Kahurangi National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

Heaphy Track Experience by James Muir

What was it about walking the Track that was so special? The people, the surroundings? There were certainly some characters on the trip from the uncley uncle who dropped us off at the trailhead, through to the khaki clad rangeress digging ditches, her humour impervious to the pouring rain.

The morning of the second day, we clambered up Mount Perry along a rough track of mossy bog and loose scree. At the top, lingering views of Golden Bay and the Dragon Teeth Mountains tempted us to leave the marked trail and lose ourselves in the wilderness for a week or two, perhaps more. We came to our senses though – a series of cairns surrounded us, each one at the very earliest stages of construction, rings of stone, giant bird nests, a metre or so across and a few rocks high. We jumped in, crouched down and began cawing, cuckooing and flapping with delight, lesser spotted trampers in their natural habitat.

The scenery is fantastic, compelling, distracting. After a short time on the Heaphy, forest nymphs have taken the pack’s weight from your shoulders. Trails disappear into the bush, grassy knolls beckon, trees cry out to be climbed. How to stay out here plays on your mind – eeking rations out, trading with fellow trampers, whatever it takes. If only you’ve packed another meal or two.

There are secrets along the way, more than enough for everyone. Let me share mine. There is a cave through which water trickles over three musical waterfalls, each fringed with bright moss. The notes echo and frolic before being carried up to blue skies by a cool breeze. The sun creeps over a cliff edge high above, its light reaching the pool at the bottom of the waterfall, scattering honey gold reflections onto the cave’s ceiling. I apologise to the spirits for bathing in their crystal waters then thank them for this wonderful, cleansing place.

– James Muir

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