Routeburn Track - New Zealand - is it worth the cost?

Paying to hike? Michelle from Love in a Tent and the author of Sex in a Tent , posted about the Routeburn Track in New Zealand and suggests the costs are a bit steep!

Michelle is on a six week holiday, hiking some of the best tracks in New Zealand. In the last few days she posted a great story about her tramp on the Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks. Have a look at Michelle's post, she is a very good writer and her yarn about the walk makes great reading.

Now, down to the dollars. The two night walk costs $40 per adult (in season) to sleep in the huts, and $10 for a campsite. The season runs from 1st October to 3oth April and prices reduce considerably outside that time.

Picture by Arslan (see below for more detail)

The Routeburn is one of New Zealand's "Great Walks", and (from the official website) the Great Walk huts are considered the most comfortable:

They have mattresses, water supply, toilets, hand washing facilities and heating with fuel available. They may have solar lighting, cooking facilities with fuel and a hut warden.

The only place in Australia where I can think you pay additional fees for use of "the track" is the Overland Track in Tasmania. This season, 2007/8, the cost is $150 per person, with a small discount for children, seniors etc.

From the official website - Bookings are required for each walking season (1 November to 30 April). During the booking period walkers will be required to walk the track from North to South (Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair).

Most people take 5 nights to complete the Overland Track, so that works out to $30 a night per walker....slightly cheaper than the Routeburn Track in New Zealand. One thing to consider on the Overland Track is that once you are on the walk there is NO COMPULSION to move onto the next hut each day.

Again, from the Parks Tasmania fact sheet on the Overland Track:
Why do we have to book?
The number of walkers on the track needs to be managed in order for the Overland Track to remain Tasmania’s premier bushwalking experience well into the future. To ensure walkers have the flexibility to walk at a comfortable pace, the booking system manages departures only. Walkers do not book their track accommodation; nor are they locked into a fixed itinerary; rather they will book a departure date. By managing departures onto the track, the number and extent of overcrowding events is minimised, and use is spread more evenly during the peak period.

On the Overland Track you have much more flexibility and can stay for longer periods in a hut. For example, many people stay 2 nights in Pelion Hut so they can have a rest day. In New Zealand, the accommodation is booked, so you must move on as there will be walkers arriving that evening to use the bed!

Also worth noting, the huts on the Overland Track are generally more basic than the "Great Walk" Huts in New Zealand. There are no mattresses, cooking facilities or lighting. You must be self sufficient. In some areas during the season there may be a ranger or volunteer at the hut.

They DO have composting toilets, gas or coal heaters and a water tank.

Cooking dinner inside Windemere Hut - Feb 07

So, is the cost too high for either walk? Debatable. Infrastructure in these wild places costs a lot to establish and maintain. Demand for the walks is increasing and the human impact must be managed. Track fees help with this cost and theoretically protect the fragile environments.

Re Arslan photo: Tents for homeless people line the Canal Saint Martin in Paris.
French association ‘Enfants de Don Quichotte’ set up the tents to draw attention to the need for long-term accommodation solutions to the city’s homeless.
There are more than 200 tents.


Ken said...

While $150/person looks a lot, but for the approximately 8000 people who do the walk each year it is only $1.2 million. Not a lot towards the upkeep of the huts and tracks.

Frank and Sue said...

Agree Ken. I think we were told New Pelion cost around $1M to build several years ago. Thanks for the comment

Mark said...

The new Bert Nichols hut completed in September 2008 cost $1.3 million! Apparently the original budget was circa $850k. The walking fee is warranted given Tasmania Parks & Wildlife's efforts to ensure the increasing popularity of the Overland is sustainable.