Hiking the Heaphy Track (or how I popped my tramping cherry!)

It’s 9.30 on a Sunday morning, and after an hour’s drive north west of Takaka (up through Collingwood, then along the Aorere valley), we’ve passed the last sign of civilisation, the quaint Langford store at Bainham, crunched another 16km up the gravel road crossing creeks with creaking little wooden bridges and the sandflies are already biting at Brown Hut. This marks the start of a 4-day hike across the Kahurangi National Park to Kohaihai & Karamea on the West coast. This is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – the Heaphy Track.
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It’s just a hill, get over it…



To get to my sister’s home town in Golden Bay, you have to climb over Takaka Hill. And when you reach there, people routinely talk about “going over the hill” in the same way others would talk about going overseas, as in “oh, I don’t think I’ll be going over the hill this week/month/any time before Easter”! To be fair, although it only takes just under an hour in good weather, the journey between Motueka and Takaka in Golden Bay is pretty spectacular, not unlike the hairpin-heavy mountain passes leading to Alpine ski resorts, and features as one of the world’s most exciting and dangerous roads to drive.

But the journey is totally worth it, the scenery all around is spectacular, the weather its own Mediterranean microclimate and the atmosphere is as laid back as a Greek olive grove in the late afternoon sun. Takaka itself is like entering into a hippy time warp, where shopkeepers are open to bartering, swapping and “lay-by” purchase-in-instalment arrangements, hand-painted signs and murals everywhere you look (even the corrugated iron walls of the Freshchoice supermarket sport a mural) whilst barefoot travellers laze around, playing music and making art and jewellery.
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