Hike #9: Ball hut Route (Mount Cook)

Hike #9: Ball hut Route (Mount Cook)

Walk to Ball Hut, the scenic mountain hut facing Mount Cook, while enjoying breathtaking views of the Tasman Glacier and surrounding peaks.

About the Hike

The first 5 km section of the Mount Cook hike follows a historic route, now a trail for all-terrain vehicles. It opens on spectacular views after the end of the vehicle track, where the road becomes more difficult.

The moraine wall, formed by the glacier in this area, is very unstable and needs to be negotiated with caution. You will have to move carefully around collapsed areas at different stages of the course. Indeed, you will cross many landslides and you will sometimes have to climb with your hands. The view for Mount Cook is worth it.

Ball Hut is near the historic site of the first Ball Hut and offers superb views of the Tasman Glacier and surrounding peaks including Mount Cook. You can then stay in the small refuge with only 4 beds. It is not necessary to book but it is then first come, first served.

Characteristics

Level: Intermediate to advance because unstable and technical course on its last part.

Duration: 6-8 hours return.

Required equipment: Hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat / cap, sweater, camping gear and what to eat if you stay at the shelter.

In conclusion, the Ball Hut Route is a demanding hike to Mount Cook and skirting the Tasman Glacier but whose grandiose landscapes and out of the ordinary are well worth the effort. Not requiring much preparation but especially caution you can do it in a day or two if you want to sleep in the shelter. A must-see of New Zealand.

Localisation

The trail starts at the end of Tasman Valley Road, near the village of Aoraki / Mount Cook. To get there, you go through Lake Tekapo which deserves an article in its own right.

 

Hike #8 : Blue Pool Track

Hike #8 : Blue Pool Track

Nestled among mature beech and podocarp forest, these pools of deep, clear water flowing into the Makarora River offer a moment of tranquillity. The Blue Pool Track is one of our best short walks.

About the hike

The Blue Pool Track is an easy short walk through mature beech and podocarp forest leads to these natural wonders of pure glacial water gathered from the mountains. Walk through beech forest to a swing bridge over Makarora River.

Continue on a boardwalk to the second swing bridge, which is the viewing platform over the Blue Pools. Cross this bridge for great views up the river gorge.

There’s a limit to the number people allowed on the swing bridges at any one time – be prepared to wait at each end if numbers allowed have been reached. 

Caracteristics

Level: Easy for all the family.

Duration: 1 hour return

Required equipment: there are a lot of sandflies so cover your skin 

To conclude, the Blue Pool Track is a nice track to do with your family and not far from Wanaka. It worth it to have a look of the cristal clear water and see people jump from the bridge and, why not, try it !

The localisation

From Wanaka, drive north on the Haast Highway (SH6) to Makarora township. Continue past the toilets and airstrip near Rata Rd, along the highway for about 6 minutes / 8.5 km. The track starts from the Blue Pools carpark off the Haast Highway.

Hike #7: Routeburn Track (Fjordland National Park)

Hike #7: Routeburn Track (Fjordland National Park)

True alpine trek, the Routeburn track will take you through forests and mountains. Passing through high-altitude lakes and wild meadows, you will discover majestic landscapes mixing mountain ranges and valleys, perched above the clouds.

About the hike

The Routeburn track is part of the Great Walks of New Zealand. These are hiking trails have good trails and bridges to cross the various obstacles such as streams.

For several days, and marked out camps, they allow to live a real experience in nature with breathtaking views. The Routeburn track can be done in 3 days (2 nights) however, it is not a loop. The route from the starting point of the hike to the arrival point is several hours long. Traveling in campervan, we made the decision to go halfway through the hike and turn around because we had no solution to recover the van at the end. In addition, we challenged ourselves to do it in one day! 🙂

Despite this compromise, the hike was beautiful and really worth doing. Crossing forests, meadows and rivers, you will reach the summit, above the clouds with a breathtaking view of the New Zealand fjords. You may have the chance to meet a Kea, endemic parrot and emblematic of New Zealand, so pay close attention to his songs.

 

Caracteristics

Level: Beginner to Intermediate because it is a long hike but marked by multiple camps to rest.

Duration: 2 or 3 days. 

Required equipment: Hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat / cap, camping gear, food for 2 to 3 days.

In conclusion, the Routeburn Track is a perfect hike to discover the New Zealand Fjordland and learn the alpine walk over several days. It is with regret that we could not do it in full. However, with our round trip in one day, we did 36km or 3km more than the entire hike, which is a small victory for us! 🙂

Localisation

One end of the trail is at the Routeburn Shelter (near Glenorchy and 68 km from Queenstown). The other is at The Divide Shelter (on the road to Milford, 85 km from Te Anau).

 

Hike #6 : Roys Peak Track

Hike #6 : Roys Peak Track

Admire the breathtaking views of Lake Wanaka, Mount Aspiring / Tititea and the surrounding peaks after a steep climb through alpine meadows and hill meadows. It’s a popular trail and one of our best day hikes.

About the hike

This hike will give you a breathtaking view of the Wanaka area. You will pass from the lake level through the farmland, then climb to the peaks of hills up to 1578 m. In addition, the track is well laid out. It offers spectacular views of Lake Wanaka, its islands and bays. One can also see the imposing snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps / Kā Tiritiri o te Moana and including Mount Aspiring / Tititea.

Be well prepared physically because despite an easy ride technically, the climb is really steep. There is no respite from beginning to end. However, the effort is worth it because the view is simply one of the most beautiful scenery we have seen in New Zealand.
The hike to the summit is 16 km long with a vertical drop of approximately 1200 meters. The track can nevertheless be continued on the heights for the bravest.

Characteristics

Level: Intermediate because intense and continuous effort.

Duration: 5 to 6 hours.

Required equipment: Hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat / cap.

The Roys Peak Track is one of our best memories of New Zealand. It offers spectacular scenery and scenery while being a real sporting challenge. Its location allows you to enjoy the dynamic Wanaka region. A pleasant city, young with a fish ‘n’ chips that is worth seeing ;).

The location

The nearest cities are Wanaka (6km) and Queenstown (68km).

The trail starts at the Roys Peak Track car park on Mount Aspiring Road near Wanaka.

In times of heavy use, in the summer, consider going to the parking lot on foot or by bike (via the Waterfall Creek Trail that connects to the Roys Peak Trail) as parking is limited.

Buy / sell a van in New Zealand

Buy / sell a van in New Zealand

As many backpackers, we decided to buy a van when we arrived in New Zealand.
So between what we knew and what we learned on the job, here is a short recap so you can buy and sell your future home on wheels with confidence.

Tip # 1: Where can we find van ads?

It is extremely easy to find van ads of all kinds in New Zealand. The reason is that many backpackers travel this way since it is the most comfortable in terms of cost and freedom of movement.

So you will have the choice:

  • Facebook’s Marketplace: Widely used in New Zealand as in Australia, it will probably be the cornerstone of your research
    The van / car sales groups on Facebook: there are no less than a dozen, so you have the choice! (New Zealand backpacker cars, New Zealand backpackers buy or sell, campervan …)
    Most sellers are very responsive since they need to sell quickly often because they have a fixed start date
  • Bulletin boards: in the backpackers you will often have bulletin boards with job offers or van sales!
  • Trade Me: New Zealand website full of all the ads you will need
  • Car Fair: These are weekly gatherings that bring together car salesmen of all kinds, not just vans. It’s free for buyers so it can be worth it.

Note however, that Facebook remains the platform most used for the purchase and sale of van. It is certainly through that you will find your friend on 4 wheels.

facebook marketplace

Tip #2 : Self-contained or not ?

In New Zealand, there is a certificate for vehicles certifying that your vehicle is “self-contained”. To put it simply, it allows authorities to know if you can live independently in your vehicle. Many rules are to be respected so that the van obtains this certification (bed, toilet, can of 25 liters of water …).

Many free camp (free campsites) are reserved only for self-contained vehicles. The official reason being that people who do not have the necessary equipment could damage the site by spilling dirty water, urinating outside or other …

To know if a camp is reserved for SC (self-contained) or not: you can check on Campermate or Wikicamps. Feel free to read our article on essential applications in New Zealand.

So, the question is, should I buy a more expensive self-contained vehicle that allows me to sleep in many more camps? We would tend to tell you a big yes! In our experience, those who buy a non-SC vehicle end up regretting it or at least are much more restricted in their movement. And here the usefulness of van travel is somewhat undermined. So yes, it is necessarily more expensive, but it is better to take a SC vehicle at the base price cheaper than the last van fully equipped but not SC.

But it’s up to you of course!

Tip #3 : The WOF (Warrant of Fitness)

The WOF, you will hear about it! It’s the equivalent of our good old technical control, happiness. Know first that it is valid for 6 months for vehicles dating from before 2000. If you want it to last 1 year, you will need a van after 2000-at the time the article is written well sure-.

It costs about fifty euros and can be done in many accredited centers. They are pretty picky from what we know especially about rust, real gangrene in New Zealand.

When looking for a van, pay attention to the expiry date of the WOF and carefully check the vehicle before buying it.

Even without really knowing you, the hotspots to check are:

  • Rust, under the car most often
  • Tires: New Zealand’s roads are hard on tires!
  • The brakes and shock absorbers that often take a hit also during a road trip
  • The lights: headlights, flashing …

 

Of course you are not safe from surprises during your trip so to maximize your chances, you can ask for a mecanic check (about 140 dollars) before the purchase. Do not hesitate to ask if the seller has a complete maintenance booklet to reassure you and facilitate future resale.

Never forget that you will have to sell your van! Keep all the bills!

Tip #4 : The REGO

Rego is a tax that you will have to pay for driving on New Zealand roads. It is also a point to check when buying a vehicle even if it “enough” to pay to extend a rego. You can extend it by 3 months, 6 months, 9 months …

The price is sixty euros for 6 months and you can do it in many approved institutions (post, center AA …) or on the internet if you have a postal address. But if you are in your van, it’s a safe bet that no!

Tip #5 : The D day 

You have found the van of your dreams and you are going to visit. To make sure everything is normal, take a look at Carjam, it’s a site that will give you the history of the vehicle through the license plate. You check everything that has been mentioned before and definitely everything is perfect!

But how is the change of ownership?

In New Zealand, the change of ownership is frighteningly simple. All you have to do is go to a post (yes, yes). The seller will fill out a form and you will yours. They each make a page. You will then pay 9 dollars and voila!

 

Tip #6 : The best time to buy / sell your van

The period is extremely important when buying a van in New Zealand. Know that prices can easily go from single to double depending on the time of year.

Of course, everything is a question of offers and requests. Everyone wants to enjoy the summer and sell before the arrival of winter. Prices explode when the demand is strongest, that is to say from October to December. Then prices begin to fall in January and are lower and lower until June.

The must is to buy in June and sell between October and January.

 

This is an event that should not be taken lightly! The choice of van will determine the rest of your trip. We had no problem for the duration of the trip (or almost) but we are very lucky! Some backpackers have to work to pay for repairs or just go home … So be careful, scams are relatively common and remember that you will live in this block of junk for the next few months. Choose a van that you like, that looks healthy and … cross your fingers!

Hike #5 : Franz Joseph glacier

Hike #5 : Franz Joseph glacier

You want to discover a glacier without risking mountaineering, the Franz Joseph Glacier allows you. Easily accessible and of rare beauty, this glacier is a must see of New Zealand.

About the hike

Although today’s glacier has shrunk considerably, the echoes of its frozen past are still visible in today’s landscape. It is one of three glaciers to be located near the coast.

We did 2 hikes. The first is a short hike of 1h30 round trip. It is a walk that can be done in family and to have a global view of the glacier. As you walk through the rocky valley, you can see waterfalls and the old glacier bed.

But the most interesting is the Robert’s point track. 13Km long and 5h30 (round trip), it will take you closer to the glacier. You will have to cross a majestic forest, multiple suspension bridges and even climb some walls. Moreover on this last point, it is better to go under sunny weather because the rocks are very quickly slippery. In addition, if the rain falls, water currents on the course can take you away. We speak knowingly, having done so in the rain. However, the game is worth the effort because the view at the end of the hike is breathtaking. You will be closer to the glacier.

 

 

Caracteristics

Level : intermediate to confirmed according to the weather

Duration : 5h30 for Robert’s Point track

Required equipment : Good hiking shoes, sunscreen, hat / cap.

In conclusion, the Franz Joseph Glacier is a must see of New Zealand. Larger than the Fox Glacier, it has one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever made: the Robert’s Point track. If you want a more family-friendly hike, it is also possible for you to get closer to the glacier and enjoy beautiful scenery.

Localisation

From the village of Franz Josef, head south on the Waiho River Bridge. After the bridge, turn left onto the Franz Josef glacier access road.
Most hiking trails are accessible from the car park at the end of this 4 km road.