WALKING: ‘How fast must I walk?’ is the most frequently asked question. Annoying as this sounds, it will depend on how fit you are and whether you are adequately equipped for your hike. The slowest member of your group determines your speed. Having said that, below are some guidelines to assist you:

Easy, relatively flat terrain – 3km/hr,    varied terrain – 2km/hr,    steep terrain – 1km/hr

When hiking: Stay focussed. Often beginners, anticipating a stumble, look only at the track. Do not power walk, Five hours on uneven terrain is a long time. Learn to pace yourself and build up endurance levels. Never place a foot under a root. Wet, slimy logs, rocks and roots are slippery. 

Walking uphill: Take small steps.Concentrate on relaxing your body and keeping your shoulders down. Swing your arms in a relaxed natural motion.A small rocking motion, not  
unlike a goat, is useful too.

Walking downhill: It’s easier to fall walking downhill than uphill. Take small, careful steps keeping your weight above your feet. Land on the ball of your foot, (hip over foot), knee bent. Swing your arms across your body, this will help with balance.

If you do slip, go with it and wait for the foot to stop before stepping forward.

Hiking Poles: Even though you are carrying extra gear, hiking poles, when used effectively, do spread the load from your legs to your arms. There are arguments against using poles, the holes damage the environment, so do take care. If you decide to use poles because you suffer from sore knees or legs, also look at different exercises to strengthen joints. For people struggling with balance, it’s like having a third arm or leg and the poles can help to prevent a fall. They are excellent when crossing rivers or streams, walking on narrow tracks or through mud. If cost is a factor, a sturdy stick will suffice.

A Rough Guide to Useing Hiking Poles: Many hikers in New Zealand use one pole for support and keep one hand free to grab onto roots and trees. It’s also important to be aware of where you place the poles as you can easily trip. Find a style that you are comfortable with. Most techniques will take a while to master and it’s important to develop a relaxed rhythm. 
Technique: Try the following technique and see if it works for you: Extend the pole so that the tip touches the ground when your forearm is parallel to the ground. Bring your hand up through the strap (do not go down through the top) and lightly hold the handle. When the left foot touches the ground, the pole in the right hand should touch the ground at the same time on the opposite side. On steep downhill sections, you may want to lengthen the poles for added confidence.

When to Give Way: Technically, hikers walking uphill appreciate being able to maintain their rhythm. However, if someone is hurtling down the track, you may want to step to one side – you do not want anybody falling on top of you.