Special New Zealand feature
Rachael Oakes-Ash puts on her tramping boots and names the best hiking trails in New Zealand.
'Tramping' is the New Zealand term for trekking. 'Jandals' is the New Zealand term for thongs, but whatever you do, don't tramp in jandals. If you plan to tramp around New Zealand bring shoes with soles as hardy as the local folks.
You're likely to cross volcanic craters and glacial rainforests or find yourself knee-deep in warm crystal tidal waters with white sand between the toes. All this while experiencing the country's famous micro climate system that can serve up four seasons in one day.
Here are New Zealand's five best hikes for keen trampers.
1. Hollyford Track sits in the Hollyford Valley which has been carved out by glaciers in the South Island of New Zealand. It is one of only two places in the world where rainforest meets glacial waters.
The beauty of this walk is that you're not tramping en masse: the track is guided in small groups of no more than 16. Accommodation is in two intimate private lodges, one for each night of the trek.
Expect to walk 17 kilometres on day one, around 14 on day two and around nine on day three, with easily marked trails and swinging bridges over wide river waters.
A jet boat will appear to take trampers across a pristine lake and a helicopter flies trampers out on the last day with a spectacular ride into Milford Sound.
A good walk for those who like their creature comforts, but don't expect abundant wildlife. The focus here is on the plant life as the possums have killed pretty much anything that breathes. The plus side is no snakes and plenty of native birds. See http://www.hollyfordtrack.com/
2. The South Island's Milford Track is the most famous trek in New Zealand which means it can get crowded, though a crowd in this country could barely fill a hall in another.
If you don't mind sharing the view, expect a walk that is both challenging and inspiring as guides lead trampers through world-renowned fjordlands with deep water lakes, jaw-dropping gorges and past spectacular waterfalls.
The zig zag ascent through Mackinnon Pass on day three is the most demanding part of the trail, but the rewards are panoramic. Trampers spend an average of seven hours a day with three full days of tramping and four nights in the fiordland.
Accommodation is in remote private lodges with both multi-shared or private rooms and all the mod cons including hot showers to warm bodies that have been exposed to the elements throughout the day.
Blue skies may be preferred but Milford Track truly comes alive in inclement weather, when water cascades from sheer mountainsides - so bring a raincoat. See http://www.ultimatehikes.co.nz
3. Tongariro Crossing in the heart of the North Island is a one-day trekking experience through the volcanic region of the Tongariro National Park. This is the place known as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, a fitting title as parts of the 18.5km trek can be steep and the weather unpredictable; come prepared with appropriate attire, maps, communications and plenty of food and water.
The track features ancient lava fields that climb to over 1900 metres and exposed ridges with views of surrounding dormant volcanoes out to Lake Taupo.
Trampers also pass a series of turquoise blue crater lakes up to the summit of Mt Tongariro. If you are a confident trekker you can do this unguided, but if you prefer the added safety and historical insight of a guide then many guiding companies offer the one day trek, some with pre-dawn departures to watch the sunrise from the mountain. See http://www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz
4. Queen Charlotte Track stretches 71 kilometres through the Marlborough Sounds in the north of the South Island, a region of emerald green warm waters in a series of coves, bays and inlets with bushland ridges.
Trampers can do the trek with or without guide and water transport services can transport luggage from accommodation points along the way.
Bed down in luxury lodges, B&Bs, camp sites, homestays and motels dotted throughout the sounds.
Trampers can also kayak and swim the pristine waters, take a cruiser, yacht or speed boat, or discover some of the region's best vineyards at the gateway town of Picton.
The walk itself is not steep (the highest point is 400 metres) but it is long and undulating so reasonable fitness is required. See http://www.qctrack.co.nz
5. Abel Tasman Coast Track near Nelson on the South Island's northern coastline is popular, with good reason. The series of white sand beaches along the 51-kilometre track are some of New Zealand's finest, offering a variety of landscapes and lush green bushland. Over 200,000 trampers a year take their time hiking here, cooling off in the crystal waters and sunbathing between hiking bursts.
The track can be done on foot and kayak in multi-day experiences or single day trips that take in sections of the track. Beachfront private lodges serving organic cuisine are available for the cashed up, while there is backpacking accommodation on moored boats and campsites and huts provided the Department of Conservation for the budget conscious.
It's a fantastic summer walk with cool nights and balmy days. See www.abeltasman.co.nz.
This series of articles has been sponsored by Tourism New Zealand.