My Epic Year of Hiking in New Zealand

I review a year’s hiking in New Zealand post-Covid lockdown, a year in which I did 72 full sized day-hikes, 68 of them new to me.

In the year since the first New Zealand Covid-19 lockdown ended in late April 2020 I completed 72 hikes (“tramps” in the NZ vernacular), and fifteen shorter walks. Of the 72 hikes 68 were new to me (I had done one before, and I repeated just three). I will explain how I came to do so many walks in a moment. But first, and in order to show off a bit, I will regale you with a few statistics:

  • 68,500m (~225,000ft) of ascent and descent
  • Almost 900km (~550mi) of walking
  • On 64 of these hikes I climbed to a peak or other high point, ranging between 445m and 2333m high, and averaging 1000m of ascent and descent each time
  • 58 of these high points were named peaks over 1000m of elevation, so I incidentally completed the 52 Peaks Challenge
  • All of these tramps were on New Zealand’s South Island, and completed as day-walks; I did all but three of them with my wife Sophia (& she did an overnighter I didn’t do)

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Taking Better Photos On Your Hikes

Ten easy tips for taking better photos on your hikes.

I’m definitely more of a hiker than a photographer. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy recording and sharing the scenery I encounter on my walks, and so photography has become an integral part of my hiking experience. This escalated rather when I started my blog.

Me taking pictures. My wife Sophia doesn't take many photos, but she did a good job with this one I think: nicely framed. Looking at this now I think I lightened the shadows too much, but we can talk about that later. 
[Asgard Swamp & Thor Head Track, Blue Mountains]
Me taking pictures. My wife Sophia doesn’t take many photos, but she did a good job with this one I think: nicely framed. Looking at this now I think I lightened the shadows too much, but we can talk about that later.

I definitely wouldn’t classify what I do as landscape photography. Those guys spend a lot of time setting up a shot, choosing the right lighting, and editing the photo afterwards. And they use a lot of gear I don’t have, like lens filters and tripods. The end result is often a work of art, but that’s not even what I want out of a photo. I just want to accurately portray what my eyes saw, and sometimes add a little artistry to a shot.

As I get more obsessed with my photography I am inevitably learning things through trial and error. I’ve compiled some of this learning into ten tips for taking decent shots of your hikes.

  1. Not Too Much Sky
  2. Landscape or Portrait Orientation
  3. 16:9 versus 4:3
  4. Wonky Horizons
  5. Light and Shadow
  6. Scale
  7. Shooting Wildlife… with a camera!
  8. Photography Gear
  9. Editing Your Photos
  10. Have Some Fun

(If you want to look at some galleries of my photos, you can find them here.)

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Hike Me Happy!

Studies have shown that outdoor activities like hiking can benefit our mental health in a variety of ways. In this article I consider some of the ways hiking has been good for me.

Hiking and Mental Health

A recent review of numerous scientific studies shows that physical exercise in the natural environment can improve our mental health in a variety of ways. Activities such as hiking, snow sports, surfing and outdoor climbing can reduce negative mood states, increase positive psychological experiences, improve self esteem, and contribute to psychologically healthy ageing. As a keen hiker myself I can relate to many of the positive experiences people report.

Hiking has become a mild obsession for me nowadays, and after reading this study I had a think about why I enjoy it so much. Below are the results of my musings…

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Seeing our partner in a new light

Hiking together with my wife is a pleasure, but there are benefits to us sometimes hiking alone. Musings on relationships originally published on my friend’s blog for adventurous couples.

It’s an early autumn morning in the Australian high country. I’m above the treeline, surrounded by clusters of granite boulders dotted around a grassy plain. I can see the skeletal branches of a few fire damaged snow gums on the edge of the valley below. Australia’s highest ground stretches out to the west, peaking at 2228m above sea level on Mt Kosciuszko’s modestly domed summit. My target for today though is Mt Tate, whose colourful east face rises steeply from Guthega Creek to my left.

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