Waste Free in the South Island Part 1: The 6 Day Tramp

Matukituki River
Hello all! You may have noticed I have been majorly absent from my blog since the launch of the Community Fridge. I have been keeping busy with the community fridge, answering inquiries, working, the usual life stuff, and trying to throw in a good work/life balance by taking lots of mini holidays. So far this year I have been camping in the far North (Tapotupotu near Cape Reinga), WWOOFing in Raglan, tramping and road tripping the South Island, volunteering at WOMAD (New Plymouth) and WWOOFing on Waiheke Island. I have a few more breaks booked in, including a yoga retreat this weekend and a trip to Australia to visit my family. If you want to follow along with my adventures, I tend to keep my Instagram fairly up to date.
Earlier this year I went to the South Island for a wee tramping/exploring holiday with my friends. I haven’t done many multi-day hikes since starting my waste free journey, only over night hikes, so this provided a new challenge for me. Myself, the BF and two close friends went to the South Island at the end of January/early February to miss the holiday rush and get the good weather. Unfortunately the good weather missed the memo, so our first day in the deep South was spent frantically re-planning our hike at the Queenstown Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centre. Fun Fact: I used to work at Auckland DOC Visitor Centre! The lovely staff there helped give us some ideas for a different track to do, as we were planning on doing Young-Wilkin Track, which involved mountains and deep river crossings. We agreed to go to the Matukituki Valley instead, but would decide once we were in Wanaka and had checked the weather again.
We stayed one night in Queenstown, at Nomads Backpackers. The accommodation was pretty full so Nomads was the last option. If you are a traveler who loves to party no matter what, then this is the place of you. If you are a group of friends planning a multi-day tramping trip and would prefer to have a quiet night in, this is not the place for you… In order to have some peace and quiet we went for a late walk up Queenstown Hill, which was a pretty steady grunt uphill, I was surprised by how hot it was.
The walk up Queenstown Hill is steep in places…
…but well worth the view
The next day we headed to Wanaka and stayed at the lovely YHA, which was really clean and even had a herb garden and compost bins! I had a good chat to the staff there about their plans to make the hostel more sustainable (they are wanting to get solar panels) and they also gave great advice for our planned hiking trip. I am in no way affiliated with YHA, I was just really impressed with my brief stay. As I had been eating out a bit I didn’t have too much to compost, but I had saved the paper packaging my burger had come in at Queenstown. No I did not get Ferg Burger, I really didn’t want to wait in line for at least half an hour for a burger, sorry not sorry. The YHA Wanaka also let us keep our extra luggage in their storage facilities for us to collect upon our return, even though we didn’t have a return booking with them, as they were fully booked out.
As we had to change our tramping plans due to the weather, we found we couldn’t book any accommodation for the extra nights we now had available, so we decided to stretch out a 2-3 day hike over 6 days. After again checking the weather with DOC, this time in Wanaka, we decided to go as per our original 6 days, which allowed us bad weather days. The plan was to do the West Matukituki Track and pay the hut warden at Aspiring Hut so we could have flexibility. We caught a shuttle to the start of the track, the driver told us the history of the farming stations and pointed out interesting landmarks as we drove though. The great thing about hiring a shuttle is that the drivers are locals so not only know the history, but are also pros at navigating the flooded fjords, which are often inaccessible after heavy rain.

Day 1- Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut:

The walk to Aspiring Hut is really flat and easy, however if you are carrying 6 days of gourmet food (no dehydrated meals for me thanks!) and your pack weighs about 18kg, then it takes a bit longer than the DOC times. By the time I got to Aspiring Hut I was feeling tired, bear in mind that prior to this I had spent my days in an office doing minimal exercise. We were planning on walking to Liverpool Hut, but after chatting with the wonderful hut warden, Donald, who was shocked at how heavy my pack was, we decided to spend the night. Also the view was worth the stay, we quickly nabbed the bunk beds in front of the windows in the main room. Aspiring Hut is a starting point for a couple of awesome Alpine missions, from here you can hike to Liverpool Hut, French Ridge Hut or over the Cascade Saddle. The walk to Aspiring Hut is child friendly, there was even a toddler there when we stayed!

We paid our hut fees to Donald for the first night, and he let us pay the rest of the fees upon our return as we weren’t sure where we would be staying each night.

Day 2- Walk to Liverpool Hut

Donald convinced me to leave behind my tent and our extra food, as we knew we were coming back to Aspiring Hut and staying for at least 1 night. I left my tent tucked under the bunk beds, and our food on a shelf. People who pass through the hut are pretty trusting, and aren’t really looking to carry extra weight themselves. The walk to Liverpool Hut is about 2 hours of easy flat, followed by about an hour or more of straight up hill. We had been warned about the climb to Liverpool Hut by multiple people, and that the last half hour was really a scramble. I learned on this climb that I am not as fit as I hoped, my bag was way heavier than I would of liked, and that I am scared of heights. I was really appreciative to have my other half with me, who was patiently encouraging me up the rocks. Once you get out of the bush line you can spot the hut in the distance, my friends were already at the hut waving at me. This really got my hopes up though, as I quickly realised it was a solid scramble straight up and around, not in the direction of the hut. This was the part that I realised I was scared of heights more than I previously thought.
Can you spot us scrambling along the rocks? Photo: Lizzy Gayfer
At the top with Mt Aspiring in the background. Photo: Lizzy Gayfer
I was very grateful to my friends who had made some hot tea for our arrival. The hut has stunning views of both Aspiring Hut and French Ridge Hut, as well as Mount Aspiring. It was shortly after our arrival that these views quickly disappeared as the cloud and rain took over. A group of Israeli’s arrived later on in the day, which was the perfect fit as the hut only sleeps 10. About 10 minutes after their arrival it started sleeting, and when the clouds gave way we saw French Ridge Hut was covered in snow. 

Day 3- Recover and chill

We decided to stay an extra day as the weather was wet and windy. We had discussed going to French Ridge Hut, but realised it wasn’t doable to climb down from Liverpool Hut then up the other side to French Ridge Hut, as it really is best to walk from Aspiring Hut to French Ridge. The weather also blew this idea away.  
The walk to French Ridge Hut involves a navigating a narrow ridge line
The other group slept in until quite late and decided to head back down to the valley after a feed. We watched them from the hut as they carefully made the descent down the side of the mountain. It was quite nerve-wracking to watch. Over the course of the day other eager trampers made their way up, all in couples. There was one young and ambitious Danish man who hiked up with all of his gear, despite only staying for a few hours before hiking back down to the Valley.  We mostly read, drank copious amounts of tea, chatted and played cards with our fellow bunk mates, and went for a wander in between the weather to get some snaps. Unfortunately we did not see Mt Aspiring at all on this day, so the other trampers missed out on this privilege. 
Liverpool Hut
Liverpool Hut and the long drop behind have amazing views

Day 4- Back to Aspiring Hut

We were the first of the other trampers to brave it back down the mountain, mainly because we really wanted those epic beds by the window at Aspiring Hut. It was a little bit wet and windy, but coming down was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. I also noticed it was not a shear drop down, as I wildly imagined it was while scrambling up on all fours (I don’t plan on taking up mountaineering as a hobby). The walk back was much easier and faster, and I was feeling a lot braver, perhaps because I had eaten through most of the weight of my pack. We did manage to reserve those awesome bunks, and Donald, the hut warden was glad to see us back. Our food and my tent was still there, I was relieved to have left this stuff behind! For the rest of the day we chilled out, wandered around, played cards and counted all of the waterfalls we could see.
Aspiring Hut, looking towards Liverpool Hut

Day 5- Day hike to Rob Roy Glacier

By day five we hadn’t actually done that much hiking, as most of the days were no more than 3 hours. Feeling incredibly lazy we decided we should actually do some decent walking and visit Rob Roy Glacier. This involved walking back to Raspberry Creek Carpark where the start of the track was. We did contemplate going up Cascade Saddle, but it sounded quite ambitious (we like to do cruisy trips after all) and it was still quite cloudy in the mountains. Without our packs on we managed to hoon back, only taking us about an hour and a half. The walk to Rob Roy Glacier was really lovely but it was packed full of tourists. I can’t recall but I think it may have been a Saturday, by this point the weather had cleared up also. The Glacier was really stunning, I was glad we made the walk here.
Rob Roy Glacier
Obligatory “Look I’m a tourist and I saw this cool thing!” shot
The walk back to the hut was pretty uneventful, as we had already walked this track twice before, and we knew we were walking it again tomorrow. We spent one last night at Aspiring Hut and Donald told us his epic story of how he come to be a hut warden. He also writes a blog, complete with some stunning photos of the area, check it out.

Day 6- Aspiring Hut to Raspberry Creek carpark

Another uneventful walk along the river through flat farmland. Our shuttle was picking us up quite early so we had to get up & organised fairly quickly. My bag was way lighter by this point which made for a very quick walk out. From here we were headed back to Wanaka to pick up the rest of our stuff, and then catch a bus back to Queenstown, where we were (unfortunately) booked in to spend another night at Nomads (the accommodation really was booked out for the long weekend!).

Tramping Food:

I did a lot of food preparation before the trip, to save on both waste and money. I dehydrated fruits and roasted chickpeas, roasted nuts, made sourdough crackers, did some baking, prepped porridge (quick oats, sugar, milk powder), packed containers of condiments and so on. It was time consuming, but it was worth it as it saved time on the actual trip and saved myself some spending money. I also picked up a lot of tramping ingredients from Bin Inn Onehunga, such as dry pasta, cous cous, soy protein (TVP), hot chocolate mix and milk powder. In Wanaka we purchased the rest of the food we needed for our group dinners. Unfortunately there was a bit of packaging associated with this, it was pretty hard to avoid on this trip. I washed and kept all of the soft plastic until the last day of the whole 2 week trip, where it was dropped off at Christchurch, as there were no other soft plastic recycling points at the time.
Our cooked tramping meals:
  • Nachos 
  • Vegetarian Burgers 
  • Pasta x2
  • Israeli cous cous & veges
  • Noodles & stir fry
All of the group meals were vegetarian. For breakfast we had our own porridge, I packed a bag of quick oats from Bin Inn. We also purchased a ‘goon bag’ (aka. A box/cask of wine) to make mulled wine, perhaps this and the 2 kilos of cheese we had was why our bags were so heavy…
Mulled wine, I promise it tasted better than it looks
Once we got back to Wanaka I sorted all of the trash. The vege scraps were composted at YHA Wanaka, tin cans and paper were recycled and the soft plastic was washed and stashed away in a separate bag for recycling later.  
The tramp was definitely everyone’s highlight of the trip, as the views were stunning and we all needed to slow down a bit, have time to chill out and think about our goals for the year. In saying that we were happy to get back to civilization and hit up the cheap Mexican restaurant in Queenstown. After the tramp one of our friends headed back home, and the rest of us hired a campervan (relocation deal!) for a mini road trip. As this is already a long blog post though, I will end this here. Stay tuned for part two to hear about our campervan/living tiny experience! 
I’ll leave you all with some more snaps from our hike. 
A feral cat at Aspiring Hut! Not good.
The view from Aspiring Hut
Aspiring Hut has a fire place
No fireplace at Liverpool Hut meant there were some great outfits
This natural pond looked straight out of a garden shop
Cows should not be allowed in rivers, they do so much environmental damage
Morning view at Aspiring Hut




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