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Walking the Great 9: The Heaphy Track

New Zealand has some amazing walks on offer, a select few of which have been named as "Great Walks" These are also known as the “Great 9” and for good reason too. They cover some of the countries most astounding terrain, passing iconic/ renowned spots along the way.

The Heaphy Track is the longest of the Great walks that is done by foot, a 78km trip in total, only superseded by the Whanganui journey which is a 145km paddle. The Track itself was named after one of the first explorers of the area, Charles Heaphy whom was involved in the development of the track during the west coast gold rush in the late 1800's. The track was established as a means of transport between the west coast and the Golden Bay district of Collingwood.

After no gold was found, the track was pretty much forgotten about come the early 1900's and only had seldom use by the occasional hunter. Up until the late 1980's many proposals to build a road through the Kahurangi national park were made, but the locals and councils defended the idea and furthermore, track use grew substantially. It was then named one of New Zealand's Great 9 walks.

Having a variety of different ecosystems and topography, varying from beach rainforest to baron tussock landscapes, The Heaphy track is renowned for the variety of landscapes crossed; every 20 km section is significantly different from the previous one. I would say it’s one of the more difficult walks to get done logistics wise, with some of the walks using a circuit rather than a different start/end point. With the Heaphy you have a choice of starting either at the West Coast end of Kohaihai (north of Karamea) or you can start from the Golden Bay side. There are operatives that can assist with car relocations and bringing you back to the end you came from which i’ve provided the information for at the end of this blog.

As you may have read in my previous entry, I was absolutely beat from the Kahurangi coast trip and after a short wait at the Heaphy bluff whilst the helicopter took the rest of the group I was with back home, it returned and picked me up to take me to Kohaihai where I then started the Heaphy track in the battered state that I was.

It was 4:30 when I landed at Kohaihai and after saying goodbye to Wayne Pratt, Karamea Helicopter Charters Pilot, it all turned very quiet; now I walk. With winter coming in swiftly, the nights are drawing in and the days getting shorter. I set off, heading for the renowned Scott’s Beach which is a lovely picturesque setting, a forest of Nikao palm trees bordering the most stunning beaches; it really is a great representation of this whole coastline. The only thing letting it down, sandflies.

I stopped the night here, an eerie gloomy sunset lay on the horizon, to which I admired for as long as I could before the sandflies ate me alive. I was sure to jump in my tent and not open the doors until early morning thereafter. After a very early night and a big enough rest, I awoke early knowing it was to be a big day ahead journeying from Scotts beach all the way to James Mackay hut, a total of 33km.