What do you do when the thought of adventure still grabs you, when you fancy getting out in nature for a walk but the thought of roughing it makes you break out in a cold sweat?
Here’s the plan. Join a walking tour with a reasonable amount of hiking, and the incentive of a warm bed and cold beer at the end of the day.
Enter the Akaroa Walk, a three-day, 42km guided walk, which starts at Christchurch and goes over the Banks Peninsula, a wildly scenic volcanic rim. Tuatara Tours run guided walks around three times a week in summer – we’re talking warm beds, luggage transfer, guide, two-course dinners and wine – plus hot showers! After the recent devastating earthquake, it was up and running again within 2 weeks and its operations are unaffected by the quake.
The walk is part sheep track, part walking trail and much of the route was forged by pioneers and is now on private land, but right of way for walkers is enshrined in law. I did it around two years ago and loved it for its mix of countryside straight out of a Mainland commercial, bizarre tree cemeteries and cutesy little settlements along the way. I especially liked historic Godley House, with its rambling beer garden perfect for sinking beers in the soft twilight and gutsy South Island steak.
The big advantage of tramping (Kiwispeak for hiking) in New Zealand is that you can walk through long fields of grass without worrying about snakes. This sort of compensates for a thorny plant named Spaniard, not to mention Bush Lawyer – a truly nasty bit of foliage.
I forgot the trusty Voltarin that trip, so walking downhill was, ahem, slow (just ask Mr Bikewalkeat). At the walk’s end in downtown Akaroa (a gorgeous historic French village), a local put in it all in perspective when I pointed to the distant peaks and proudly said “We were walking on those mountains”. “You must be from Australia”, grinned the Kiwi. “They’re not mountains over here. They’re hills.”