While I’ve done a fair amount of hiking before, hiking in New Zealand is on a whole different level. Our first hike showed us what New Zealand has to offer. It was a three-hour bush walk on part of the Banks Track, a multi-day hiking path that traverses the spectacular Banks Peninsula area. We were stunned at every turn by the incredible plant life, hidden waterfalls, cool mountain pools, grazing sheep, and a rustic cottage on the bay where we recovered overnight.
When we booked an overnight excursion with Pohatu Plunge, we were mainly interested in getting to see the penguins (more on that in another post). The description also mentioned an option for a bush walk, and we thought that would be interesting. Instead it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Our tour started in Akaroa, a french influenced town on the Banks Peninsula. The Peninsula was created by an ancient volcano, and the Akaroa Bay is in the center of the former caldera. After meeting our native New Zealand guide, we hopped in a 4x4 van for a ride up over the former crater rim of the volcano.
Our guide dropped us off at the top of the bush walk, and said she would take our bags to our cottage. The walk is part of the Banks track, a two- to four- day hiking track. Our guide explained that opening the track has helped the local farmers by providing another source of income, meaning they need to raise and manage less sheep. Not that we could tell -- as we came across sheep in many parts of the track (which still makes Beth go "awwww!")
One of the striking things about the bush walk was the native New Zealand forest. Birds and insects sang out all around us, and interesting plants and trees created a nice shade from the sun. We so many different trees and plans in the dense bush, including tree ferns and Nikau palms.
A small stream closely follows the track, resulting in the occasional bridge, or spectacular waterfall.
When we came across this waterfall, it seems like we had stumbled onto a movie set. The soft lighting, rush of the water, and overall solitude made the whole thing seem almost unreal. The water was freezing, but felt great to chill my tired feet in the pool. I guess in a movie it would have been warm enough to swim, but that didn't take anything away from the beauty of this waterfall.
Some parts of the walk were a bit steep, but most of it was downhill. The steeper parts tended to be out in the open which provided breathtaking views of the valley and bay.
During the walk, you cross a number of wire fences. Steps go up over the fence -- a bit tricky to navigate sometimes, but not too bad. The reason for all the fences we found out was the working sheep station at the end of the hike. As we exited the bush and entered the lower valley, we were met by a number of adorable sheep and views down to the bay below.
The sheep were cute and a bit skittish, but that didn't stop Beth from wanting to try to pet them.
Finally when we reached the bottom, we found our cabin with our bags waiting for us, and the spectacular bay. A hot shower, and the bottle of wine we brought were quite welcome as we put our tired feet up. Our first bush walk done, and we were in love with New Zealand and its natural landscape.