Wilderness and wedding trees
Sporting pink lipstick, pink T-shirt and a
pink, skunk-like streak in her hair Nicky McArthur greets us on the steps of
Shearwater Lodge with a basket of warm muffins and a cool drink. This is luxury
hiking; not a wet tent or outdoor Dunny in sight.
The outdoor table is set with fresh fruit
and nibbles, while through the window I can see the inviting glow of a roaring
fire and I know that a hot shower awaits us. Set in a magnificent alpine
valley, Shearwater Lodge sleeps a maximum of 12 guests in six rooms. With a
cosy guest lounge, communal dining and outdoor deck this is down-to-earth
luxury at its comfortable best.
As well as being the owner/operator of
Shearwater Lodge, McArthur also runs Kaikoura Wilderness Walks, is a committee
member of the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust and, most importantly, is a
trained cordon bleu chef. Over the next few days we indulge in locally sourced
venison, salmon and crayfish, field mushrooms, vegetables from Kaikoura,
cheeses and local wines. The salt, though comes from Nepal, "Connecting
two great mountain ranges," says McArthur.
and wedding trees
On day two, we head up the Surveyor Peak,
where a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks has me clutching at Lance like
a howler monkey up a tree. The chance to add my small pebble to the rocky cairn
at the summit makes all the pain and perspiration worthwhile. On the return we
descend through a green valley to find that Nicky has laid out an afternoon tea
under a mountain ribbonwood. Nicky calls the tree `a wedding tree' because in
January it sheds white flowers like confetti.
As I watch the honeymooners share a private
moment under its boughs I'm reminded of another of Nicky's notes, about the
responsibility of each generation to look after the land for the next, "Mo
tatou, a mo ka uri a muri ake nei - for us and our children after us".
After a second night at Shearwater Lodge we
make our descent on day three, past the spectacular Beverley Falls, soaring
beech forests and ancient Totara trees and finally, back to Puhi Peaks station.
Taking one last look up at Te Ao Whekere I vow to continue to combine my quest
for fitness with a deeper connection to the land - there can be no greater
achievement than that.
The writer was a guest of Christchurch and
5 top new zeland walks
1. Kaikoura wilderness walk
What: Two-day or three-day guided walks
through the Puhi Peaks Nature Reserve.
Where: Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, South
When: October to March.
Leg-burn level: Medium.
2. Mildford Track
What: A 53-kilometre (four-day) hike across
the heart of NZ's water-filled fiord country.
Where: Glade Wharf to Milford Sound, near
When: November to mid-April is best, though
the track is still open during winter (subject to weather and avalanche
Lea-burn level: Medium.
3. Tongariro Northern Circuit
What: A 3-4 day circumnavigation of Mount
Ngauruhoe taking in volcanic craters, glacial valleys and coloured lakes.
Where: Tongariro National Park, North
When: Late October to end of April.
Leg-burn level: Medium to hard.
4. Abel Tasman coast track
What: 55-kilometre (3-5 day) coastal walk
(can also be kayaked).
Where: Abel Tasman National Park, top of
the South Island.
When: Open all year (check track condition
after heavy rain).
Leg-burn level: Easy.
5. Routeburn track
What: A 32-kilometre (2-4 day) track
crossing NZ's Southern Alps.
Where: Mount Aspiring and Fiordland
National Parks, near Queenstown.
When: Best November to mid-April but the
track is open in winter (subject to conditions).
Leg-burn level: Medium.