Lots of us are aware just how beautiful New Zealand’s landscape is, many thanks to the hugely successful Lord of the Rings films shot there. Not many of us, however, manage to go and visit this beautiful country. So where do you go on this once in a lifetime trip? The Shire? The Misty Mountains? Sure, but try visiting the network of huts run by the Department of Conservation and immersing yourself in the community that you didn’t know you wanted to be a part of.
I’ve never heard of them, why would I stay there?
The huts are used as shelter from the elements as well as a place to rest your weary head when you’re out and about exploring New Zealand’s picturesque landscape. Wonderfully, the Department of Conservation maintains the huts and the interconnecting trails between them all. That means that you can explore the beautiful nature en route to your next destination, rather than having to remove yourself from your voyage of discovery by heading back to a hostel.
Where did the huts come from?
Many were installed for hunters, shepherds or foresters as outposts. Others were put there to enable scientific research to go uninterrupted. There are now countless huts located across the whole country, something that allows you to go from one end to the other under the power of your own feet. The huts are cheap to stay in and accommodate many backpackers, known to natives as ‘trampers.’
Don’t forget to pack your food
The huts come equipped with bunks and basic facilities and, mysteriously, a book called ‘The Intentions Book.’ It is a logbook full of stories from those who have lived their adventures across New Zealand. Some are tales fraught with danger, and others are funny anecdotes regaling the shenanigans of nights gone by. The books can be a way to keep track of your friend’s movements if you are on different schedules or are going a different route but staying in the same huts eventually. The huts come in different categories, some have cooking facilities with fuel and solar lighting, others come with mattresses and little else. If on a budget, there are basic huts available for free but they do only come with very basic shelter, and you’ll probably have to bring your own cooking equipment. Not all will have places to wash so you may end up taking a dip in a river or standing under a waterfall to make sure you have a quick clean. If you are committing to your wandering, you can buy passes allowing you residence for six months to a year.
The people make the memories
Similar to a hostel, you aren’t sure who you will be sharing a living space with for the evening, it’s the luck of the draw. Thankfully most people are like-minded people, willing to swap travel stories and contribute to the cooking, often adding an ingredient that changes your bland meal into an amazing one. The people you share the huts with become the prevailing memories you take home, sure the Lord of the Rings country is beautiful, but so are the people you travel with.
If you want to go on a wandering vacation, allowing yourself to stroll around at your own pace then using New Zealand’s hut network will provide all you are looking for and more. Beautiful scenery and hundreds of tales to go home with, what more could you ask for?