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Hiking into Hot Springs in New Zealand

Hiking (tramping/trekking) is a popular outdoor pursuit in New Zealand, and what could be more perfect after a long walk into the wilderness than the reward of immersing your weary bones in a hot pool nestled in a sublime alpine setting. New Zealand’s remote springs, which are confined mainly to the South Island, can usually be accessed all year round, but during the winter months extra precautions, equipment and levels of experience are required. I have graded the walking tracks as easy/moderate/difficult, but it is important to note that individual levels of experience and fitness should also be taken into account (what might be easy for one person can be difficult for another). The walking times are averages only, and do not include time taken for stops along the way. When giving directions, ‘true left’ and ‘true right’ refers to the side of the watercourse when facing downstream.

Essential hiking items include waterproof clothing, warm clothes, sleeping bag, tramping boots, cooker, spare food and a medical kit. Also bring along a GPS unit and/or a topographical map, taking note of the springs’ coordinates if they’re not already marked on the map. Leaving clear intentions is important, so before setting off let someone reliable know where you’re going and when you’ll be returning (intention form template can be found at http://www.mountainsafety.org.nz). New Zealand weather changes quickly and is highly unpredictable – you can expect the best but also be prepared for the worst, as it is not uncommon for people to be stranded by rising creeks and washed out bridges.

Within my guide book I have specified which huts are private, but any others mentioned in the guide are Department of Conservation (DOC) huts. To stay in a DOC hut you need to purchase hut tickets (or an annual hut pass) in advance from any DOC office. Some outdoor stores and many i-SITE information centres also sell tickets (full list given on http://www.doc.govt.nz).

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