Matthias 'Matze' Mard 2004

A brief diary, with letters back to Berlin translated from the German.


Total weight: 11.5 kg, without water and food.


Total weight of Backpack for 10 days 16kg without water!

Matthias MardI started January the 26th. I finished June the 6th , my mother's birthday. I walked 108 days, but I had some day's rest, which is not mentioned in the diary. All in all I was on the road 140 days. Some short parts are done by car, because of suffering pain in one of my feet or not finding a place to sleep and, of course, I crossed the Cook Strait by boat!

I lost 6kg, which is not much compared to the time, and distance I walked. I drunk the water from little rivers, streams and springs without treating it and never had any problems. But I guess it is wise to treat the water, if you're not sure. I didn't have a BEACON or MOUNTAIN RADIO. Next time I'll take one of those useful things, it is worth the weight!!! Remember Michael Johnson who died days after he slipped and was found one month later!

3. Diary

1. Invercargill - Otautau, 7h, Road, first day, pain in right foot, short lift with farmer, very hot day

2. Otautau - Ohai, 7h, Road, still pain in the foot, again very hot, little boring walk along the fences, Sue's great hospitality

3. Ohai - Aparima Hut, 8h, Road, River, nice walk in/along the river, good weather, first hut, possum hunters, less pain, good feeling

4. Aparima Hut - Princhester Hut, 7h, River, Track, followed the river in the rain, problem to find track access, first track, beautiful bush, very slippery! Nice hut

5. Princhester Hut - Mavora Lakes (Campsite), 8h, Track, Road, very long day, great pain in the foot, long walk along the road, no water, hitchhike for 20km to reach the lake, weather fair

6. Mavora Lakes - Taipo Hut, 7h, Track, weather is getting better, nice walk, quite long, amazing landscape, awesome place for the hut, in the night little earthquake

7. Taipo Hut - Lake Whakatipo, 6.5h, Track, weather fair, track is beautiful through the bush and along the river, nice spots at the river, pouring rain in the afternoon

8. Lake Whakatipo - Queenstown, 7h Road, crossed the lake by boat, that's fun, boring walk along the road, last stretch hitchhiked

Because money is tight and Internet is so expensive here, I'll make the message short.

It's not as simple to walk through NZ as I thought it would be. Not because of the route, or the weather- which is bad enough - but because the farmers often refuse to let me into their valleys. This means I constantly need to change my plans and look for new route. This is exhausting and it inevitably takes me deeper into the Alps, which I actually wanted to avoid because of the bad weather. At times the entry roads are already washed out and I am forced to take small detours.

Tomorrow I start out towards Mt. Aspiring. Originally I wanted to go around it because the area is full of glaciers. However, a detour would mean walking almost 100km of asphalt. I'm sure you guys can imagine I don't much feel like doing that. So I must bite the bullet. Though I'm sure it's going to be an unforgettable experience. I have already had a few of them, but I reckon this will top them all. Matze is going glacier hopping.

Unfortunately I can't send you much sun at the moment, but you are always in my heart. Here's to the winter in Berlin being over soon

9. Queenstown - Shelter Rock Hut, 6h, Track, transport to the start of the track, weather good, track very boggy but awesome entering the forest, nice campsite

10. Shelter Rock Hut - Dart Hut, 6h, Track, good weather, first Kea, first sub alpine saddle, steep in parts, very nice walk, fantastic landscape

11. Dart Hut - Aspiring Hut, 8h, Track, early start, weather getting worse, steep climb, crossed last snow, crossed river, poor visibility, long descend, very steep!

12. Aspiring Hut - Glendhu Bay, 7h, Road, nice weather, easy walk, beautiful valley, good views, run off food

13. Glendhu Bay - Wanaka, 4h, Road, civilisation, big festival, too many people, weather changes very fast, easy walk, foot is getting better

14. Wanaka - Lake Hawea, 4.5h, Road, easy walk, good weather, strong wind all day

15. Lake Hawea - Timaru Hut, 9h, Track, walk along the ridges very exhausting, first farm permission, never ending ascents/descents, washouts, weather is getting worse

16. Timaru Hut - Ahariri River (Campsite), 7h, Track, very cold in the morning over the saddle, steep scree but good track, campsite near river on private property, fine weather

17. Ahariri River - Lake Ohau, 7h, Track, long day, crossed farmland without permission, fantastic landscape, friendly farmer, slept in old farm shed

18. Lake Ohau - Twizel, 7h, Watercanal, very hot, walking in the dessert, funny story about Twizel

19. Twizel - Lake Pukaki, 6h, Road, rain all day, found good place for my tent, awesome surrounding, easy walk

20. Lake Pukaki - Tekapo, 9h, Watercanal, fine weather, easy walk, little bit boring along the canal, long day, sore feet, fantastic view of Aroaki and the southern alps

21. Tekapo - Mt.Gerald Station, 7h, Road, easy walk, along lakeshore, meet David, first tramper who is doing the same walk! Friendly farmer, weather changes

22. Mt.Gerald Station - Royal Hut, 6.5h, Track, snowstorm while walking along the ridges, very cold, had to find my own route, steep in parts

23. Royal Hut - Mesopotamia, 6h, Track, great hut, made fire, very cold in the night, frost in the morning, fine weather, steep descend, awesome landscape!

24. Mesopotamia - Alma Black Mountain Hut, 4h, Track, heavy rain, great problem with my foot, good track but bad weather forecast, feel lonely and afraid

25. Alma Hut - Lake Clearwater, 7h, Route, Road, fair weather, 2h river crossing, river deep in sections, water ran fast, could not see the bottom, problem with my foot, happy to reached the other side!

26. Lake Clearwater - Mt.Somers, 7h, Road, very hot, dusty road, not enough water! Get my foot fixed

27. Mt.Somers - Mt.Hutt, 6.5h, Road, good weather, easy walk along the road, fantastic view

28. Mt.Hutt - Lake Coleridge, 7h, Road, changeable weather, crossed Rakaia River by bridge, strong wind at the lake shore, nice place

29. Lake Coleridge - Hamilton Hut, 8h, Track, crossed Avoca River in flood, deep in parts and fast water, could not find my favourite hut, long day, exhausted, good weather

30. Hamilton Hut - Bealey Hut, 6h, Track, easy track, boggy in parts, fair weather, took shower under waterfall, walking is getting easier

31. Bealey Hut - Arthurs Pass, 5h, Road, easy, short walk, rain, amazing mountains!

32. Arthurs Pass - Otehake Hut, 9h, Road, Track, weather fair, do not like crossing rivers early the day, long walk, exhausted, problems to find the markers, happy to find the hut

33. Otehake Hut - Campsite near Taramakau River, 10.5h, Track, fine weather, track overgrown in parts, lot of windfall, steep, crossing the river many times was exhausting, backpacks can swim!!

34. Campsite -Locke Stream Hut, 6h, Track, beautiful campsite near riverbank, lots of Sandflies, hot water spring, no problems crossing rivers, weather good, nice hut

35. Locke Stream Hut - Hurunui Hut, 6.5h, Track, enjoyable walk, steep ascent but easy descent, very beautiful, weather changes, nice forest.

36. Hurunui Hut - Locke Halfway Hut, 7h, Track, good weather, problems with boots, awesome landscape, easy walk, just perfect, keep the small huts!

37. Locke Halfway Hut - Magdalen Hut, 7h, Track, Road, easy weather, picked up food for the next section, food for 10 days makes walking not easy at all, good track

Well, I have had several pretty exciting experiences and now that I am sitting here I am not quite sure how to start.

It all started with my third-of-the-way-celebration: going to New Zealand's finest open-air festival. It was close to Arthurs Pass so no problem to quickly hitchhike over. The festival was wicked, simply three days of partying set in unbelievable nature. I say this so those of you reading this, thinking I am running around New Zealand like a Yeti, know better from now on.

After recovering from the partying (by way of sauna and a bit of music shop), I went on my way again, into the wilderness, with the worst of it behind me now.

Well that's what I thought anyway.

As you probably deduced from the choice of words, that was, carefully expressed, completely wrong.

My chosen route was to lead me into a region declared as a wilderness area. Now I know why! The crossing of fast moving rivers was practically a daily activity, so I'll give you a short introduction to Matze's River-Crossing-Guide.

A river crossing must be planned. Important factors in this are the place and often the time of crossing. As part of the preparation it is wise to pack the contents of your pack in a waterproof sack. Once a suitable spot has been found, open the hip belt before entering the water. When crossing deep or fast rivers, it is best to look for a spot where the river is widest and has many sandbanks. Decide where you will enter and exit the river beforehand. You should have convinced yourself there are no obstacles downriver, such as rocks or fallen trees! Use a long stick or a fully extended Leki as a "Third Leg".

When crossing you move sideways with your eyes always directed upriver and you let yourself slowly move backwards with the flow of the water. Should you at some point loose contact with the ground, don't panic. Turn onto your back, feet downriver and spread out your arms. Slow objects always get swept towards sandbanks.

So now you guys now it works.

My route took me ever further up the valley. Crossing the pass was no problem. You simply slide down the gravel, snowboard style. There's nobody there to watch anyway. After about 9 hours walking I managed to find a good place for the night. A hut. However, the last entry in the logbook startled me somewhat:
-My boyfriend and I were travelling together. I think he broke a rib. We are waiting for help-

I took this as a warning and promised myself to take it easy on the leg the next day. I aimed to cover a distance of 6,5km, which shouldn't have been too hard.


The next day I started out, well rested and highly concentrated. I mean, who wants to get lost in a piece of bush where the next visitor could be months away?!

The path quickly became, let's say, unclear. To give some idea of my situation, imagine a thick ancient forest (not Grunewald) with moss, ferns, lichen, huge fallen trees, water holes and cliffs everywhere, through which my path was to take me. Well yes. The weather was good, the birds were trusting (at times coming as close as 20 cm), and I knew what was in store for me. The fun could begin.

If you were to imagine me now, half crawling on the ground, half clambering over and under trees or mossy overhangs, the picture would be fairly representative of the truth.

Never had I experienced something like this and should I ever be offered a tramp in this neck of the woods again, I am sure I would politely decline.

But anyway, the day was still young and though I was somewhat overwhelmed by such wilderness I felt confident. My mood rapidly improved as I descended down to the river and left this green hell (accurate description) behind me. By the water I felt less claustrophobic and no longer in danger of falling into holes or, as almost happened, grabbing spiders the size of my palm. Also it was not so dark down there. So downriver I went. It was getting late and I felt the need to get on with it. When suddenly I am in a gorge, with only a few options.
1. Go back!
2. Try to bush-bash a path!
3. Cross the river!

Well, like I said, it seemed there was more light by the river so I tried crossing it. However at this part of the river the current was too strong, so I went to Plan B and tried climbing along the cliff. Not a difficult climb in itself, except for the pack filled with food for a week and the fact the cliff expressed an ever-growing attraction to the river. And so it happened (you can see it coming) that I fell into the river. But what a wonder, contrary to what I had expected my pack floated very well. As I floated down the river I had plenty of time to look for a good spot to land. Soon enough I found one and I went on, albeit a bit wet and frozen.

To make a long story short it, took me 10.5 hours to cover 6.5 km, whereby I had to cross the river about five times and twice I even had to swim a bit. I was exhausted by the time I came across a flat- a FLAT! - where I could finally pitch my tent.

I will relieve you of the suspense. The contents of my pack were dry. I slept wonderfully and the next five days of tramping was great. Only my shoes were so wrecked I was forced to travel to Christchurch and have a shoemaker fix them.

38. Magdalen Hut - Boyle Flats Hut, 3h, Track, easy track, enjoyable walk, not used to carry so much, weather changes, beautiful surroundings

39. Boyle Flats Hut - Anne River Hut, 6h, Track, good track, feel good, but no soul, always alone, rain all day

40. Anne River Hut - Christopher Hut, 6h, Track, strange all the dead trees, rain, easy walk, nice hut, first people since days

41. Christopher Hut - Caroline Bivy, 6.5h, Track, river crossed in the morning, crossed farmland on easy track, many bulls, followed the riverbed, too many Sandflies, cute Bivy

42. Caroline Bivy - Blue Lake Hut, 7h, Track, fair weather, steep ascent to the pass, quite easy descent, clouds coming in before second ascent, poor visibility, awesome Blue lake, meet DoC-staff, nice hut

43. Blue Lake Hut - West Sabine Hut, 3h, Track, easy descent, rain, met a friend, warm hut, a little partying after so many days without a friend

44. West Sabine Hut - Upper Travers Hut, 7h, Track, walking in a party is different, but I enjoyed it. Awesome landscape, quite steep in parts, heavy rain in the afternoon

45. Upper Travers Hut - Lakehead Hut, 7h, Track, fine weather, beautiful walk, easy descent, very nice spots, shower under a huge waterfall, bath in the lake

46. Lakehead Hut - St.Arnaud, 4h, Track, easy walk, good weather, many sandflies, many birds!

47. St.Arnaud - Porters Hut, 7.5h, Road, Track, very long walk, first hut was closed, poor weather, exhausted, again heavy backpack (food for 10 days)

48. Porters Hut - Hunters Hut, 5h, Track, weather ok, lots of ascents/descents, but I'm getting used to it

49. Hunters Hut - Mid Wairoa Hut, 8h, Track very steep, slippery rocks, easy to break a leg, many river crossings, track overgrown in parts, windfall, it's getting dark very early down here

50. Mid Wairoa Hut - Mt.Rintoul Hut, 7h, Track, long ascent in the morning, steep in sections, exhausting, fair weather, awesome mountains

51. Mt.Rintoul Hut - Starveall Hut, 7.5h, Track, steep and slippery, frost in the night, quite tricky, better not going alone, nice view from the top, quite annoying to see Mt.Rintoul Hut after all - Joke!

52. Starveall Hut - Middy Hut, 6.5h, Track, easy descend, overgrown in parts, many wasps! Good weather, faster then I thought, nice river, I like swing bridges

53. Middy Hut - Pelorus Bridge, 6h, Track, Road, heavy rain in the night, enjoyable walk trough the forest, happy to be back in civilisation

54. Pelorus Bridge - Havelock, 5h, Road, fair weather, easy walking, feel strong, light backpack! The first part is done!

Hello my dears, finally another sign of life. I have arrived on the North Island. I would like to send another little travel report as the way here has been varied. Besides, Internet is relatively cheap here and also I am feeling somewhat lonely.

Beginning is always difficult so I will backtrack a little, a prologue if you like. I hope you have a little time.

After having walked most of the South Island, I met up with Uwe at the Wildfood Festival in Hokitika. Here I gained a little insight into the eating habits of the Kiwis. Aside from snails (the Frenchman laughs) there were also exotic delicacies available like scorpions, huge maggots [grubs], possum steaks and other things I would never have thought people would pay money to eat, even in my naughtiest dreams.

Anyway, it was here I convinced Uwe to join me for a bit of tramping. This he would later say was his biggest mistake ;-)

We arranged to meet at a specific time and place on my route and I emphatically instructed Uwe to take with him a maximum of 10kg. So it was all planned.

My way to our meeting point was very diverse with the last leg being pretty full on as it took me over a pass, 2000m high. This meant I had to carry five days worth of food with me and I had already been walking for 4 days! However, even the highest mountain is eventually conquered and I arrived on time at our meeting point.

Uwe wasn't there yet, so I prepared everything for his arrival, heated the hut and set out with some chocolate energy to meet him. And boy did he need that chocolate bar! The next day we crossed another pass and though it was not quite so high or half as steep as the last one, since then Uwe has considered me one of those rare people who go about running up and down mountains. I did my best to make the tramp as comfortable as possible for him, but it was hard to get him to say a nice thing about the trip. That was the day we decided to go kayaking at the top of the South Island.

And so few days later we were in Golden Bay, where it seemed we would have to forget about any kayak action because it was so expensive. However, after sleeping on it, I managed to convince Uwe it was a good idea anyway. The guy renting the kayaks turned out to be really nice and gave us a good deal.

We hit the road with more than plenty of provisions, solid and fluid. The sea was quite rough and I was glad the kayak guy had persuaded us to take a double. And then we found it - The Beach!!! It was unbelievably beautiful. A real dream beach with everything you could want. A little fresh water stream and wild vegetation offering plenty of shade and protection from the sea wind. The white beach and it's two little islands just off the coast, covered in lush vegetation- something to please the eye when the view of the horizon got boring. It was here I saw my first 3D possum. Before I had only seen the 2D version (road pizza). Unbelievably annoying creatures! Luckily for it, Uwe was able to keep me from following my reflexes and bashing the fluffy animal by pointing out how sweet they really are. Yes, I am cruel person, no mercy for the fluffy ones! Anyway, I didn't do it and our time on the beach was already over, far too soon. We headed back where we met up with Marlies and Saskia (two women we know from Berlin for those who don't know these names).

Marlies' birthday was the next day so we ate very well. During the 8 days with Uwe I gained approximately 5kg ;-)

Marlies came up with the idea to go horse riding. Whether or not you believe it, Matze did actually sit himself on one of these huge things. I must admit it was all right and after someone pointed out to me you are meant to post while trotting, my insides slowly returned to their normal position. I found cantering far more comfortable although I still felt sorry for my poor steed.

Right, that was the end of the prologue. It was time to go again. This time it was going to be a pretty intense tour. I was well forewarned. According to the author of the route description, this was supposed to be the hardest stretch of all. I have only covered half of it, and so far I must agree. However the hardest is always the departure, especially when you've been having a very good time.

To express it in a few words, I felt fear.

But fear is also good, because it calls all your skills to the party at the right time. My hike started in the middle of nowhere. I had a short description of where the path was supposed to start, but there was nothing there. I mean there was no track, no path, no nothing. So, trusting my orientation and the map in my head, I found the first hut, however that was not useable. No floor and no beds. It was still light and it wasn't raining so I decided to go further. The path was full on. It went up and down, mostly over debris and scree and I had to be careful not to sprain anything. Shortly after the rain started I found a serviceable hut. It was already dark and cold and I felt unbelievably lonely.

Well, I had brought this upon myself.

After a cold and very wet night I carried on. The path got steadily more extreme: the mountains became ever higher and they exist of a type of stone that gets slippery when it's wet and from which large pieces of stone had broken off. As if that was not enough, I had to cross a few rivers again and I began seriously asking myself why I was there. But because the weather worsened I had little time to think about the sense or nonsense of it all. On the third day I crossed the first high mountain of 1600m. Some of you may think this is peanuts. But the 1200m ascent over scree gave my joints a hard time. And don't forget, where the way goes up, it will, at some point go down again!

When I got there it reminded me of what I described to you last time. It was a completely overgrown gorge.

I had to be very careful because the track was unstable (and at times no wider than 20cm) and I lost contact with the ground several times. It is a strange feeling when 1 or 2 seconds later you hear the rocks falling into the water below. It became quite tricky because huge fallen trees blocked the way. I do not think I looked particularly elegant overcoming these obstacles, but anyway, I survived.

The hut was situated on the only flat part of the whole gorge (about 200m2). At 3pm the sun disappeared behind the mountains. The next day carried on in similar style. Uwe would have been impressed: a 1000m steep ascent and a whole day walking the ridges of the mountains. It was beautiful with great views, but also very tiring. I covered roughly 3000 vertical metres. The hut was situated at the foot of the highest mountain of this track: a nice spot with a view over Golden Bay- it was a dream.

That night was cold, very cold.

In the morning I was able to admire the pretty frostwork. Those of you who have actually read up till here should have guessed by now that my route that day went uphill, 700 vertical metres to be precise. Because my map ended there, I did not see what came then. After I had climbed the first peak (amazing view over half of the South Island), I saw that there was another one directly behind the first. It was so close I had been convinced it belonged to the summit I was on. Unfortunately it didn't. To keep it short, it would have been nice if they had built a bridge there!

The following descent was