UNO publishers Jenny and Mat found their bliss (and the odd blister) on the Hump Ridge Track, a three-day walk with a view on the southernmost finger of Fiordland.

WORDS JENNY RUDD / PHOTOS LIZ CARLSON + SUPPLIED

THE WALK

The 62km Hump Ridge Track sees you walk about 20km every day for three days – roughly a third on the flat, a third uphill and a third downhill. The uphill climb at the end of the first day is quite intense for a couple of kilometres, but other than that it’s easy walking. You’ll need to be moderately fit to enjoy it. 

The terrain is a mix of bush, exposed ridgelines and deserted golden beaches; you’ll also encounter disused forestry rail lines. At times we felt as if we were floating above the ground as we walked through gnarled trees over great swathes of spongy moss, but boardwalks have been constructed to make the descents easy.

THE HISTORY

When the forestry industry collapsed in nearby Tuatapere, its residents knew they needed a new focus for their timber town’s economy. With good old-fashioned Kiwi ingenuity, in 1988 they devised this walk and built the huts, the boardwalks, everything, to encourage people back into the area. It was finally opened in 2001 and is now run and maintained by the Tuatapere Hump Track Charitable Trust, whose members are all volunteers from the community. It’s also one of three walks the Department of Conservation is considering naming New Zealand’s 11th Great Walk – with very good reason.

THE OPTIONS

Regardless of which package you choose, you’ll walk the same track and sleep in the same huts as everyone else, but each option has different bells and whistles. Here’s a taste of what you’ll get:

Freedom Walk package 

  • A bunk with a pillow and blanket (bring your own sleeping bag and sheet) 
  • Flush toilets and drinkable water 
  • Porridge with brown sugar for breakfast each day.

Prime package 

  • B&B accommodation in Tuatapere the night before you start 
  • Your backpack helicoptered up to the hut on day one (the day with the most uphill walking) 
  • Bed linen, hot showers and towels 
  • Breakfasts and evening meals.

Guided Walk package 

  • Upmarket accommodation the night before the walk 
  • Transport to and from the start/end point 
  • A helicopter ride that lets you skip 10km on day one 
  • Bed linen, hot showers and towels 
  • Cooked breakfasts, packed lunches, three-course dinners and snacks 
  • Local guides and groups of up to 12.

THE HIGHLIGHTS 

  • The boardwalks. Every single board was laid by volunteers. 
  • Walking the loop track at the top of the ridge to see the sunrise on day two. You can see both sides of the coast. 
  • If you’re lucky, you can swim with Hector’s dolphins at the end of the walk. 
  • A pitstop in Riverton on the way to Tuatapere. It’s a beautiful little town on a river mouth with a great little museum.

GETTING THERE

Fly to Invercargill, then hire a car to drive an hour west to Tuatapere, or take the Hump Ridge shuttle to Tuatapere from Te Anau, Invercargill or Queenstown. The walk is a 15-minute drive from the small town, and there’s a safe place in which to park.

If you’d like to do this walk, visit: HUMPRIDGETRACK.CO.NZ