Nine Great Walks, three islands & one tramping virgin.

Gillian Orrell, who’d never done any tramping, left her London job to fly to New Zealand and tramp the Nine Great Walks. Normally if I’m going to read an adventure book it’s going to be something pretty intrepid. Not a book about tramping in my own country.

The Great Walks are nine walks (one of them is actually a river trip) that the Department of Conservation has designated as the premiere walks in New Zealand. As such they are better up kept, but also busier.

As Kiwis we always seem desperate to hear what travellers think of us. We ask people as soon as they arrive here what they think of the scenery. This book is a bit of national ego boost as Gillian is in love with our scenery. She does a great job describing the views. (The personalities of the people she meets also shine through, that said some Kiwis can be pretty crude!)

The main benefit I got out of the book is it helped me prioritise which tracks I want to do. The DOC descriptions don’t tell you that much. This book lets you in on all the highs and lows before you go.

Gillian gets fairly introspective at times. I guess that’s what happens when you tramp 640 kilometres on your own. I have to admit I rushed over some of these parts. I was much more interested in the description of the mountains than her reflections on her working life in metropolis.

New Zealand Great Walks Map

She spends a lot of time defending and praising the virtues of tramping alone. But I imagine it’s only going to suit a few people. For my part it’s the last thing I want to do. For me tramping is as much about spending time with friends as it is about the activity itself.

It’s funny though, because while she had the urge to get away from everyone and spend all this time on her own, she’s ended up sharing all of it through the book. So to the reader it doesn’t feel so much like going solo at all. It feels like you’re doing the Great Walks with a quirky English girl.

On the whole it’s a charming book. In spite of the slow patches, I kept picking it up and doing another days tramping with her through the remote parts on New Zealand.