Leslie-Karamea and Heaphy Track

I finally made it back to civilization after my 12 day wandering in New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park. The 2 hikes combined into one big travel seemed like an Odyssee but the hours of walking ended up being easier than I thought.

If you want to know how I prepared for this trip, check out my other post here. I also made my very own Oatdoor bars as an energy snack for long walking days. If you want to make some yourself, find the recipe in my Oatdoor Bar post.

The Leslie-Karamea Track, Kahurangi National Park

I started off from the Asbestos Hut carpark where my car would stay for the next 12 days. The sky was blessed with some clouds and thankfully no rain. I found some old tools near the Asbestos mine and an old hut, which made me think about the harsh condition early miners and gold diggers had to cope with a long time ago. My day ended in Salisbury hut, where I unpacked my sleeping bag and fell asleep instantly.

The days after, I made my way down south along the Leslie and Karamea rivers on some of the most rugged trails I have ever done. It seemed it was impossible to keep my boots, socks and pants dry for even an hour. Tramping in New Zealand is a muddy affair and you want to make sure you keep warm.

Good gear helps a lot with this:

  • sturdy tramping boots
  • good rain jacket
  • warm sleeping bag

Boots will protect your feet and keep them dry (as long as you don’t submerge them in water). I have Meindl boots, the best hiking boots I have owned so far. I highly recommend you invest in a good pair if you plan to tramp a lot. You will also need a rain jacket that breathes so it keeps you sheltered from rain but also keeps you dry when you sweat. There are some awesome New Zealand outdoor brands like Kathmandu and Mackpack that have great jackets.
A good sleeping bag is a good investment too. You want to be warm at night so you get a good sleep. Most outdoor stores have a good range of sleeping bags. Choose something light with a Down filling, if you can afford it.

Getting from Salisbury Hut to the Trevor Carter Hut was all very exhausting. It took me 4 days, instead of 3 to finish this part. The extra day was worth it though, I loved the huts on the track. They were so picturesque with the best views and I would have stayed permanently if I was allowed.

For the 4 days I was tramping  down from Salisbury hut to the Trevor Carter hut I did not see one person. It seemed there was nobody on the track except me. I felt a bit awkward the first night alone, but I got used to it fairly quickly and really enjoyed the time to myself.

On the 6th day I met a few trampers. It made me smile to see some people after 4 days of seclusion. I was happy to chit chat again. On day 8th I made it out into civilization. In those 8 days I had traveled from the east side of Kahurangi Park all the way to the west. I spend the night in a hostel in Karamea and stocked up with food for the long way back.

The Heaphy track, Kahurangi National Park

People thought me nuts for not taking a few days in Karamea after such a big hike. To be honest, it was hard to leave the wonderful atmosphere of Rongo backpackers behind. So I was a little reluctant to leave but I was determined to make it back to my car, parked still at the other end of Kahurangi.

Karamea to Heaphy Hut

The Heaphy track is a New Zealand Great Walk so fairly easy. The start of the track is only 15 km from Karamea. After a night restocking food and energy, I started hitchhiking at 10 am in the morning. Lucky enough a really nice couple picked me up. My wait time was only 20 minutes! Hitchhiking is really easy in New Zealand and I do it often when my car is unavailable. You see lots of backpackers next to the road here, it’s the way to get around. I wrote a How to Hitchhike post if you have never done it before and want to try. It has lots of tips and tricks about clothing and driver interaction.

First part of the track was to the Heaphy Hut. An easy beach walk with lots of ferocious sandflies. Those pesky insects didn’t allow me to sit down for lunch and I ate my sandwiches while dancing. It was 3 pm when I arrived at the hut. Luxury for me that evening with a gas stove to cook my lentils.

Heaphy Hut to James Mackkay Hut

The next day I was up early for the climb to the James Mackkay Hut. It is a slow and steady climb. Really easy and offering amazing views of the valley. It was supposed to take 6 hours but I walked it in 5. The table lands in between the James Mackkay Hut and the Perry Saddle are the home to New Zealand’s national bird the Kiwi. A semi-blind flightless bird with a bad temper.

James Mackkay Hut to Perry Saddle Hut

On the 3rd day I met a local celebrity, Derry Kingston. An elderly gentleman who relocates cars from one end of the track to the other. He then walks back the whole 78.4 km of the track in a day and a half! Total count of 400 times has he walked the length of the Heaphy Track.

I finished the whole track with dry shoes and some spectacular pictures of the coastline on day 12. On the car park I caught a ride into Takaka where I stayed the night. On day 13, I hitched a ride back to my car.

Very happy now to take a few days rest with some good food and a nice bed until the next adventure. This will be Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park.


About Jozefien 46 Articles
Hi, my name is Jozefien. I like to inspire women to get down with their bad self through snowboarding. To be tougher, sexier and ready to kick some butt. This is why I created this website: mountainwomen.co. Here you can find info for your own journey in the mountains.

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