How time flies! While making a few improvements to the formatting of these pages, I realised that four years has passed since we finished our amazing adventure in New Zealand. I also noticed that, unlike the others, I had never written an epilogue to this photodiary. Perhaps this was meant to be. Nearing the end of our time across the Tasman, we met a couple from Europe and were sharing information about the wonderful walks that we had done to date. They dropped the comment that, until we had trekked in the Himalayas, we really didn't know what trekking was about. We took that on board and, rising the challenge, a couple of years later found ourselves high up an isolated valley of those magnificent mountains, looking up at the third highest peak in the world. Truly inspiring, but at the same time the thought occurred to me that, really, New Zealand loses nothing by comparison. Our European friends were wrong.
Is there really that much difference looking up at magnificent 8000m peaks from 5000m or looking up at magnificent 3000m peaks from sea-level (apart from a reduced ability to breathe). In addition, for such a small area, New Zealand has an incredible diversity of landscapes; lakes, pristine rivers, coasts, cliffs, forests, grassy plains, high alps, volcanoes and rolling hills. Combine this with an impressive infrastructure of back country huts and tracks and super-friendly people (so long as you don't mention rugby, netball or underarm bowling) and you have a trekkers' mecca. In eight months, we managed to do over 30 walks, including all nine of the so-called "Great Walks". A curious and somewhat grandiose name, and on asking a local what constituted a Great Walk, he replied "We just call them that for the tourists, eh! That way they all go and do those walks and leave the really good ones for us kiwis!". There is no doubt that we will be back - there are so many tracks in New Zealand that we have much unfinished business and need to check out some of those "really good ones".
So to finish, below is a selection of photos from our treks in New Zealand - 9 are from each of the "Great Walks" and 3 are "ring-ins" from other spectacular walks in The Land of the Long White Cloud. As a parting puzzle and a last chance to appreciate the wonderful and diverse landscapes of this isolated part of the world, can you identify which photo is from which walk?