Kaikoura Coast Track

New Zealand, RTW: 2007-2008 — By on February 29, 2008 2:30 PM

Mary and I arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand last Sunday. We were greeted at the airport by Kathy, Bruce, and Darek. I know Darek through Mary while living in San Francisco, but this was the first time I met Kathy and Bruce. After spending a week with them, I think they are an amazing and inspiring couple! Kathy and Bruce met and married in San Francisco where they both lived for many years. They came to New Zealand for their honeymoon in 2003, fell in love with the country, and three years later they moved and claimed residency in Christchurch. Bruce was involved in many TIC real estate deals in San Francisco and has also invested in property in New Zealand. The couple now plans to move to their new home located on the Banks Peninsula where they will develop a “Lifestyle Retreat” that I am sure will be visited by many. They are expert gardeners with a goal to produce the majority of the food they eat. The couple graciously accepted us into their home, and have been a joy to travel with!

Be sure to check out Kathy’s Blog: www.kathysgetaways.com

We spent our first day hanging out at their house with another “Ex-Pat” couple from Portland, Toby and Alex. We made dinner, most of which came from Kathy’s garden, including the largest zucchini I have ever seen! Kathy has an extensive garden that even has a pumpkin patch! Bruce and Darek demonstrated their culinary skills throughout the week…I am quite impressed with the men’s abilities!

We left Christchurch on Monday and headed North stopping off at several wineries and an olive farm in Waipara Valley. Our favorite winery was Daniel Schuster where they practice bio-dynamic viticulture. “Which is all very woo-woo but makes a damn good wine” says Darek. The terrain I saw on the way to Waipara was very similar to that of Northern California, and reminded me of Napa Valley. Mary and I both realized quickly that we are definitely allergic to something in New Zealand as we haven’t stopped sneezing since we got here!

To see all photos from Christchurch and the Waipara Valley CLICK HERE!

We continued to drive North to the Kaikoura Coast Track which is 1.5 hours North of Christchurch. The Kaikoura Coast Track is a 40 km (25 miles) that is hiked over the course of three days. The track led us through the beautiful South Island’s Kaikoura Coast with magnificent views of sea, mountains, bush and remote farmlands. We hiked for about 5-6 hours each day and spent the night at 3 different cottages along the way. Our bags were transported from each cottage so all we had to carry was our day-packs. After each day hike we went for a swim, made dinner, drank wine, and usually went to bed early as we were exhausted from the day.

We spent the first night at “Hawkswood” a property owned by JD Macfarlane. We stayed in a log cabin and I got to use my sleeping bag for the first time. Darek cooked us up some awesome sausages and we tapped into the wine we had bought in the Waipara Valley. After dinner we were asked to go into the main house for “orientation”. We were led into the living room by a woman named Gypsy, and left alone with JD, who is 87 and is very difficult to understand when he talks. We all felt like we were in the twilight zone with no means of escape! The orientation included a bunch of mumbling from JD that only Kathy could understand, JD flirting with Mary, JD trying to find Darek a mate via the guest book log, and JD taking 20 minutes to lift a glass of red wine to his mouth, 5 seconds for him to chug the wine, and another 20 minutes for him to put the glass back down on the table. I guess you would have to have been there to really understand the bizarre nature of the event!

We started the first leg of our hike which was 12.3 km (7.5 miles) which took us about 6 hours to complete. Mary was the leader of the pack as she is clearly part goat, and I struggled to keep up with her as she raced up the hills! The majority of the days hike was hills with little flat land, and I found hiking downhill to be harder than hiking uphill as it is more stressful on the knees. We hiked up Buntings Bush Gully to Skull Peak Shelter where we had lunch. We saw amazing views of the Kaikoura Mountains (2500m) and the Pacific Ocean. We hiked down through farmland with grazing sheep and cattle to the Ngaroma Homestead by the sea located on a sheep farm. We all took a dip in the chilly pool, made dinner, and hung out with the other 4 Kiwis that were sharing the home with us.

Mary and I rode on the tractor with farmer Bruce Macfarlane and helped him to herd his sheep! Farmer Macfarlane owns 3000 acres of land, half of which is farmland. Three dogs raced beside the tractor as he drove us all over the farm moving the sheep to a new area to graze. The funniest part about it all was the random cow who is confused and thinks he is a sheep! He has been moving from place to place with all the sheep for days now!

After the sheep were all moved we began our 2nd day of hiking. Today’s hike was 12 km (7 miles) and took us a little over six hours to complete. The first 2.5 hours we spent hiking along the beach which was a lot harder than we expected and it didn’t help that it was sweltering hot! We tried walking barefoot first but there were many rocks and pebbles, which were a bit painful. We put on our hiking shoes but found that we would sink into the sand which slowed us down. Nonetheless the journey was beautiful and we collected jade stones and saw several cute seals up close! We hiked beneath cliffs embedded with 8,000 year old tree stumps and fossils. We were relieved to be off the beach and had lunch at the Medina Stream amongst coastal bush. We walked across open farmland seeing many sheep and through the conservation area. We got separated from Bruce but he caught up with us at the “Rest and Reflect” bench, which was surrounded by sheep. We spent the night at the Medina Homestead and had a picnic dinner outside.

We all took off separately for the final hike and met up for lunch at Mt Wilson Shelter. The final day, 13 km (7 mile) hike was by far the hardest of all 3 days as the majority was uphill and completely exposed to the sun. The first hour’s walk was up through Medina’s open farmland into the Hawkswood Range. The most beautiful part of the days hike was the view from the top of Mt Wilson (642m) with a 360 degree view with the Southern Alps in the distance and the final destination “The Staging Post” far below. From the shelter we had a view of Mt Tapuae-o-uenuka, the highest peak in the South Island.

The second half of the final day’s hike was mostly downhill but very challenging all the same. Mary and I arrived back at the Staging Post, finishing first and collapsed and rested while waiting for the others. I have never hiked so much in my entire life, but I am so glad I did it and would love to do something similar again!

We all fell asleep in the car as Kathy drove us North to our next adventure…swimming with Dolphins!

To see all photos from the Kaikoura Coast Track CLICK HERE!

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