New Zealand Walks: Wai­heke Is­land Walk­ing Fes­ti­val - some­thing not to be missed

some­thing not to be missed

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

Wai­heke res­i­dent and avid walker, Han­nah Grif­fiths, tells us why walk­ing on Wai­heke, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the Wai­heke Walk­ing Fes­ti­val which takes place this com­ing Novem­ber, is some­thing not to be missed.

There are a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons why Wai­heke Is­land is fondly re­ferred to as “the jewel in the gulf”. Its ex­cep­tional net­work of walk­ing tracks and trails for those who like to ex­plore our great out­doors on their own two feet is just one of them.

I can’t count the num­ber of times the is­land’s cle­ment weather (usu­ally at least a smidgen bet­ter than the main­land!) has tempted me to lace up my well-worn hik­ing boots or flashy sneak­ers (I’m a girl of ex­tremes) and ven­ture out to se­ri­ously work out, or just to wan­der, amongst its in­vig­o­rat­ing nat­u­ral beauty.

It never fails to sur­prise and de­light me how di­verse an ex­pe­ri­ence you can en­joy on what is es­sen­tially, in the vast scheme of things, rather a small rock.

Spec­tac­u­lar, rugged coast­line and heav­enly white-sand beaches in pic­ture-per­fect bays are most def­i­nitely “In­sta­wor­thy”. Lush na­tive bush, sprawl­ing hills and rows of glis­ten­ing vines stretch­ing as far as the eye can see. To ex­pe­ri­ence so much of the wild, un­tamed and un­touched, jux­ta­posed with the per­fectly planned, planted and pol­ished is a sen­sual jour­ney which nour­ishes the mind, body and soul in ev­ery way the heart can de­sire.

Whilst our “Wai­hetian” (some pre­fer “Wai­hekean”) vil­lages can be bustling, buzzing lit­tle havens full of life and laugh­ter, walk­ing here holds the key to dis­cov­er­ing spots which in­duce a feel­ing of be­ing stranded on your own desert par­adise.

Walk­ing on Wai­heke also pro­vides a chance to in­dulge (or over-in­dulge), in the de­lec­ta­ble, award-win­ning cui­sine and wine avail­able rel­a­tively guilt-free - and rather smugly I might add.

There’s sim­ply noth­ing like rocking up to a beau­ti­ful vine­yard res­tau­rant, en­er­gised from the ex­er­tion of a brisk hike and high on fresh-air and set­tling your­self down at an out­side ta­ble, soak­ing up even more of the mag­i­cal sur­round­ings whilst tuck­ing into a well-earned plate of some­thing de­li­cious and a glass or three of some of the finest wines in the coun­try!

And the plethora of winer­ies and restau­rants to choose from is ex­cit­ing in it­self.

Whether it’s a mag­nif­i­cent Ital­ian ban­quet in the peace­ful, po­plar-speck­led val­ley at Poderi Crisci, a gourmet lunch over­look­ing the ex­quis­ite won­der­land of Tan­talus’ man­i­cured grounds and im­mac­u­late, un­du­lat­ing vine­yards, or ta­pas un­der the shim­mer­ing olive trees on Ca­sita Miro’s pop­u­lar pri­vate lawn.

Hav­ing earned the right to spoil your­self by walk­ing there just adds to the sense of sat­is­fac­tion.

And then there are the views. Whilst we don’t lay claim to any moun­tains on our rock, the vis­tas to be ex­pe­ri­enced

Op­po­site page above: This walk in­cludes a walk be­side the sea shore. Above left: Walk­ing along the shore­line and up a hill on last year’s event. Above right: A walk in a shaded area. Be­low: Walk­ing through an area with large rocks. from our high­est points are pretty breath-tak­ing.

It has been said that ‘the only thing flat about Wai­heke is the map!’, so never fear, there’s cer­tainly chal­lenge a-plenty for the lion-hearted tram­pers amongst us. Whether you feel like tak­ing on the heart-pump­ing ups and downs or pre­fer a gen­tle stroll, Wai­heke has a walk to suit your goal, mood and sched­ule.

From a bare­foot stretch of the legs along the shore to re­lax and breathe mind­fully or in­deed a full day ad­ven­ture­hike which is sure to have one breath­ing heav­ily, the op­tions to re­ju­ve­nate, re­vi­talise and re­fresh are end­less here.

For a first taste of walk­ing on our Is­land you can’t go past the Wai­heke Walk­ing Fes­ti­val held each year in Novem­ber. I adore this Fes­ti­val for many rea­sons. Its cre­ative and thought­ful cu­ra­tion pro­vide a rich re­minder of the vast ar­ray of ex­cel­lent walk­ing op­tions avail­able on the Is­land and en­cour­age more walk­ers to dis­cover what a fan­tas­tic, un­miss­able des­ti­na­tion it truly is.

The Fes­ti­val also in­spires peo­ple – is­landers them­selves, main­lan­ders and tourists alike – to con­nect more deeply to Wai­heke’s beau­ti­ful en­vi­ron­ment, fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory and colour­ful sto­ries through the pro­found knowl­edge and pas­sion of the lo­cal guides who lead each walk.

An­other real bonus is the priv­i­lege of be­ing in­vited, ex­clu­sively via the Fes­ti­val and the gen­eros­ity of lo­cal pri­vate landown­ers, to set foot on and ex­pe­ri­ence cor­ners of Wai­heke which are or­di­nar­ily in­ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic. And the cherry on top? Un­like most ex­clu­sive things in life, all of these guided walks are free of charge.

Ul­ti­mately, be­ing on Wai­heke, whether tramp­ing all over the place or re­lax­ing and in­dulging in the af­ter-glow, is a treat for the senses. To be fully im­mersed in the glory of our nat­u­ral land­scape, with all of life’s plea­sures, com­forts and lux­u­ries just around the next bend, is an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other.

I am so very grate­ful to be able to en­joy it ev­ery day. I’m cer­tain that if you come and see for your­self, it will be the first of many vis­its. You may just find your­self rav­ing about how ‘the jewel in the gulf’ is a stun­ning di­a­mond, and not so much in the rough. Key in­for­ma­tion Wai­heke Walk­ing Fes­ti­val 18 – 26 Novem­ber 2017 For more in­for­ma­tion, pro­gramme de­tails and to book walks visit www. wai­heke­walk­ingfes­ti­val.org

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