After the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, I thought I was going to do another track right around the corner. Instead, I found myself riding a bus on a wonderfully sunny day back down to Christchurch. There was a rumor that our visas were not automatically renewed. Fortunately, Katie Folts had arrived in Christchurch since my departure.
Akaroa Harbor Lighthouse.
After a couple days of taking care of chores and finding out that my visa was fine, Katie and I set out for the Banks Peninsula Track. The Department of Conservation advertises this track, but doesn't run it. It was built and is run by the private land owners on the Banks Peninsula who were entrepreneurial enough to lay out the track. The major difference from a standard tramp is that you can't camp and the huts are luxury huts. It also costs more.
A Memorial to the first French Governor of Akaroa, I think.
Katie and I were a little hesitant to out and do glamping (glam camping). We are both used to more traditional camping and were looking for that type of activity. We explored a few other options that were nearby, but none seemed to fit our schedule quite as well. We did decide to do the four day tramp in two days to save a little time, a little money, and to take a little bit of the luxury out.
A Stargazer Hut at the first hut to sleep and watch the stars.
As we set out for the hike, we had a couple hurdles to cross. I was nursing a groin strain that had me limping along pretty slowly and Katie's camping gear hadn't arrived from the States yet. She just used her old school bag and I took her extra gear. I just planned to walk really slow.
Two of the many sheep who just stared at us as we walked through their pasture.
We set out on a shuttle from Christchurch to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula on a day that was dreary, wet, grey, and more wet. I wasn't thrilled. I had just wrapped up my very wet tramp on the Abel Tasman and I was really hoping for sunshine. On the entire drive down, it just got worse and worse. When we finally got to Akaroa, Katie and I drank hot drinks, went to the museum, and hung out in the library to hide from the rain. We tried to go to a movie, but it was closed due to a medical emergency. Our attitudes were definitely not conducive to turning a four day walk into a two day slog through the wet.
Katie overlooking Akaroa Harbor.
After killing off about six hours in town, the sun finally came out. Town quickly dried out and our spirits were quickly lifted. Just after 5pm, we met our fellow trampers and then caught our ride up the hill to our first hut. It was loosely connected to the Onuku Farm Hostel and was ridiculous. It had a microwave, hot showers, gas stoves, water boilers, beds, and an amazing view of the harbor. It was definitely overkill for what Katie and I were looking for, but I can see how it would be fabulous right after you get off the Ice and want to be looked after.
A sick possum.
After a fabulous pasta dinner, we settled down to learn the game 500 and catch some Z's. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be that easy. It started raining again. It poured. The wind blew. It sounded like a major storm was blowing outside of my old room on the Ice in 209. Luckily, the storm blew itself out and we had two solid days of good to great weather. In the morning, we also managed to get my heavy bag ported to the second hut so we wouldn't have to worry if my groin would hold up.
A friendly reminder in the 'bush.'
Two day walkers use the exact same track as the four day walkers. On our approach to the second hut, we had a little trouble. An employee on the farm we were crossing told us to just follow the fence line, I think. We followed the fence line which followed the creek. At one point, it got wet so I decided to take a detour. Two steps into my detour and just as Katie was about to tell me about her childhood adventures mud bogging, I found my very own bog and instantly sank up past my knees.
Momma cow made me nervous as we had to cross into her and her calf's pasture on those steps.
I couldn't lift my leg up without losing my Keen. After an Antarctic winter, I wasn't about to let that happen. I pulled my foot up, knelt down, and reached my hand up past the elbow to retrieve my shoe. Shoe in hand, I decided to continue on my way. (At this point, Katie decided to take the long way around and found a useful sign.) My very next step, I sank again and lost my other Keen. I retrieved it and finally waded out in my now black socks.
Where was that sign?
I headed over to the stream to wash myself off. My Keens weighed about 5 lbs each. They had mud and grass in them. Take a look at how dirty my arm was off being washed and how dirty the water is where I'm washing my shoes as opposed to where I'm not. It was pretty bad. Luckily, the next hut was just around the corner so I washed up there. It was a quaint little cottage.
Washing the bog out of my Keens.
As we were leaving the hut, we saw a penguin tour van driving by. They were going to give a free tour that night, but we would already be gone by then. We flagged the woman down and she was nice enough to give us an on the spot tour of the Blue penguins that live in the area. By the end of two day trip, I would have seen as many penguins in New Zealand as I did in Antarctica. Weird.
A blue penguin.
A beach at the second hut.
As we left the second hut, I found this little lamb. Most were terrified of us and ran away to their mommas. However, this one lived around someone's house. I think it was probably a pet and wicked friendly. I think it wanted food and it had no problem head butting me to let me know it. I threatened to put its head in my mouth, but it didn't stop it.
An outdoor pool table at the third hut.
At 'outhouse' at the third hut.
We quietly pulled into our third hut as the sun was setting. It was wonderful to finally be done for the day. The third hut (our second night stay) was right out of Robinson Crusoe. They had outdoor bathtubs that could be heated up with a fire. Outdoor pool tables and lots of others rustic goodies. It was fun. They still had hot showers. I still didn't use one.
Sunrise as we left the third hut.
The coast during the golden morning hour.
Love the sunrise!
Our second day of hiking was an early morning of hiking. We were out the door by 6am which let us see sunrise. Beautiful! Katie assured me it wasn't that great because it was the exact same as sunset, but too early. I disagree, but to each their own. Yeah for morning people!!
The story of our hike: great ocean views and sheep.
The inlet of the third hut.
The final hut we could have stayed at was at the end of this gorgeous inlet. It was half a beach house. The other half was lived in by some of the people who kept the track up and running. Great stuff. Unfortunately, we just stopped to patch up some blisters and headed on our way.
This ladder was labeled as broken. Really?
The sun continued to beat down on us as we marched towards the end of our hike. It was fabulous. When we finally got out of the woods, I had stripped off each shirt so I could work on my tan. I still need a lot of work. I've seen one Ice person who finally looks tan, but that might just be his face. I can't believe how pasty we all are.
The final part of the hike took us over a last pass. It gave us a great look at what we had done and into the harbor that we were walking back towards. A little geological history shows that the Banks Peninsula was a series of volcanoes and the harbor was just the center crater. After time, the Pacific Ocean eroded a hole in one side of the crater and a harbor was formed. Neat stuff.
Great hike. My internet has cut off a bunch while trying to write this so I'm just going to post it and hope it works. Take care. Be well. I miss you all. This week, I'm heading out on the Wanganui River for a five day canoe trip. It should be great.
Banks Peninsula Track (35 km) by the numbers:
- Onuku Farm Hostel - Flea Bay Cottage 11 km
- Flea Bay Cottage - Stony Bay Cottages 8 km
- Stony Bay Cottages - Otanerito Beach House 6 km
- Otanerito Beach House- Akaroa: 10 km