Find­ing the wild side of New Zealand

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

NEW Zealand’s land­scapes are well-known on the sil­ver screen. The Lord of the Rings films showed off the ma­jes­tic moun­tain­ous scenery so well they sparked a tourism boom – and 13 per­cent of trav­ellers still cite Pe­ter Jack­son’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy in their de­ci­sion to visit. Out on 16 Septem­ber, Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple,a com­edy-drama di­rected by Taika Waititi and star­ring Sam Neill as Hec, grumpy fos­ter un­cle to Ricky (new­comer Ju­lian Den­ni­son), shines the spot­light on the coun­try once again. The story of a city kid’s ad­ven­tures in the wilder­ness broke box of­fice records at home and had rave re­views at the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, win­ning the cov­eted Au­di­ence Award. It was filmed largely in the North Is­land’s Auck­land re­gion, where beaches, rain­for­est and vine­yards sur­round New Zealand’s big­gest city. For those in­spired to book a Kiwi ad­ven­ture, here are five of the best film-re­lated op­tions.

Bush sur­vival Stu Gil­bert from SOS Sur­vival Train­ing coaches any­one from air­line crews to school­child­ren, so a ses­sion with him is a good start for would-be Wilder­peo­ple, as Ricky dubs him­self and Hec. A for­mer air force in­struc­tor, Stu shows rook­ies the ropes in a fun ses­sion out in the bush on a large prop­erty in Muri­wai, 45 min­utes’ drive from Auck­land. Af­ter tu­ition on the ba­sics, he has par­tic­i­pants for­ag­ing for logs, branches and bracken to build a makeshift bed and shel­ter and try­ing to light a fire us­ing cot­ton wool, flint and steel (a dead phone bat­tery can also work, ap­par­ently). We found the flint and steel worked fine, with the right mix of tin­der and kin­dling, and were sparked up in no time. Overnight and three-day pack­ages of full bush im­mer­sion are avail­able, too. Adult full-day course US$130.

Horse rid­ing A 35-minute ferry ride from down­town Auck­land is beau­ti­ful, bo­hemian Wai­heke Is­land. Most tourists get around by car, bike or even zip-lin­ing – but the Wilder­peo­ple way would be to jump on a horse like Ricky’s friend Kahu (Tiore­ore Ngatai-Mel­bourne). Wai­heke HorseWorx is a new op­er­a­tor that tours the beaches and bush tracks, tak­ing in tra­di­tional Maori cul­ture and Wai­heke’s fa­mous winer­ies. Some of their steeds are film stars too: Ask for Shaman if you’re a Hob­bit fan (she was dwarf king Thorin’s mount). A typ­i­cal four-hour tour will be­gin with ba­sic in­struc­tion, fol­lowed by a ride along beaches to Pir­i­tahi Marae com­mu­nity cen­tre for a tra­di­tional Maori wel­come, be­fore a tea break and a ride to Ca­ble Bay vine­yard for food and wine. Al­ter­na­tively, in the mid­dle of North Is­land, ad­ven­ture com­pany River Val­ley in Tai­hape of­fers two- to four-day horse rid­ing hol­i­days from $570.

Hik­ing The 8 kilo­me­tre (5 mile) coastal walk from Bethells Beach to Muri­wai takes in breath­tak­ing views of the coast west of Auck­land and is a win­ner with lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike. The Te Henga Walk­way is part of the Hil­lary Trail, which con­nects a num­ber of tracks in the Waitakere Ranges. It takes in grass tracks, coastal bush, beach and clifftops. It’s way­marked from Bethells Beach and con­tin­ues through the Waitakere Ranges to a steep flight of steps known as the Devil’s Stair­case. It’s a three- to four-hour trek that passes near sev­eral lo­ca­tions used in the film: Lo­cal landowner Vicky Bethell’s house was used as Kahu’s home, and many out­door scenes were shot in the land nearby. Hik­ers should mind their lan­guage, though: Vicky says the acous­tics are so good she can hear ev­ery word from far above.

A trail run­ning and walk­ing event, Speight’s West Coaster (en­try from $27), takes place on the Te Henga track on December 10. For a longer walk, Ad­ven­ture South NZ has a five-day trek in the Auck­land area from $1210.

Bird­watch­ing Those who are, like Ricky, keen on rare birds will find the Auck­land re­gion burst­ing with op­por­tu­nity. The vol­canic is­land of Ran­gi­toto (west of Wai­heke) is home to pro­tected species in­clud­ing the tieke, or sad­dle­back, brought back from the brink of ex­tinc­tion by a 2011 breed­ing pro­gram. Ferry op­er­a­tor Fullers runs tours to Ran­gi­toto for $48, while tribal com­pany Te Haerenga of­fers tours with spe­cial­ist Ngai Tai guides (from $110 per per­son). Se­ri­ous twitch­ers could head to Tir­i­tiri Matangi, an is­land north of Auck­land that’s home to many birds, in­clud­ing long-tailed cuckoo, takahe, kokako and that New Zealand favourite, the lit­tle spot­ted kiwi.

Cabin stay A 45-minute flight from Auck­land, the vol­canic lake­side town of Taupo is a re­lax­ing des­ti­na­tion, and gate­way to Mount Ton­gariro Na­tional Park, the site of three mighty moun­tains in­clud­ing Ngau­ruhoe, (Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings). The area is also used in Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple: Waititi and crew stayed for a few days at La­har Farm, a vast prop­erty with herds of sika deer and plenty of bush to ex­plore. Own­ers Noe­line and Brent Bishop rent out La­har Alpine Re­treat , a self-cater­ing log cabin for six (from $92 a night). There is hik­ing, bik­ing, raft­ing and ski­ing in the na­tional park.

– The Guardian

Photo: Shutterstock

Sun­set at Mt Ngau­ruhoe – which dou­bles as Mt Doom in The Lord of The Rings films – is a can’t-miss sight of New Zealand.

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