trails around Wakatipu

Posted from Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.

It’s touted as one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, and if you spend a few hours outside here, it’s easy to see why. Much of the land is unspoiled, untouched by the hand of man, left to its own wild inclinations, free to develop as it naturally would. From my perch in Queenstown I can scan the vast vista, from the ever-changing blue of Lake Wakatipu to the green and brown mountain peaks that encircle this small town. I inhale the beauty surrounding me, but I know there is more – hidden.

When I was younger I used to feel such a connection to the outdoors. I would dig lying in a glade looking up through the leafy canopy trying to find shapes in the light. I would relish in the solitude of the forest and the comfort of knowing maybe it has only been I who has touched that very spot in decades. I never feared the woods, though there was always plenty to be afraid of. Over the years, though, this connection has grown quiet. Caught up in work, and airplanes, and city-life – I no longer go to the forest. Not until now.

Just in case you can't tell it's a trail ...

Just in case you can’t tell it’s a trail …

I started to scope out the vast network of trails around Queenstown as something to do in my downtime. I’m wary to dive right in too strong right away – worried for my feet which have suffered terribly due to that stupid RA. I decided to start slow, beginning with a few kilometres on the very flat and very easy Frankton Track. The track runs from Frankton to Queenstown along the lake’s shore and is very well utilized by cyclists, joggers and amblers like myself. From my house it’s just a few minutes walk to get to the track. While not the most natural trek around, this hour-long walk helped me test out my feet to see if they were up for the challenge. So far so good. Probably all due to my wonderful barefoot Merrels. I love my Merrels.

The Sunshine Bay Walk runs alongside the lake and at times, after much descending, allows beach access.

The Sunshine Bay Walk runs alongside the lake and at times, after much descending, allows beach access.

The next day my friend Kate and I took to the Sunshine Bay Walk. This trip is only about an hour return as well, but included some small hills and mildly rocky terrain that helped me test out my feet even more. This trek was a lot more natural than the maintained Frankton Trail. We only passed a few people whilst we tramped through the lush forest. But it was the stunning lake views that kept making me stop and look around. This truly is paradise.


Near the top of Sawpit Gully. Not a bad view, eh?

Near the top of Sawpit Gully. Not a bad view, eh?

The following day I pushed my feet hard with a two-hour trek up Sawpit Gully in Arrowtown. This was challenging for me. The initial part of the trail is all uphill – like 30-minutes straight. I warned my friend Sarah that I wasn’t sure how my feet would endure it, but to be fair, I wasn’t sure my lungs would either. I’m out of shape. We pushed ahead, Sarah vowing she wouldn’t leave me no matter how many times I told her to just go on ahead, and somehow I managed to get to the top of it. The view wasn’t my only reward. Not many trees grow up here, as it’s mostly desert brush and yellow grass, vegetation that can take hold on rock and loose soil. It felt very Lord of the Ringsy and I kept wondering if a Hobbit was going to appear at some point.

The way down was just as hard, I found, especially since my out-of-shape legs were already exhausted from the climb up. But I ploughed on, determined to not let my feet or my lungs beat me.


When I got home that night I took two Aleve and hoped for the best. My feet were already stiff and my shins were whining like they were about to inflict me with shin splints. But the next day when I woke up all I had was the usual stiffness in my feet that disappeared after about an hour. Despite this triumph, I think I’m going to play it safe for a few more treks.

My only hope now is that I never let my life block me from just being outside in the rough of it. That’s where my heart beats stronger. That’s my joy.

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