek and head downriver along the stop bank. The track is well defined and easy to follow. When you reach the stand of flax, if you cannot already hear the breaking waves, know that you will be at the beach soon.

Once at Waiho beach you can walk north to the mouth of the Waiho River or south to explore the Omoeroa Bluffs. Lookout for fur seals and penguin tracks and enjoy the wild seascape. Walking from the start of the forestry track to Waiho beach takes approximately forty-minutes, however, give yourself lots of time to enjoy the beach.