After our amazing hike in Mt Cook National Park, we had originally thought we might do another half-day hike the following day. But the next day was much cloudier (almost impossible not to be after our incredibly clear day!), and moreover, our legs were sore from climbing those 2000 stairs. Very sore. So we settled instead for a quick walk in the Tasman Valley to a view of its glacier and lake, plus a host of snowy peaks.
With one last look at Mt Cook, we then drove out of the park and after a picnic on Lake Pukaki spent the night at a lovely motel in Geraldine, with our own little kitchen to make lamb kebabs (fresh from the Geraldine butcher), sundried tomato pesto pasta, and chocolate mousse. Plus it turned out that Geraldine was home to our favorite cheesemaker, Talbot Forest, so we stocked up on goat Gouda, cumin seed Gouda, and a Mesopotamian blue, as well as sampling a wide variety of jams and chutneys at the neighboring shop.
And then we were back in Christchurch, where our New Zealand adventure had begun. We wandered around the port of Lyttelton (now largely cargo but formerly the main port for passengers from Wellington, and full of cute old houses and hilly streets) before a tasty dinner of Bangladeshi fare and an evening at the art gallery capped off by a fire juggling show that was part of the international buskers’ festival. It all made for quite a lovely date night.
We may have been in Christchurch, but we weren’t yet ready to leave. We had booked two nights on the Banks Peninsula Track, a cooperation between eight farmers begun almost thirty years ago wherein hiking tracks are opened up on their land for a dozen walkers a day, and four huts and cottages are made available along the route for each evening after the hike. Most hikers do the walk in four days, with an average of about four hours of walking each day and plenty of time to relax at the hut. But most hikers are also over 60, and are better at relaxing than I am. So the option to walk the full route in two days instead of four was the one we chose.
We turned out to be not only the only ones to have chosen the two-day walk on our start date, but also the only people starting on January 26, period, so we had the whole complex to ourselves on the first night and our own dedicated cottageEdit (and accompanying outdoor fire bath) the second.
Two days of beautiful coastal hiking through sheep farms and above steep cliffs with views down to sea stacks, sea caves, and occasionally sea creatures (cavorting fur seals just below us! Dolphins in the distance! Rumors of unseen penguins nesting in the beaches below!).
The huts and cottages were each different and quirky, with little luxuries (like cheese graters and recycling / garbage service so we didn’t have to pack out our own trash!) and big ones (hot showers; fully stocked shops selling fresh vegetables, cheese, meat, ice cream, and beer and wine; refrigerators; even (sometimes) power outlets).
And the second night we met up with none other than our neighbor from Wellington when we lived there 21 years ago, in 1995-6. She and my mom have kept in good touch over the years, and when it became apparent that we would be hiking the track at the same time, she incredibly generously offered to slip us the key to her home in Kelburn. So with an evening of catching up by the campfire and soaking in a luxurious outdoor bath warmed by the fire Michael built, we headed out for our last day on the South island before flying to Wellington the next morning.
Our second day of walking took us along the coast for two hours, then inland and up a forested gully to the ridge. Gluttons for punishment (or, more accurately, for views), we took a side trip up Stony Peak before descending into Akaroa. (Which, as a francophone and Francophile, was frankly very disappointing. Its reputation as a French village is quite exaggerated. But we did get some tasty Magnums as a post-hike snack when we discovered the dearth of croissants, crepes, and fromages.)
All in all, a wonderful two days of fabulous scenery (and I have to admit a hot shower is quite delightful after a long day hiking). We walked about seven hours each day, giving us plenty of time for reading, cryptic crosswords, and hot baths. We definitely did our multiday hikes in the right order in terms of increasing degrees of luxury!
Michael’s ranking of tramps:
- Banks peninsula
- Hump Ridge
- Hump Ridge
- Banks peninsula
But I would happily endorse all of them. A warm hut makes such a big difference after being raised on backpacking and tents! Call me a pampered tramper (but a happy one).