Otago, New Zealand, April 2017

I didn’t know what Grayson had given me but the mountains looked wonderful that day….huge grey/green monsters that grappled with Satan-like demons of the cliffs and crags…I could hear sheep talking and the grass reciting poetry. My father always said that Nansen was ‘on something’ when he explored Greenland and now I could understand it. I felt I could hop forever, anywhere….’

Tomkinson, the long suffering school boy from Michael Palin’s ‘Ripping Yarns’ (‘Tomkinson’s School Days’) after he is sentenced to the Thirty Mile Hop against St Anthony’s. There are those lurking among us who would rather poke their eyeballs out with a stick than torture their legs and feet by subjecting them to a medium to long distance walk.  Tomkinson’s description of how he feels after the School Bully gives him a sniff of ‘smelling salts’ to help him on his way is pretty much how I, and other walkers feel when WE do this, but then, miraculously, we reach a stage when it stops being torture, and we float away on a high. Then we reach our destination and flop on the couch, sip a beer, chill out in good company, jump in a spa and let the water jets work their magic on our sore muscles. Or maybe do all all those things at the same time. And as our muscles are glowing and singing happily, the high reaches a kind of zenith. It’s GLORIOUS.

That is why people walk. In the wilderness. In crappy weather. Along dodgy paths, watching out for snakes. For hours. Just for a taste of that feeling at the end.

In late 2015 I caught up with two university friends in Melbourne, and a partner of one of them. The conversation got around to our favourite travel destinations, and it turned out that all three had visited Queenstown in New Zealand, and two had worked there for a year. They raved about the walking culture and the huge range of things to do around the Otago region, assured me that it was safe for a solo walker, so I jumped on a plane to Queenstown.

Plus, what Lord of the Rings tragic could resist a trip to the river where the Ambush of the Nazgul at the Ford of Bruinen was filmed? Not me.

The aforementioned Arrow River, which burbles through the old restored gold mining town of ….you guessed it, Arrowtown, is startlingly clear and so picturesque that it Arrowtown river trail1screams ‘FILM ME! FILM ME! FILM ME!’ Arrowtown, a hop skip and a jump from Queenstown, was home for my first three nights. It’s lovely, really, with scores of heritage buildings and fruit trees growing randomly all over town. Around Canberra we have to try to outwit the cockies and parrots to get to anything that that grows on a tree, but in pest-free Arrowtown, the trees were conspicuously laden with autumn fruit. After a two hour walk along the golden banks of the Arrow I was experiencing a pleasant post-walk high and I was in an ambitious frame of mind for the following day’s activities.

A bit too ambitious, as it turns out. The next day I jumped on a hired bike and headed for Lake Hayes, in between Arrowtown and Queenstown. Very agreeable scenery and all, Lake Hayes, near Arrowtownbut it was, as it turned out, an 18 km return trip. Along bike paths with sheer drops on one side straight down into the (very pretty) lake, and a killer incline on the final leg called, rather sweetly and innocuously, ‘Christine Hill’. WTF? Who thinks of the names of the hills in New Zealand? How about this? ‘Ha ha Aussie Tourist, You Think you are so Fit, Snicker, Snicker Hill.’ Right at the top I encountered a French cyclist who said that it was no mean feat to be even able to get to the top because it was the absolutely worst hill around the area. Or maybe I was so tired that he was actually a hallucination. He had a nice accent, anyway.

After that epic biking episode I wafted the remaining few kilometres back into Arrowtown in a state of semi-delirium. Fortuitously the ‘Fork and Tap’ pub was about two doors away from the bike hire place. It was almost 2.00pm and I had not had anything to eat since breakfast. And here we are returning again to why people subject themselves to strenuous exercise. The words ‘never had a beer and a burger tasted so good’ don’t cut it. Sipping on that beer was pure ecstacy. The bubbles sang and danced their way down my throat and the beef burger was like the Nectar of the Gods.

But the next day I was a dead woman walking.



~ by margoforte12 on April 3, 2017.

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