There are lands that are meant to be explored on your feet. New Zealand is one of them. With an immensely diverse topography, it can spoil you for choice. Whether it is one of the Great Walks, an epic multi-trek around the country, or just a walk around the scenic countryside, there is something for anyone who loves the outdoors.
It is no surprise then that Tashi and Nungshi Malik, the 24-year-olds from Dehradun who made history last December by being the first siblings and twins to scale the Seven Summits—the highest peaks in each of the seven continents—have made it their home since February this year. Studying for a postgraduate degree in sports and exercise at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill, they have been living at the southern-most tip of the country.
“Is there anywhere else more beautiful than New Zealand to get back to nature? Not likely,” says Tashi with a wide grin. “Having stepped on the highest point of every continent, we find New Zealand as one of the best trekking destinations in the world. In fact, New Zealand is best explored along its walking and hiking trails to really absorb its mesmerising natural landscape.”
There are walking options that suit all levels of fitness and trekking experience. The thousands of kilometres of tracks traverse varied landscapes such as national parks, native forests, stunning coastal regions, beautiful lakes, mountain tops and bottomless valleys (see The Maliks’ Favourite Great Walks). What comes in handy is that these world class multi-day hiking trails are well supported by a reliable network of necessary support-providers and trek-operators.
This also means there is no ‘bad’ time for hiking in New Zealand. Each season brings its own different experiences (See Seasonal Picks). If you are wondering what are the downsides to exploring the Kiwi treks and trails, the twins “frankly don’t see any”. A little probing later, they say reluctantly: “Just that during the peak trekking season in summer, around November to January, one of the biggest mistakes visitors make is to assume that they don’t have to book the Great Walks in advance,” says Tashi. “It is relatively a small country, but its Great Walk network attracts thousands of people each year and one may not have access to all of them due to heavy bookings. Keep in mind that these huts can get very busy, with up to 60 people crammed into a common kitchen area and sleeping quarters. So it’s best to plan well ahead, somewhere in July-August.”
The twins add that another small challenge to consider is transportation. Many of the Great Walks and tramps in New Zealand unfortunately are not a loop; which means they don’t, naturally, bring you back to where you started from. At the end point, you need to arrange for transportation by bus or water taxis beforehand.
In New Zealand, you can locate such spots almost every few kilometres. “Even when we were in India, we would invariably hunt out such opportunities along the highway while driving from Dehradun to Delhi,” recalls Tashi. “What we would do is to keep a pair of trekking shoes handy, with a small backpack with water, essential toiletries and snacks. As we would drive, we would look out for dirt tracks leading out from the highway into the farmlands. We would drive a distance, park the vehicle near a field, put on our gear and head out trekking for a few hours through the serene, quiet countryside.”
Beyond the isle
Many trekkers to New Zealand have an Antarctica expedition as their ultimate destination, and Maliks were no exception—they made it to the top of Antarctica’s highest peak, Mount Vinson, and the South Pole in December 2014. But they chose to enter Antarctica from South America.
“Geographically, both the southern tip of Chile on one side and the southern tip of New Zealand on the other are roughly at the same distance from Antarctica,” says Nungshi. “But since Mount Vinson and the South Pole are located in the western half of the continent, most explorers, trekkers and mountaineers reach the mainland of Antarctica via Chile. It’s also because Mount Vinson is much closer to the Union Glacier, which is a popular starting point of all these adventures and which itself is located on the north-western side of Antarctica.”
What the more enthusiastic tourists prefer to do from New Zealand is to book a chartered cruise to Antarctica along the country’s southern coastline and sub Antarctic islands. Those who actually want to venture into the Antarctic slopes need to acclimatise before embarking on the trek.
“For acclimatising and doing pre-Antarctica training, the Southern Alps are certainly a favoured destination for those who can afford the long travel,” says Tashi. One of the world’s most popular mountain ranges—it is also where several well-known mountaineering movies, including Vertical Limit, have been filmed—it extends along much of the length of New Zealand’s South Island.
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(This story appears in the 11 December, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
well wrttenon Dec 7, 2015
well writtenon Dec 7, 2015