First tramp to NZ from Michigan USA - Resv at Huts

My wife and I (Retirees in our 60s) are 30 days away from beginning our first ever tramp in NZ. We have Abel Tasman, Milford, Keplar, Routeburn, Mt Cook/Mueller treks all scheduled and huts reserved (February/March). I did not plan to carry a tent, just a tarp for emergency, as we have reservations at the huts, but I have heard that huts may be over-booked or people stay in them without reservations. My wife and I love to take our time and enjoy the outdoors and take plenty of pictures, rather than race to the hut to claim a bed, versus the floor. We have backpacked many places around the world and have not ran into this issue, yet (luck i expect). Is it an issue in NZ? Last thing we want to do is cause a stir upon arrival to a hut, as we will be tramping with these same people for a few days, I expect.
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Oddly DOC's website is still only advising that the Milford and Routeburn tracks are closed until 6th Feb. Does anyone have a reference of DOC confirming it'll be longer? From yesterday, though: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12305926 As you didn't book Howden Hut on the Routeburn you *might* potentially get lucky if the track's open by late Feb, but I'd not count on it.
I guess cancelling the trip comes down to how much you really want to do the specific hikes. As you say, Abel Tasman area will be fine for your first planned tramp and you are still 11 days out from the start of your second. I am not sure what the feasibility of changing Great Walks bookings is but some here should be able to advise. At this stage it is hard to know if the Milford Sound Rd be open by the 19th or so when you would need to come out. Personally, i would come, do the Abel Tasman then play it by ear — especially if you are able to shuffle Great Walks bookings if needed. Worst case scenario there are also a lot of other great tramps in the South and North Island that are unaffected by the current weather.
milford rd closed till at leas the 12th, routeburn open at the divide possibly by the 6th https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/roadclosures/289618
Fully agree with @Dodgydave: come out and have a blast. You've planned this for over a year and, let's face it, there's not gonna be a happy ending for any of us in the end, so why not? DOC are reasonable regarding their booking system so I suggest contacting them once you're in country. There's a visitor centre at Princes Wharf in Auckland where I'm sure you can work it out, or give 'em a jingle. 2nd the motion to walk the Abel Tasman as planned, then assess and adjust. I understand and appreciate the level of research your wife and you have put into this, but I would offer that there are hundreds of tramping options in the South Island (as well in the NI!) that do not require bookings nor have been affected by the recent weather. Most huts in our network do not require bookings and are first come, first served allowing for tickets or a hut pass. Perhaps in your discussions with DOC you may discuss alternatives.
Lets face it. They are only great walks in name only. It doesn't mean they're the greatest walks. The majority of people who have done more than just Great Walks, i'm sure would NOT rate them the greatest.
Mates of mine who did a south island traverse told me their favourite area was the Anatoki. Having just revisited that again, I can understand why.
Some nice tramps in the top half of the South Island you might like to consider if the bottom half is too affected by the weather. Heaphy Track - a Great Walk and still has availabilty The Old Ghost Rd track - reasonably new, gets you on the tops, can be done straight after the Heaphy from Karamea. Travers-Sabine-Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes N.Park - classic trip St James Walkway - reasonably flat, nice huts, great views. Any trip around the Cobb Reservoir, Mt Arthur area in Kahurangi NP
Just landed in NELSON, now we just heard from DOC, Milford closed until Feb 28 and Routeburn closed rest of season. Kepler still open but we now have to find new treks which can be inserted. UGH. We had planned to do the Milford on Feb 16-19, then do the Kepler and finish with the Routeburn Feb 25-27. Suggestions
I would second a couple of @phil21's suggestions. Heaphy — a great option if you are looking for a Great Walk to add in and ties in nicely in vicinity to the Abel Tasman. The end points (Bainham and Karamea) are a bit remote though I am sure there are transport options. The walk down the West Coast to Karamea I found particularly nice. You can do the tramp in a leisurely 4 days. Travers/Sabine — I have said it before but I think the Travers Valley is quintessential New Zealand tramping (well South Island at least). Great bush walking next to a river with 2000m peaks rising above you. Difficulty if you choose to cross Travers Saddle to the Sabine is a step up from Abel Tasman/Heaphy but still very manageable it you have reasonable fitness. There are also great side trips to Hopeless or Cupola Huts if you were looking for a hut where you are likely to be on your own in a mountain setting. Could also look at going in to Lake Angelus via Robert Ridge if forecast is good. Nelson Lakes is also easy to access and tie in with Abel Tasman. Cobb Valley — also very nice though most of my experience in this area is probably a bit more challenging than you would be looking for. The walk up the Cobb to Fenella Hut is very pleasant with a tarn for swimming near the hut. Would need a rental vehicle to drive in to the Cobb Valley.
a lot of the other huts down there will be flooded with people because its peak season and the people who've had their great walks cancelled.
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Forum Beginners and newbies
Started by Robert Brosko
On 7 January 2020
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