Tag Archives: hiking

Great Ocean Walk, Victoria | Realignment of Route | Moonlight Head to the Gables

Parks Victoria has realigned the Great Ocean Walk in the Otway Ranges between Moonlight Head and the Gables so that you no longer have to walk on the road, but can stop within the Park.

Last year when I walked the Great Ocean Walk in the Otway Ranges, Victoria, I found it to be one of the least appealing, and so gave it a miss, so I am pleased to hear of this significant improvement.

According to Frank and Katrina from BimbiPark, the track is graded for easy walking and weaves through woodlands providing shade on warmer days.

“If you’ve done the walk using our notes and have any comments please email me.
If you haven’t done the walk, get off the couch organise some friends and go for it…You’ll love it. Please call or email me if you need any assistance in organising your walk.”

For more information visit their BimbiPark website and download the GOW track notes and amendments or visit their Great Ocean Walk  website.

Parks Victoria have GOW track conditions, alerts and fire messages on their website along with links to accommodation, wildlife, planning your hike and an interactive map, which as yet does not show the realignment.

Related postings

Walking the Great Ocean Walk

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Bushwalking Navigation | GPS vs Paper Map vs iPhone

Which is better for navigation, your GPS or a paper map? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Do you need to carry both? Are there any alternatives to a dedicated GPS and map?

In bushwalking circles there are always vigorous debates about which is best, a dedicated GPS or a topo map?  This is sometimes generational with older members preferring the map, with which they are familiar, and younger bushwalkers preferring the GPS. To some degree the dictum “each to their own” applies in bushwalking as a walker who doesn’t understand how their GPS works is a danger to themselves and others in their group and would be much safer navigating with a map .

Of course the argument is not that simple, as many modern GPSs now contains maps which can be viewed and overlain with waypoints and your current position. You can now take your digital maps with you when you walk. Fortunately the opposing viewpoints are not exclusive as it is possible and in my view essential to take both, especially when bushwalking in difficult terrain.

I love to walk “thumbing ” my laminated map which allows me to get the “big picture” around me, orientate myself using distant features and anticipate what’s around the next corner. I do however use my GPS to check my location at each stop or at critical “decision points” such as creek junctions, waterholes or ridge descents.

Paper maps have some disadvantages:

  • they get damaged easily, especially at the folds, and require laminating
  • they are cumbersome in a strong wind if you have to open them
  • multiple maps are often needed and changing from one to another in your map case is often difficult
  • they require special storage facilities at home
  • the printing is often too small to see without  reading glasses.

HINT: try laminating your maps in A4 sections, with maps both front and back, which will fit individually into your map case.

Paper maps do however still have many advantages:

  • they allow you to orientate yourself using distant features
  • they can’t go flat as they don’t rely upon batteries
  • they may be more waterproof than your GPS, especially if you are using a “smartphone”
  • they are cheaper in the short term 
  • they work even under a dense forest canopy trees or in narrow gorges.

A GPS has several advantages over paper maps:

  • it can compactly store large amounts of data, plotted on a large desktop computer screen, and then uploaded via a cable, infrared, bluetooth or wireless.
  • if the GPS has a large colour screen and sufficient memory then you can store a large number of maps, which can be scrolled and zoomed. You need never go off the map as they will be seamlessly “stitched together”.
  • it allows you to determine your location quickly with high accuracy and reliability, subject to several limitations: not under a dense forest canopy trees or in narrow gorges.
  • if you have a large touch screen (eg iPhone) then you will be able to effortlessly scroll and zoom, so that your reading glasses are never needed.

Of course there are many features they share, such as the ability to determine location. Experienced map users will be able to lay a compass on their map and do a resection using prominent features to find their current location. Even better they will have “thumbed” the marked route on their map from the beginning and never become lost!

Alternatives to a dedicated GPS

There are alternatives to a dedicated GPS such as a  smartphone, many of which have large colour touch screens and excellent built-in GPS’s. The iPhone is a good example of such a phone, and as most bushwalkers should be carrying a mobile phone with them anyway, this can serve as a good back up for those who prefer to use maps but don’t want the expense of purchasing a dedicated GPS. There are several excellent mapping apps (applications) which are very easy to use on the iPhone and while they don’t match a dedicated GPS for versatility, they only cost a few dollars.

The iPhone does however have two major limitations: battery life and lack of waterprooofness, but both of these can be overcome with solar panels and waterproof covers.

Read more about the uses of the iPhone for bushwalkers

Related Posts

Can my GPS replace My Map?
Why am I Lost When I Have a GPS?
How to Keep your iPhone Charged in the Outdoors 
Bushwalking Navigation

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Bushwalking in the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges, South Australia | Pt 1 Trip Planning Resources

Where are the Gammons? Why visit the Gammons? When is the best time to visit the Gammons and how long do you need? What level of experience do you need and does it require any special planning and equipment because of its remoteness? What resources are available to help you plan, appreciate and enjoy what you see?

UPDATE: there has been a mouse plague in the Gammons (April -? 2011) and I would advise taking your tent inner, storing food outside your tent in air tight bags and hanging your food out of reach.

Bushwalking, Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park ……..in brief

Gammon Ranges 

Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park is an arid wilderness of spectacular rugged ranges and deep gorges 400 km N of Port Augusta off the Copley-Balcanoona Rd. The park has important cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people who are the traditional custodians of the region. There are several access points, both for 2WD and 4WD vehicles, with the heart of the park offering challenging wilderness bushwalking experiences. The park includes limited caravan sites, bush camping, 4WD touring tracks and several accommodation options. Bookings are essential for hut accommodation and shearers’ quarters. The park adjoins Lake Frome Regional Reserve and shares a boundary with Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges Traditional Owners and DEH co-manage the park. ” (DENR )

Google Aerial view of the Gammons

View Larger Map


 The last 100 km is largely over dirt roads, which can sometimes be badly corrugated. If you wish to set up a base camp at Grindell Hut inside the Park, I recommend that you use a 4WD as the tracks are sometimes sandy and the wheel ruts can be deep. Many conventional cars will not have sufficient ground clearance. Make sure you carry essential spare parts for your vehicle and read the RAA Outback Driving booklet. 

Up-to-date road conditions can be checked via the Far Northern and Western Areas road condition hotline – 1300 361 033 or by visiting http://www.dtei.sa.gov.au. Alternatively call the Desert Parks information line on 1800 816 078.

Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley (just north of Leigh Creek)
SA Outback Fuel Chart
Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley( just north of Leigh Creek)
Google Maps Copley, Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges Nat Pk and Arkaroola Village

Outback Driving (RAA)


If you are planning a trip to northern SA (eg the Gammons) check the forecast carefully as the temperature is often in the high twenties or low thirties, when it is in the high teens in Adelaide. My experience is that it is often 5 -10 degrees warmer than Adelaide but colder at night. 

Check the Weatherzone climate statistics for Arkarooola  , the nearest weather station or visit the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary’s Climate Information page which compares the climate with other capital cities.

Long term averages show May to early September to be the  best from a temperature perspective (mean max 19-20 deg C). Mean minimum temperatures are 3-7 deg C, (lightweight sleeping bag weather). Days of rain 3, mean rain 6-10 mm (you may even risk just a fly depending on the month)

Further north in the Gammons, water can also be short supply after six months with little rain. A spring/early summer trip is risky as most rain falls in December-March as the tail ends of monsoons sweep down SE from the Kimberley and most will have gone by then.

Fire Bans

All wood fires or solid fuel fires are prohibited from 1 November 2010 to 31 March 2011. Gas fires are permitted other than on days of total fire ban. For further information, please contact the Port Augusta Regional Office (08) 8648 5300, the Wilpena Visitor Centre (08) 8648 0048 or the CFS Fire Bans Hotline 1300 362 361.  Timely reminder of fire restrictions in parks (DENR 103kb pdf)

Time Required

The Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges are a long drive of 8 – 9 hours from Adelaide, over unsealed roads from Copley, which can be badly corrugated depending on how recently they have been graded. For most people, the two days of travel encourages you to spend a minimum of  3-5 days in the Gammons, including some time at the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the Paralana Hot Springs which are a short drive away. If you based yourself at Grindell Hut within the Park, then  it would be possible to spend a whole week in the Park and then at least another three days at Arkaroola.

Panorama of Grindell’s Hut, showing the hut and the landscape surrounding it. (Peter Neaum 2009-09-10)

Bushwalking Experience Level

The Gammons are remote with the nearest major town, Leigh Creek, a hundred and thirty kilometres away to the west, which takes about 2-4 hours, depending on the state of the road. In addition to the remoteness, water supplies are unpredictable, the temperatures much higher than Adelaide and the terrain rugged, with significant exposure at times, when climbing the waterfalls. A high level of navigation skill, using both map and compass and GPS, is required as most of the walking trails are off-track with no signage and no trail markers. This Park is designated as being unsuitable for beginning bushwalkers, with experience of multi-day hikes, the ability to carry heavy loads and self-sufficiency in terms of first aid and training a necessary requirement. The carrying of an emergency beacon (PLB), GPS, relevant maps, mobile phone and even a UHF radio in case of emergency communication with nearby stations is advised. Don’t forget to leave your trip intentions form with the Ranger at Balcanoona.

Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Outback South Australia 4wd  Tracks and Repeaters Brochure  (5.5Mb, pdf)

Department Environment and Natural Resources

Park Passes
Park Closures
Trip Intentions Form (323kb pdf)
Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (647kb pdf)
Wildlife of the Desert Parks (419kb pdf)
Balcanoona Shearer’s Quarters Booking Information (145kb pdf)
SA National Parks Guide – Flinders Ranges and Outback Region (816kb pdf)
Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park Weetootla Hike Network brochure (686kb pdf)


 John Chapman’s Gammon Ranges


Maps: 1:50,000 Topographic Illinawortina, Nepabunna, Serle, Angepena
Northern Flinders Ranges (1.4MB pdf)
South Australian Outback (1.2MB pdf)
The Map Shop 
Map index:  Arkarooola – Gammon Ranges – Yudnamutana – Farina
Map Index:  North Flinders – Wilpena – Blinman – Leigh Creek – Balcanoona
RAA Flinders Ranges & Outback Maps 

Further Reading 


South Australia: Vulkathana – Gammon Ranges (ABC, Program One: 29 December 2003 )
The Grindell Murder Case (Flinders Ranges Research)
Gammon Ranges Bunyip Chasm (ExplorOz)
Grindell Hut ( ExplorOz)
Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (Wikipedia)
Department of Environment and Natural Resources Search Results| Gammons
Biological Survey of the North West Flinders Ranges (near Leigh Creek) (4.48mb pdf)
Gammon Ranges National Park Access Guide and Newsletter 2006 Autumn Edition (SA Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Inc) (149kb pdf)
Arkarola Wilderness Sanctuary Activities (nearby tourist accommodation)


Gammon Ranges (Flikr) 

Scientific Expeditions Group (SEG)

Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project (VGRaSP)
Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project | General Description (VGRaSP 118Kb pdf)
Analysis of Rainfall in the Gammon Ranges of South Australia 1992 – 2002  (1.7Mb pdf SEG)
The Gammon Ranges Project – Monitoring in a Remote Area D.J. Kemp1, C.J. Wright and S.A. Jewell Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (pdf,338Kb)


C. Warren Bonython. Walking the Flinders Ranges. Adelaide: Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, 2000.

The story of Warren Bonython’s walk from the Crystal Brook in the south to Mt Hopeless in the north.  xiii, 231 p. [32] p. of plates :bill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. 

Adrian Heard. A Walking Guide to the Northern Flinders Ranges. State Publishing South Australia, 1990.

An excellent book, describing 3 circuit walks of around one week’s length in the Gammon Ranges and briefer notes to the Arkaroola Sanctuary area. Recommended if you are planning a long walk in the Gammon Ranges. Probably out of print, price unknown.

John Chapman  Bushwalking In Australia, 4th edition 2003

320 pages, A5 in size – full colour throughout, 181 colour photographs, 56 colour topographic maps, 

Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

Paperback, 168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps, 180mm x 120mm x 11mm. The Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island are featured in the walks over terrain ranging from coastal scrub to mountains and arid desert. ISBN: 9780855722111

Barker, Susan and McCaskill, Murray (Eds) Explore The Flinders Ranges RGSSA Adelaide 2005

A ‘must have’ for all travellers and admirers of the Flinders Ranges.  Recommended by tourist authorities; ideal for tourism studies and school projects.

Osterstock, Alan Time: in the Flinders Ranges. Austaprint,1970

56 pages, A5 in size, 8 colour photos. Covers the geology and history of the Flinders Ranges.

Osterstock, Alan The Flinders in Flower. Austaprint,1975

53 pages, A5 in size, 25 colour photos. Describes 27 of the most common flowers of the Flinders Ranges.

Corbett, David A Field Guide to the Flinders Ranges Rigby, 1980

A field guide to the plants, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, fishes, frogs, rock types, landforms and a brief history.

Pedler, Rosemary Plant Identikit: Wildflowers of the Northern Flinders Ranges  Rosemary Pedler1994

This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 70 of the most common plants of the northern Flinders Ranges

M. Davies,  C.R. Twidale, M. J Tyler Natural History of the Flinders Ranges Royal Society of South Australia Inc 1996

This 208 page A5 book describes the history of settlement and exploration, the geology and minerals, fossils, landforms, climate, soils, vegetation, aquatic life,invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptile and amphibians and aboriginal people . It is well illustrated with B&W photos, graphs, tables, maps and has an extensive reference list

Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 18 cm.  ISBN     0855722118 (pbk.) : Includes index.
Subjects     Hiking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  Walking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  South Australia – Guidebooks.

Morrison, RGB  A Field guide to the Tracks and Traces of Australian Mammals Rigby 1981

This unique 198 page field guide contains a large number of B&W photos of tracks, diggings, droppings & scats and bones and skulls of Australian animals which helps with identification. [ISBN 0 7270 1489 7

Bonney, Neville & Annie Reid Plant Identikit Common Plants of the Flinders Ranges Neville Bonney1993 [ISBN 0 646 15406 0]

This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 51 of the most common plants of the Flinders Ranges, including the Gammon Ranges National Park

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Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 Getting Fit for a Multi-day Hike in Mountainous Terrain

Do you need to prepare for multi-day hike, when you will be carrying a heavy pack, in mountainous terrain with long days? Are you a little overweight and a little unfit? Is you endurance and cardiovascular fitness lower than you would like? Want some ideas on how to improve these?

 Disclaimer: I am not a fitness trainer and hence the ideas I give here are from my personal experience, from my own research and from advice I have received from qualified trainers. Please consult you doctor and qualified fitness trainer before undergoing any intense fitness program or adopting the ideas I have outlined.
What fitness improvements will I need?

You will need to strengthen your leg joints and back, strengthen quadriceps (thighs) and improve aerobic fitness, agility and endurance.


  • cardiovascular fitness 80%
  • motor fitness  20% : strength, power, endurance, agility, flexibility

When should I start training?

Ideally you should start improving your fitness 6 – 12 months beforehand, although an intensive program with a personal trainer can produce significant improvement over a much shorter period of 6-8 weeks, but may only reach 80% of what is  achievable over a longer period.

What sort of training will I need?

“Mountaineering is primarily an aerobic activity. Strength is important for lifting a pack, but it is more important to build up your aerobic fitness level and stamina for long climbing days. Aerobic fitness can only be improved over months – so start your training program now.” Fitness for Mountaineering (Alpine Guides)

As you come close to the time for your climbing trip try to use a few weekends to load up with a 7-10 kg pack and walk all day (8 hours), up and down hills, if possible, to work on endurance.

 It is universally agreed the the best training for any activity is to train by doing the activity. If you want to climb mountains, then train by climbing mountains. Unfortunately, not all of us have mountains near us, so we are forced out on to the roads and into gyms.

“Look for types of exercise that improve aerobic fitness. Anything that uses your legs and raises heart rate increases stamina: walking (with intent), stair climbing, jogging, mountain biking, step machines, ski machines, rowing machines are all useful. Try exercise that most resembles climbing. Hill running is effective because it is weight-bearing and strengthens bones.” Fitness for Mountaineering (Alpine Guides)

If you are going to be wearing a heavy pack, start wearing a pack early in your training  at least once a week and perhaps as many as three and gradually build up to your eventually carrying capacity.  If you are going to require endurance with long days and heavy loads train with this in mind.

Bushwalking, along narrow rocky tracks, over tree roots and along rocky ridges, with a high level of exposure, requires a high level of agility so don’t ignore balance exercises. Of course if you train in rough terrain you will by necessity be practising agility as you train.

Any training you do however should include a warm up and warm down and incorporate stretching and rest days, which you should use to recover by exercising at 50-60% of your MHR* ( maximum heart rate) which can be calculated by taking your age from 220.

Many people believe that interval training, short periods of intensive effort interspersed with more moderate levels, is very effective and often much more effective than just increasing the volume of your training. They suggest that you start interval training 3-4 months into your program and use this method once or twice a week in the last two  months.

In general, the intensity of your exercise needs to be in the range 65-85% of MHR.

How many sessions a week do I need.

 Aerobic fitness will require 4-5 sessions a week of 30-45 mins each.

The following program, provided by my local gym,  may or not be suitable for  you.  It is based upon my personal requirements, based on age and fitness level, my goals and my trainers personal preferences. I am sure there are many other alternatives.

My goal is to be able to walk into a hut over mountainous terrain carrying a 15-25 kg pack, and then carry a 15 kg pack for up to 12 hours while climbing 1300 m up then down i.e equivalent to Mt Aspiring in NZ or Mt Blanc. A high level of agility will required to cross crevasses, scramble up some steep snow ramps (40-60°) and perhaps climb up and over steeper rock with a high level of exposure.

The program includes:

3 sessions hill climbing
1 Pilates session to help strengthen my lower back and core
1 interval training (cardio) session to build up endurance
1 weights session to build upper body strength.
1 rest* day per week

The cardio session includes:

  • bike: interval training session,  level 7, 1 min at 75-80 rpm, 30 sec at max rpm
  • treadmill: 6 kph at 9% grade, gradually build up grade as fitness improves, 3-5 reps, no rest

For Strength and toning:

                                             Sets  Repetitions Weight

  • Chest Press                  3         10               40
  • Lat Pulldown                3         10              40
  • Leg Press                     3         10               60
  • Triceps Pushdown     3         10               30
  • Bicep Curl                 3           10               30
  • Front Raise                3           10               5 kg
  • Lateral Raise             3           10              4  kg
  • Lower Back                           100
  • Leg Raise                  3            20

How will I know if I am fit enough?

You should be able to hike 300 m uphill in less than an hour with a 12 kg pack.

Read other posts on fitness I have recently written.


RMI Training Recommendations ( pdf download)
An RMI Guide Shares his Views on Training (pdf download)
Training for climbing, trekking and skiing…. ( IcicleUK.com)

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Review | The Shell Guide to the Routeburn (NZ) Track by Philip Temple | Pt 3 Route Guide

Planning to complete the Routeburn track in New Zealand? Want some hints from someone who has walked the track many times? Interested in the flora and birds? This article is a part review of the 40 page Routeburn Track Guide by Philip Temple, published by Whitcoulls in 1976, which has become a NZ tramping classic and still contains valuable information.

© Bushwalker

Route Guide

The track is 39 kms long and average travelling time according to Philip Temple is only 13 hours ” … so that a very fit, skilled tramper with a light pack might accomplish it in one summer’s day.

As is common, he recommends completing the walk in 3 days

Day 1 Routeburn Lodge (Shelter) to Routeburn Falls Hut(8km, 2.5hrs, + 250m)
Day 2 Routeburn Falls Hut to Harris Saddle (4.8 km, 1.5 hrs, +300m) and then to Lake Mackenzie (10.5km, 3 hrs, -300m)
Day 3 Lake Mackenzie to Lake Howden (9km, 3hrs, +?m) to Milford Road. (3.2km, 1 hr plus 1hr if climb Key Summit, – 150m)

Routeburn Falls Hut. Photo taken by Steffen Sledz

Day 1 Track Notes

Bridal Veil Ck footbridge 1 hr
Birds: parakeets, robin, fantails
Flora: Montane beech forest dominates between 500 – 1150 m with three species of beech: red (lower, warmer slopes), mountain , silver. Forest floor thickly carpeted by coprosma, fuchsia, ribbonwood, pepperwood and on the Hollyford slopes, kamahi, broadleaf and totara.
Upper flats: arrive after couple of hours, to cross the river by bridge. The Flats (702m) were the upper limits of horse traffic.
Looking north up the northern branch of the Routeburn you can see Mt Somnus (about 5.5 km away, true 32.5°, GR E0280942 N5048358, 2282m) and further away to the right is Turret Head (16 km across Dart, 62.4° True, GR E0292265, N5051650, 2350m)
Routeburn Flats to Routeburn Falls Hut (976m) 3.2 km, walking time 1.25hrs. The lower hut is DOC and the upper private.
Flora: giant mountain buttercup blooms in early summer in the beds of the higher creeks

Lake Harris, Routeburn track, from the path from Harris Saddle to Conical Hill. © Zoharby

Day 2 Track Notes

1. Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle, the boundary between Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

Flora: giant buttercup, flowering spaniard, daisy, gentian, ourisia, hebe, snowgrass.
The track above Lake Harris may be impassable if snow covered and should not be attempted in bad weather.
Views from Harris Saddle: Hollyford valley to west, and behind that the Darran Mountains with Mt Christina (2692m)12 km away to the SSW ( 232° T). Mt Tutoko ( 2964m) to the north.
If you have time there are excellent views to be had by climbing Conical Hill (1515m) to the north of the saddle.
Harris saddle only has emergency shelter

2. Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie

About 2km from the Saddle there is a track intersection with Deadman’s Track and after another 2km a large square rock which can be used as an emergency bivouac. Don’t waste time on this section if the weather forecast is looking to be poor.

Looking north, “…..you will be able to see right down the Hollyford to Lake McKerrow and the sea at Martins Bay ….” 8.5 km to the south (200° T), at the head of the Hollyford Key Summit (GR E0272856 N 5033572) stands out.

Great reflections of Mt Emily (1815m) to the NE can be obtained in the lake early morning or evening.

Mackenzie Hut at Mackenzie Lake, Routeburn Track, New Zealand. © Steffen Sledz

Day 3 Track Notes

1. Lake Mackenzie to Lake Howden via Earland Falls

Views: Hollyford and Darrans
Flora: veronica scrub, beech forest, red of rata blossom in summer.
Birds: sweet notes of the bellbird, rattle and bell call of the kaka, whooshing beat of the bush pigeons, waxeyes at forest edge, brown creepers deeper in the bush, black backed gull on rocky bluffs.
After 2 hours reach Earland Falls. After another hour you reach Lake Howden.(671m)

2. Lake Howden to Key Summit (919m) to The Divide shelter on Milford Road

View from Key Summit, Routeburn Track NZ © Metapede

Great views from Key Summit which is a botanists mecca, where “… stunted beech trees take the place of subalpine scrub and merge into perhaps the finest bog and swamp region .. with plant life ranging from sundews, bladderworts and orchids to bog forstera, bog daisy and bog pine.”

Related reading

iPhone app: What Bird NZ

Previous Routeburn Track Planning posts

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Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2 Impact of Age

What impact does age have on fitness? How should I vary my training to suit my age? How can I measure my level of fitness?

Statistics show that 45 to 65 is the largest age group in bushwalking clubs. No doubt many have recently joined a club to get fit, others have been bushwalkers for many years, but all will be aware that as they get older they need to exercise regularly to maintain a high level of fitness and counteract the ageing process. Not only do you need to continue to exercise regularly as you get older but you probably will need to modify your diet to compensate for a decrease in BMR (basal metabolic rate), which means you will need to eat less.

My personal experience has shown that not only has growing older reduced my aerobic capacity but that it now takes much longer, after a break from training, to recover former levels of fitness.

Research has shown that aerobic fitness decreases from 35 years and accelerates as you get older, losing 10-15% each year once you reach 50. As you get older you lose muscle mass, increase fat and your ability to pump blood around your body decreases. However there is hope; keep exercising at a high level and you can slow down the process of ageing.

Generally accepted wisdom is that you should train at between 65 – 85% of maximum heart rate and this is calculated by subtracting your age from 220 (beats per minute). This means that as you get older, you are advised by most to exercise at a lower intensity. The research above however indicates that those over 50 might be better exercising at a higher intensity, using interval training, and reducing the volume of their training.

Cross-training (walking, riding, climbing, skiing) is one way to keep training volume high and maintain high levels of motivation while at the same time reducing muscle-tissue damage, which sometimes results from repetitive running. As muscle mass decreases with age, strength training becomes important and should not be ignored, especially if heavy pack carrying is part of your normal bushwalking.

I find that my motivation is helped by regularly measuring my fitness/health and observing positive progress. There are four main fitness monitoring devices, three of which do a similar job and the fourth measures body characteristics:

  • Smart Phones eg Nokia, iPhone (with or without heart Rate Monitor): upload to a dedicated website
  • Nike shoe sensors (iPod, iPhone): senses movement and upload to you upload to iPod, iPhone from where it can be uploaded to a dedicated website for analysis
  • POLAR wristwatches with heart rate monitor strap: upload to you computer or watch
  • Body Composition Monitors : such as the Tanita InnerScan which measure Weight, Body Fat %, Body Water %, Daily Caloric Intake, Metabolic Age, Bone Mass, Muscle Mass, Physique Rating, and Visceral Fat Rating, adjusted according to your gender, age, height and weight, and rated against population statistics. All you have to do is stand on the device, which looks like normal body mass scale. This device is surprising accurate showing trends such as improving metabolic age as fitness improves, and correlates with the fitness level shown by my Polar wristwatch. I would highly recommend the purchase of this body composition monitor, which has been a great source of motivation for me.

See also:

From an earlier post:Using your Smartphone to Monitor Fitness Levels for Bushwalkers and Hikers
FAQ – Age and Exercise (Roger Caffin)

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Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Why, How and When?

How does bushwalking fitness differ from general fitness? Are there specific training methods that will help bushwalkers?  How long in advance should I start training for a specific bushwalk?


You will enjoy your bushwalk much better if you are fit, so that you have time and energy to talk to your fellow bushwalkers, admire the environment and take photos. Getting fit requires a well balanced program to develop the strength to carry a backpack, leg strength (quadriceps and knees) for hill climbing/descent, aerobic fitness and stamina. The two key components are cardiovascular (heart) fitness  and motor fitness (particularly strength, endurance and balance).

Getting fit can take many months, up to six for a strenuous multi-day expedition,  so don’t leave it till the last moment! Intense training under expert guidance can shorten this to as little as 6 – 8 weeks, for an 80% gain of what you could have achieved in 6 months.

If you have access to a fitness consultant/personal trainer, perhaps at your local gym, seek advice before you start training. Have the trainer determine your current fitness level or perhaps measure it yourself. I have posted some ideas to help you do this previously. Using your Smartphone to Monitor Fitness Levels for Bushwalkers and Hikers

Check with your doctor, whether you have any underlying health problems that could preclude certain types of training. Decide, in consultation, whether you need upper body strengthening exercises, how many sessions you will require, their type and their duration per week.

Your aerobic conditioning program should keep your heart rate high (65-85% of maximum rate, adjusted for age) and last 30- 60 mins per day, leaving some rest days. Interval training over at least a  three month period can further increase your cardiovascular fitness.

Stamina and strength training should replicate the terrain and weight carrying you will experience when bushwalking. There is little point in training on the flat, for short durations, at high speed with no pack, if your bushwalking is likely to be over hilly terrain, with a heavy pack and for 8-10 hours at a time. Gym fitness often doesn’t translate to fitness on a bushwalk.

Try stair climbing, if you have no hilly terrain near your home, or perhaps use a treadmill with an incline or a stepping machine. Start wearing your backpack as you get fitter.

In general, try to reproduce the terrain, weight carrying, duration and speed needed during your training. Be careful to build up slowly and not to overdo the frequency, intensity and duration of training too early. Don’t ignore the value of building up balance and  movement skills, which will allow you to move faster over difficult terrain. Scrambling skills are very useful!

Training for long days of bushwalking requires long days of training. Concentrate on legs, back and lungs! The number of sessions will vary, but 2-3 sessions per week with a backpack, gradually increasing to the likely weight will be most effective.

 Some Tips

Aerobic exercises could include:

  • climbing AND descending hills or stairs
  • running, cycling, skiing, snowboarding

Don’t forget to:

  • warm up and warm down with a 10-15 minute aerobic warm up and 5 – 10 minute warm down
  • Stretch for 15 minutes after warm up and immediately after your workout.


RMI Training Recommendations ( pdf download)
An RMI Guide Shares his Views on Training (pdf download)
Training for climbing, trekking and skiing…. ( IcicleUK.com)

Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

iPhone Apps for Bushwalkers Visiting New Zealand (NZ)

Want to check the weather in NZ? Listen to streamed radio? Find Public transport in Auckland or Wellington? Book an Air New Zealand Flight? Calculate distances and times between towns? Find wifi access or budget accommodation? NZ Snow report? Navigate roads? Identify birds and their calls? View topographic maps?

 There are certainly a large number of iPhone apps available to bushwalkers/trampers and I have reviewed many of these in a series of previous posts, some in detail and others briefly.

This post looks at 15 or so iPhone apps from the perspective of someone who is planning to tramp in NZ or has arrived in New Zealand and wants to add some local flavour.  To make it easier, I’ve grouped these and provided a brief synopsis, taken directly from iTunes. Where I have actually used the app I have provided a more detailed review


  • Weather NZ

    Get the latest weather forecasts from New Zealand’s own MetService forecasters. Up to date, marine and general forecasts for all New Zealand Urban areas. WeatherNZ also lets you chart tidal data for all Primary and Secondary ports around NZ, plus lets you see latest Situation isobar image as they get released. Snow and Surf reports are updated directly from snow.co.nz.

  • New Zealand Snow Report

    Get your New Zealand snow reports on the go, for free, with SnowReports.co.nz and your iPod Touch or iPhone. Whether you are on the road or still lying in bed you can instantly check the weather, road and lift conditions at your favourite NZ ski areas. Or, if you are trying to decide which ski area to go to, simply browse conditions at ALL of them! The free SnowReports summaries include: Mountain name, Weather status, Road conditions, Number of lifts open, Snow base depth, New snow depth, Temperature, Wind, Time last updated


  • Timetable NZ

    If you’re a user of public transport in Auckland or Wellington then this App is for you. Find bus, train, ferry and even cable car schedules for public transport in greater Wellington and the City of Sails. Store frequently used routes in a favorites list and view the next three departures on those routes in a convenient initial page. View the location of your departure station within Google Maps in relation to where you are now to help you find where you should be going. Best of all, these schedules are all stored on your iPhone or iPod meaning that you don’t need to have a network connection to use the App.

  • Air New Zealand-mPass

    With mPass on your iPhone or iPod Touch you can: View up to date details of all your flight bookings. Go straight to the gate when travelling within New Zealand without bags. mPass acts as an electronic boarding pass. The mPass boarding pass is also recognised by Air New Zealand airport kiosks. Just scan your mPass boarding pass to collect baggage tags when travelling domestically with bags. If you’re a Koru member, scan your mPass boarding pass for entry to the Koru Lounge.


  • Find NZ

    Find! NZ is a New Zealand local search engine based on location awareness. The app uses an open source database from Zenbu. (www.zenbu.co.nz) Features: Online & Offline search. Search the nearest points of interest by predefined 43 categories. Custom search by any keywords from your keyboard entry.  Phone call, Open website, Send email, Send SMS and Map. (phone call available on iPhone only) Add, Edit Entries – You can add/edit entries in App. (Online only) Option to choose location control : GPS or Manual setting. Option to choose the max number of search results to display. (200 max) Special offers provided by Arrival NZ Magazine. (Discount coupons/Free stuffs)

  • NewZealand.spot-on

    Browse activities and destinations by region and then save them for quick access upon arrival. Save and share your adventures back home by creating custom Postcards with your photos and then posting them to social networks.
    Highlights: Works offline so that you can plan your trip during your Air New Zealand flight 1500+ pre-loaded activities and destinations organized by geography/region. Postcard builder with dozens of frames, stamps, and captions to make fun vacation snaps for friends and fans across Facebook and Twitter. Travel Notes area for backing up important names, numbers and trip detail.  Recommendations from local bloggers and recent travelers. Automatic content updates of additional activities and events
    Helpful tools include: WiFi Finder – lists cafés, libraries, and other known establishments with wireless access. Distance Calculator – estimated driving/flying times between towns. BBH Hostel Network – full list of budget accommodations and amenities across the North and South Islands. iSite Kiosk Directory – New Zealand’s official travel information resources. Kiwi Translations – learn the lingo so you can order your coffee just right.  Map of New Zealand – pinch, zoom, plot, escape.  Book a flight – direct access to Air New Zealand flight bookings and deals
  • Zenbu

    Find Everything from Zenbu instantly on your iPhone, no network connection required. http://www.zenbu.co.nz is a local search engine for New Zealand (and only NZ) places, products & services with over 80,000 listings including restaurants, cafes, accommodation, hairdressers, service stations, banks, ATMs and more. With this app you have the name, address, phone, website, activity description and opening hours all at your fingertips. Zenbu is the perfect reference tool for locals and tourists.

  • Lonely Planet Auckland

    # easy to use – swipe to scroll through a full table of contents, dip into sections, and turn pages with a flick of your finger # offline maps – there’s no need to go online to access our detailed street maps, fully retooled for the iPhone with location awareness, multi-touch controls, full-colour styling and six-level zoom # tons to see and do – choose how to search through hundreds of geo-coded points-of-interest (POIs) – by proximity, category, preferences or favourites – then just tap to visit the website, or place a direct call # text search – whether you’re into ‘live music’ or ‘fine dining’, every article and POI in your guidebook is text-searchable # location-based navigation – plot your location in real time on our interactive maps, exploring back streets and hidden treasures with no danger of losing your way # worth a thousand words … – if you need some inspiration, just thumb through images taken by our award-winning photographers # personalisation – tailor your City Guide to your tastes by tagging the best POIs as ‘favourites’ # money saving – forget roaming costs, our apps are designed for offline use, and only take up the room of an average album on your iPod


  • MapApp NZ

    MapApp NZ South Island displays full topographic maps of New Zealand’s South Island. Explore the South Island on your iPhone or iPad.  Find your current location on the map using the built-in GPS.Search for place names. MapApp includes all the map data with the app, so maps can be displayed even when you have no cellular coverage. The map data is derived from the latest LINZ 1:50000 scale Topo50 series.

  • Google Earth

    Navigate the world with a swipe of your finger. Swipe with two fingers to adjust your view to see mountainous terrain. Show the Panoramio layer and browse the millions of geo-located photos from around the world. View geo-located Wikipedia articles. Use the Location feature to fly to your current location. Search for cities, places, and business around the globe with Google Local Search. Nav4D New Zealand


  • New Zealand Radio Streams

    Alarm Clock Sleep Timer Search by radio name,  Graphic Equalizer, Favorites list, History of last played stations ,Regular updates over the air, Customer service support, Song title and artist name (when available), iPhone 4 Retina Display icon, Recording, Facebook & Twitter support, Advanced Alarm Manager – Multiple Alarms, Day Selection, iPod music / Radio station and more, Transfer Recordings to your computer with iTunes USB File Sharing (iOS 4.x), “Wifi only” On/Off switch (setting can be found in the main setting app under Radio)

  • New Zealand Radio Stations

    The Tunin.FM New Zealand Radio Stations application allows you to listen to New Zealands radio stations whilst travelling. You no longer need to switch frequencies when travelling across different coverage areas. You can now even listen to internet-only radio stations or local stations whilst travelling and anywhere you like. Enjoy radio in digital quality on the train, the bus, in the car and on your bicycle. The Tunin.FM-application does not require a Wi-Fi connection. With this app, even mobile internet connections which are sometimes slow (i.e. 2.5G/GPRS) allow you to listen to good quality radio. It is easy to save your favourite radio stations on the list of favourites and an automatic record is kept of the radio stations you listened to most recently the next time you start the app again.

First Aid 

  • St John NZ CPR

    St John is the leading provider of first aid training in New Zealand as well providing ambulance services to 85% of the population. This application teaches the life saving skills of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR. Knowing how to save a life of a family member, friend or colleague is vital, so why not get this application now so you have it on your phone. You never know when you might need it and it is FREE.

Field Guides

  • What Bird NZ

    WhatBirdNZ provides a concise pocket reference guide to many of the interesting birds that can be seen around New Zealand. Not only does it allow you to hear and see them but it also provides interesting trivia in a fun “Top Trumps” style card format. Also when in this view you can rotate your iPhone/iPod to see a zoomed in photo.

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Bushwalking Navigation | Using Topo50 Maps (LINZ) for Tramping in New Zealand

Want to plan your NZ tramp using digital topographic maps? Like to view NZ Topo50 maps on your iPhone or Mac? What sorts of maps are best for tramping?  How do you select the appropriate map? How can you load and calibrate these maps on an iPhone or Mac computer? What are some of the technical problems?

New Zealanders are certainly lucky to have high quality recent produced raster digital topographic maps (300dpi) available for download for FREE , and despite some controversy, the change to NZGD2000, which is equivalent to the universally used WGS84 for bushwalking purposes, has brought some bonuses for those of us who like to use NZ maps on our iPads and iPhones. There is no doubt that for tramping a 1:50K topographic map is needed and  for steep terrain a 1:25K map is even better.

Navigation Apps

Many newer mapping programs that may not have been able to use the old NZGD1949 datum, but do have the newer WGS84 datum installed, are now able to be used by bushwalkers/trampers in NZ. Two of my favourite navigation apps,  Bit Map for the iPhone and MacGPS Pro for the Mac computer can now view and use the latest NZ Topo50 (1:50K) and Topo250 (1:250K) maps. No doubt any GPS that is able to load non-proprietary maps will be able to used these maps too.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

The new Topo50 and Topo250 map series are available for download from the Land Information New Zealand website in two formats

  • geoTIFF (141 Mb for a typical map) (no map legend or margin, but includes embedded calibration data to allow automatic georeferencing and alignment of adjacent maps)
  • TIFF (214Mb) (includes the legend and margins, identical to the paper version)

Map Selection

The first step is to decide which map you wish to download and this can be done by going to the LINZ Map Index page and selecting the appropriate 1:250,000 map. Once you have selected the correct large scale map, clicking the large grid square, will reveal twenty five, 20 km x 20km 1:50,000 maps which can then be individually selected for download.

Loading Topo Maps into your Map Viewing App

Bit Map requires that you first convert the geoTIFF map image file ( no margins or legend) into a form that it can read and labels .bitmap. This can be done within your iPhone or  using a desktop application, such as those available free of charge on the developers website, which optimises the files for use prior to loading into your iPhone. The optimisation process splits the large geoTIFF image file into a large number of smaller tiled JPEG image files which have been produced at a much lower resolution to reduce loading time. This optimised format is very similar to ozf2 format, which means that if you already have files of this type from a program such as OziExplorer (not version 3), they should load without the need for any optimisation.

The next step is to calibrate the file, which requires a knowledge of the grid references of the corners of the map and the grid zone name. For the Routeburn track this is 59G. The grid references of the corners of the map (extents) can be found from the LINZ website, where it is possible to download the data as a text file, spreadsheet (preferred so you can change the order of the data) or view on the screen.

World UTM Grid Zones by Alan Morton

View an enlarged map

MacGPS Pro first needs to convert the geoTIFF image file into PICT format, which while no smaller, is the format used internally by the program. Once imported the file is automatically calibrated by  the user when the correct units (datum: NXZGD2000 and grid: NZTM2000, km, m, magnetic or true) are chosen and the file saved.

Check you have it right by finding the coordinates of a known point on the map and see whether they correspond to that on the TIFF or paper map

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This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Bushwalking Workflow | Campsite Selection, Set Up and Pack away.

What do you look for in the ideal campsite? How important is water? What about shade? When should I set up? What is the sequence of unpacking? How do I select a campfire or toilet site? Minimal impact camping and its implications for bushwalkers.

Camp Early

 I always like to get into a campsite in winter by about 3.30 or certainly no later than 4.30 pm. This gives me time to make a cup of tea, find where the nearest water is, put up my tent  and perhaps even have a brief nap before dinner. I like to begin making my dinner in daylight.

Use established or natural campsites

Your campsite may be in a Park, require a permit and have special regulations. Check before you go.

Those of us who walk in wilderness, untracked areas, can choose to camp wherever there is a natural campsite. We should of course never clear an area and preferably should use a site that someone has used before. At the most, you should sweep away fallen twigs and loose stones, so you don’t have an uncomfortable night. Good advice is only to spend one night in each campsite so the site doesn’t get too damaged.

Not like the old days, when the first step was to cut down a few saplings to make tent poles and pegs, then sufficient bushes to make a thick mattress and finally wood for the fire!

Select sites with shelter, water and wood

“Select sites with shelter, water and wood” is the traditional advice which was once given to bushwalkers.

I can remember always looking for a campsite with lots of fallen logs which could be used for a campfire, but I wouldn’t advise this anymore. Firstly there are too many campsites which are bare, as the result of campers collecting all the fallen wood for their fires and this has been recognised many Parks Authorities, who now insist on the use of fuel stoves. A bare campsite can only mean that all shelters for local animals have been destroyed. Fallen timber does of course mean that the trees nearby are regularly dropping branches, which means that it is not a good idea to camp under them. Too many people have been killed by fallen gum tree branches!

Shelter is of course necessary from the wind and perhaps sun.

Water should be close, but campers are always advised not camp to next to creeks and especially waterholes due to the possibility that you may prevent local wildlife from reaching their normal water supply. Camping too close is likely to increase the chance of pollution and you are recommended to camp at least 100m away. Most of use carry water bags (wine cask bladders for Australians) which can be filled and carried back to camp.

My favourite is the MSR Dromedary bag which come in a variety of sizes, have a wide mouth opening to make it easy to fill and attach your filtration pump,  have a 3-in-1 cap, and  hydration and solar kits, so they can be multi-purpose. They are very tough and versatile having lasted me for 15 years at least.

Check for potential hazards: overhanging gum trees, flash floods, polluted water

In Australia, and no doubt many other countries, camping in a dry creek bed or narrow gorge is not a good idea, due to the risk of flash flooding.  Camp well above the flood plain. If you find a waterhole with a dead animal in it, then you will need to boil the water or purify it in some other way or move to another location. Check your water for suspended mica which may cause diarrhoea, although I have never found it caused this.

Minimal Impact Camping

If you do have a campfire, make sure you dig a hole for it first and cover this fully before you leave in the morning.

  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Do not create new fire-pits.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash. 
  • Put the fire out completely with water and bury under soil.
  • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics
  • Don’t construct camp furniture or dig trenches around your tent for drainage.
  • Don’t feed native animals and store rubbish securely

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints …” should apply to your campsite.


On Arrival

As soon as you arrive, when there are no established toilet facilities, assign an area well away from water, with some privacy and let everyone know the location. If you have both males and females in your group you might like to assign two areas.

Suggest suitable camping areas, indicate where the water is located and where the cooking area and perhaps campfire, if you’re having one, will be located.

I always start by putting up my tent as soon as I arrive, especially if it looks like possible rain. My gear, that I will need for the night, comes out of my pack into my tent which I then drag it into the vestibule to keep it out of the rain once I have done this. If it is raining already, I wait until there is a break in the weather, before taking out my tent. If it is sunny, my first step is to put on the stove for a cup of tea.

Next I take out my mattress, put it inside my tent and inflate it if needed or wait for it to self-inflate. My sleeping bag goes on top, I take out my torch and warm clothing for when the sun sets, get out my cutlery, meal, cooking utensils, stove, lighter and grippers. I then zip up my tent to keep out insects.

Time now to chat to others, fill up my water bag, take a few photos, select the meal spot and help where needed with set up. A good meal site will have seating for everyone, a flat, clear area for the stoves and shelter, although as I have said before under a gum tree is not a good idea.

Before leaving

  • Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish and spilled food. 
  • Check no one has left belongings eg hanging from clothes lines.
  • Do not burn rubbish. “Pack it in, pack it out.” In some environments eg narrow, popular, river gorges this could even mean faecal material.
  • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics

A good reference is the A Guide to Better Bushwalking from Bushwalking Leadership SA , which has a  couple of excellent pages on environmental considerations.

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    This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.