Ben Howe
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Travel, videos and music written, filmed and photographed by Ben Howe.

Tramping Or Biking the Heaphy in New Zealand

The Heaphy tramp/trek/mountain bike route in the Kahurangi National Park is located at the top end of New Zealand's South Island. The Heaphy almost traverses from one coast (in the north) to the other, cutting across mountains, high beech forests, alpine plateaus of golden downs then down to the wild surf coast and an unusual micro-climate Nikau palm forest. It is one of the great walks in New Zealand, taking you to places far removed from roads and civilisation.

Named after Charles Heaphy, an early European to have explored the area, this track was used  during the gold rush in the late 1800's. As it turned out there wasn't much gold, so the track became became disused until the mid 1960s when the park was established. 

Most people travel from East to West, starting up the valley from the settlement of Collingwood and finishing up on the West Coast at Karamea. The trail is only open to mountain bikers from 1st of May to 30th September - over the summer months it is a trampers only. 

The total distance is 82 Kms and it takes 4-6 days to walk, 2-3 to ride on a mountain bike.


The official Department of Conservation Great Walk profile - below - is a montage of tussocky plateaus, sub tropical fauna, wild beaches and drone footage of open beautiful vistas. There are a few short words from a local ranger and various walkers, but for the most part the video just gives a sense of the place. There isn't much practical information - but it looks good.

Similarly, Stoked For Saturday have assembled a nice collection of imagery from the walk; long swing bridges, rushing streams, driftwood structures and sweeping open spaces. They have also written a blog with nice photos about the walk here.

The third video looks a lot less professional than the previous two, but it makes up for it with a entertaining awkward and quirky style, plus it is also quite informative. By Max Riley, the video provides advice on mountain biking the trail, including maps, profiles and other helpful hints. Apparently Max and friend do the trail annually, riding all the way across on one day and returning the next. Looks gruelling, but they keep up the dad jokes all the way. 

This blog post by Funnelogy Channel gives really good detailed information on the route, what you will find, places to stay and the flora and fauna along the way. It is interspersed with their own personal experiences on the route. An interesting read for the casual enquirer or a good guide for anyone planning the trip. 

Kevin's Travel Blog has lots of photos, most of them quite functional; like the inside of a hut, what the trail looks like, signs and bridges. But there are helpful descriptions, including of his fellow travellers and hut occupants - the farting mountain bikers didn't sound like the best company. 

For practical information on the walks, huts, bookings, hunting and so on the best place to start is the Department Of Conservation web page on Kahurangi National Park. The page on the Heaphy Track is here. There are seven trampers' huts along the Heaphy, three emergency shelters and nine designated camping areas. 

For transport to and from Nelson or around the area to either the start and finish of the Heaphy check out The Heaphy Bus Company. They can also do car relocation and transport mountain bikes. 

Golden Bar Air also provides flights and transport for Heaphy trampers and bikers

photo credit: knorfield IMG_2618_HDR.jpg via photopin (license)
(Top) photo credit: knorfield IMG_2393_HDR.jpg via photopin (license)