Tag Archives: Hiking

Hiking in Arthur’s Pass

What I want you to know – but hope you don’t tell anybody else – is that Arthur’s Pass is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.

Sitting halfway between the West Coast and Christchurch, it’s an easy trip from either. Yet it remains relatively quiet as most people seem to see it as a place to stop-off in, rather than to explore.

Those that only rush through will miss out on so much.

When you escape from the village, you’ll find quiet trails. Few people around to bother you. Despite some of the walks being stupidly easy.

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Getting Annoyed by Tourists at Lake Tekapo

It seems to be a general rule on New Zealand’s South Island, that the further South you get, the more tourists there are. Or rather, the closer you get to a location from the Lord of the Rings, the greater the amount of people you’ll see. Either way, as you travel south the amount of tourists continues to grow.

We got our first real taste of the negative energy of other tourists when we found ourselves in Lake Tekapo early one afternoon. With its turquoise blue water, hemmed in by mountains on almost all sides, Lake Tekapo is an obvious lure for tourists. Add to that the fact that it’s slap bang in the middle of a dark sky reserve – perfect for star watching – and it’s almost too much to resist.

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The Pleasure of Birding in New Zealand

two kaka playing

Before we moved to New Zealand, I never really paid too much mind to birds. Birds were just something that were there. Flying around in the sky at the edge of my mind.

When I think back on our year in Korea, I can’t even remember seeing any birds. Surely that can’t be true though. A whole country without any birds?!

Here in New Zealand, birds are impossible to ignore. For a start, they’re so colourful, so flamboyant. They prance around screaming, “Look at me! I’m fabulous!” You’re forced to stare and enjoy them.

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Visiting Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park

girl sitting on rock looking out on lake waikaremoana

Over the last few years, Jamie and I have started a tradition. Each year, between Christmas and New Year we’ll head off on a trip somewhere for a few days.

This year we decided to head to the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand’s North Island for a few days. We’re leaving the North Island soon and we’ve yet to travel up the east coast and knew this would be our only opportunity. We decided to spend a few nights of camping in Napier exploring the surrounding area. Then another few nights in what used to be Te Urewera National Park.

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Wellington Walks: City to Sea Walkway

With a week off work, I decided to do a few walks by myself. So on a hot, calm day I headed out to walk Wellington’s City to Sea Walkway.

The walk is appropriately named starting off near Wellington’s downtown area and twisting through various city parks, then over hills for 12km to the sea.

Despite traveling through plenty of them, this trail was no walk in the park. Constantly climbing up and down Wellington’s many hills for its duration – leaving me sweaty and dehydrated.

The first climb went through the Botanical Gardens ending at this typical view from Wellington’s cable car.

The Wellington, New Zealand cable car.
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Avoiding Social Interaction While Traveling

I pace quickly up the hill. My feet slamming into the mud of the trail.

My heart is racing, my body sweating. Legs ache, lungs burn. I can’t stop though. There’s something in the trees behind me. Something scary. Not a bear or a monster. Much worse than that.

My housemates.

Now you may think from my last post about socialising while travelling, that I’m a lover of conversation. The truth is, I hate it. I am a level 99 ninja at avoiding it. There’s a lot I’d go through to get out of a conversation. Including climbing a mountain.

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Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Hiking to Ribbon Falls on the North Kaibab Trail

My first hike in the Grand Canyon was without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Some may scoff at the idea, but at the time I was weak in body and mind. The hike pushed me to my physical limit and all along I had to live with the humiliation of my German friend walking along without even a change of breath. I had run-ins with lizards, mice, and almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was pushed to the edge of exhaustion. Yet despite all of that, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Continue reading Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Canoeing

The leaves started to change colour, the trees looking sad and tired after the long warm Summer. The air was growing cooler and the last rays of sunshine were touching the ground. Autumn was teasing its way into the air and we made a decision. One last adventure to celebrate the Summer and regret the oncoming Winter.

We awoke early, packed our bags, strapped our canoe to the van and by lunch time we were on the water, paddling slowly towards a campsite too far away to think about. Other things were on our minds.

After months of tough, uphill jaunts in dark woods, this was the outing I needed. I had become bored with the beauty around me. No longer amazed by the jagged mountain peaks towering above or the islands hazy in the afternoon sun below. Once you see those mountains every day, you just stop looking, you take them for granted. When beauty surrounds you it ceases to surprise you, you get bored – you even start to get a little sick.

I stopped taking photos and started complaining. My argument: every photo I take looks the same. People back home probably think I go on the same damn hike every week. Maybe I do but I just don’t know it? A photo of a mountain. A photo of water. A photo of trees. Mountains, water, trees. Endless trees. As far as the eye can see. Trees. All I ever look at is water, mountains and trees. What I wouldn’t give for a flat desert. No water, mountains or trees. Just nothing but the sand blowing in the wind. Something different, please.

Plunging my paddle into the water lazily, I looked around. Water, mountains, trees. I took a deep breath, feeling the cool fresh air flowing into me. Then I smiled and broke the silence “Man, this is pretty beautiful, isn’t it?” Murmurs of agreement. The water smooth as silk, the mountains sharp as broken glass, the trees tall as giants. All disappearing endlessly into the distance, seemingly infinite. How could this not be beautiful? Sure, I see it every day, but this was different. Moving along the water, actually being in the water was something new, something more natural.

Often while hiking I’m forced to consider my own impact on the environment and the downward spiral hikers often bring to the great outdoors. When we find a place of natural beauty the wheels seem to go into motion immediately. Suddenly we start milking the beauty for all its worth. We find these magical places and we’re so proud to have found them that we shout as loud as possible for others to join us. More people arrive, too many people and to preserve the beauty we build a trail, a line of dirt scraped into the trees. The trail encourages more to arrive, they bring their children, their dogs, their cars and their rubbish. Rich men see the beauty and build houses, poor men want to become rich men so build shops instead. The trail turns into a road, the road into a highway. The trail in the trees is ever expanding, the beauty always shrinking. Eventually development overtakes preservation and little of the old beauty remains. People only come now because other people are there.

It’s hard to see myself as anything other than one of those people sometimes. Part of the problem. But only the smallest part. Yet still a part. And really what can be done about it? Maybe the best solution for preserving natural beauty is to simply ignore it. The most beautiful of trees is a tree that nobody has seen. Once somebody sets eyes on it, realises the beauty in front of them, then the wheels are in motion. The tree is no longer a tree, it is a place. As soon as something becomes a place, it becomes something you can visit and then something that can be spoilt. Maybe it’s better to stay at home, ignore the beauty out there and take solace in the fact that at least it exists, unspoiled by human hands, somewhere, although you’ll never see it. Seeking it spoils it.

With canoeing such feelings are muted. Gliding silently through the water. Not moving along a path created for you, but along channels carved out over thousands of years by wind and water. The feeling is a natural one, built upon history and tradition. You’re not spoiling the world, but working with it together. With each breath the current takes you along, and you feel connected to that water, those mountains, the trees.

As the sun quickly fell in the late afternoon, and the air grew from cool to cold, we moored our boat and set up camp. The land around us silent aside from the rustle of some small animal in the trees. Sipping a warm tea, I wondered how I could ever have taken the beauty around me for granted. I did not make a pledge, or a promise. I merely decided I would try my best to prevent it happening again.

A Mossy Adventure

There’s bad news and there’s good news.

First, the good news.

After a long short, hard easy struggle, I have found myself a job. It pays well, I get to work in a skyscraper and officially my title is Underwriting Assistant. Unofficially I’m an admin again, and will be doing exciting things like typing a lot and sipping tea a lot.

Next, the bad news.

I have found myself a job. I start on Monday. Oh shit…MONDAY IS TOMORROW! BOOOOO!

Today, I feel very much like a child on the last day of the Summer holidays, looking back at the previous 6 weeks and thinking “Dammit, I wish I’d spent less time sitting on my arse, and more time doing exciting things! I’ve wasted 6 weeks!” Knowing you have to go back to the grind after weeks of laziness is a horrible feeling. My response to the word “work” is “UGH!” But it’s got to be done. Something has to pay for my horribly expensive addictions to food and warmth.

Knowing my days of rest are almost at a close, I’ve been spending my time exploring as much as possible, trying to make the most of my freedom while I still have it. One late afternoon, I decided to go and see the sunset. My plan was simple: I’d just keep walking towards the sun and this would eventually mean I’d end up at the coast where I could watch the sun going down.

This seemed like a perfect plan, but was completely imperfect for two reasons:

1. The coast was around 2 inches away on the map. This made me think “Hey, two inches? That’s nothing! It’s probably only a ten minute walk! 2 hours later, with aching legs, I was starting to think I was possibly, maybe wrong.

2. Pacific Spirit Park.

Ah, Pacific Spirit Park. According to some random stranger online, it’s “The closest thing you can get to the wilderness in Vancouver.” Brilliant, I thought, I can go for a lovely hike through the woods on my way to the sunset. All I have to do is remember: follow the sun, follow the sun, follow the sun.

After 20 minutes of walking along random trails, I very quickly realised, I was lost. Following the sun is the most moronic idea ever! Once you go into a dense forest it’s impossible to see the bloody thing! Now I know why the compass was invented.

After 20 more minutes, I realised, I was not lost, I was really lost. I started to panic slightly. The sun was going down rather quickly. The forest was getting dark. I’d heard there were coyotes in Vancouver. What if a coyote ate me?! I tried to think back to all of the survival shows I’d watched on TV. “I’ve got it!” I screamed, “I’ll just check the moss”. Apparently moss only grows on the North side of a tree. So I checked a tree. It was covered in the damn stuff, ON BOTH SIDES. Actually, the whole fucking forest was covered in moss! This was clearly some kind of crazy moss forest of doom!

Another 20 minutes, I felt the need to pee. I wondered if I should drink it to keep my hydration up. I started to hear voices in the forest around me. Possibly somebody walking their dog. POSSIBLY A SATANIC CULT THAT’S GOING TO KILL ME!

An additional 20 minutes and after a lot of deep thought, I decided NOT to drink my pee. Instead I released it all over the moss to punish it. TAKE THAT MOSS! MWAHAHA!

With the sun almost down and the forest ever darkening, I decided it was probably time to write a farewell note to my family, but just as I was reaching in my bag to get some paper, I heard footsteps on the trail behind me. Coming towards me were three dark figures with shining heads. I screeched in terror. Only aliens have shining heads, I’m about to be abducted!

Then a soft voice said, “You ok, man?” It’s then that I noticed they weren’t aliens at all. But three Chinese ecology students with lamps on their heads. I broke down in tears, dropping to my knees “I thought, I was going to die in this horrible mossy death forest!” One of the students rolled their eyes “Pffff, this forest has some of the rarest moss in the world! Don’t diss the moss, man!” “I’m sorry, I’m just so thankful, I was lost…and…and…” “Dude, the road is just there…” The Chinese student pointed to my right, and there the road was, directly beside the trail, metres away.

Standing up and brushing the dirt off my jeans, I thanked the students and walked to the road, finding a viewpoint to watch the sunset from. As I was walking away, I heard one of the students sniffling “fucking tourists, always blaming the moss.”

A Very English Walk

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The English don’t hike. We walk. Over massive mountains, through slithering streams, between towering trees. We walk.

Putting one foot in front of the other is nothing to an Englishman. It’s the first thing we learn after we’re born, so why should it be such a challenge when we’re adults? We’ve been doing it so long that it means nothing to us. And so. We walk.

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