A walk in the park: hiking in Peru, Australia and NZ

I am a very lazy person. I only wash my hair once a week and even that is a considerable test of my strength and endurance. Conversely, I love multi-day hikes.

I only came to this realisation a few years ago. Up until that point my only association with long-distance walking was the horrific 18-hour overnight walk from Otford to Bundeena  I was forced to complete at 12 years old.

Let me tell you, that 30km hike through south-Sydney national park was no walk in the park! I’ve harboured a mistrust of venturers, sea scouts and anyone of that knot-tying ilk ever since. They told me we were just going to the beach for a swim! Scout’s honour my arse.

I remember thinking as we stopped for a nap in the damp sand at 2am, that I was so exhausted, there was nothing for it but to radio the chopper. However, somehow, more driven by shame rather than stamina, I kept going.

I cursed and raged internally, muttering all the best swear words I knew, like fuck knuckle and fat moll. Simultaneously, I sunk to a Titanic level of self pity. I was fully submerged. I was Atreyu in the Swamp of Sadness.

But despite my misery I survived. I made it to Bundeena and then caught the ferry to Cronulla, where I met my parents, had a cry, and felt a lot better.

I seem relive a version of this walk in every multi-day hike I complete. There are still moments of physical and mental misery, but they are always worth enduring for the glimpses of sublime natural beauty I receive in return.

Even on that first walk, unwittingly undertaken and hard won, I caught such a glimpse. I woke up on the beach from a faltering sleep, freezing in my little sand bunker. As the sun slipped over the horizon my Sony Walkman started to play U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ and I was deeply charmed, by the serendipity of the song and the beauty of the blue dawn.

While I’ve more or less outgrown U2 and explicit D&M scenes, I still crave #views. So I want to keep hiking the most beautiful trails I can find. So far we have completed the Three Capes Track in Tasmania, the Routeburn Track in New Zealand and the Salkantay Trek in Peru.

This whole post is really just an excuse to share our amateur photos.

Three Capes Track, Tasmania

Beginning at Denman’s Cove near Port Arthur, we walked 48km over four days to Fortescue Bay, staying in perfectly appointed cabins along the way. Sticking mostly to the coast, we searched for whales and wombats, and found stunning sunsets, dramatic clifftop views and dolerite sculptures.

We got caught in a storm out on the Blade – the rocky precipice of Cape Pillar. This was totally exhilarating, but also quite terrifying as the park ranger had warned us that people are regularly blown right off the top by the strong winds.

Pros: The ticket price includes accomodation, entrance to the historic Port Arthur site, an eco cruise and a fantastic storybook  to read as you walk describing different trail points.

Cons: They’ve created a paved stairway for the climb up to the top of Cape Huay on the fourth day. By the end of the trip my knees felt like crumbling tombstones.

How my body broke: I hurt my knee on the third day, with a twitchy nerve thing that made every step hard work. Gareth wants it known that he had to carry my bag that day.

Denman’s Cove – the walk begins at this tannin-stained creek
Catching the first epic cliff views of Cape Raoul
Surveyors cabin, Three Capes Track, Tasmania, Australia
First night sunset at Surveyors Cabin
Sunset on the deck, Surveyors Cabin, Three Capes Track, Tasmania Australia
How’s the serenity?

 

Tasman Island from Cape Pillar, Three Capes Track, Tasmania, Australia
Stormy views of Tasman Island from Cape Pillar
Dolerite columns, Cape Pillar, Three Capes Track, Tasmania, Australia
The dolerite columns of Cape Pillar
Munro bite sunrise, Three Capes Track, Tasmania, Australia
Sunrise from the balcony at Munro Cabin
Three Capes Track boardwalk, Tasmania, Australia
Leaving camp Retakunna for Mount Fortescue
Cape Pillar, Three Capes Track, Tasmania, Australia
Looking back on Cape Pillar
Totem Pole, Cape Huay, Tasmania, Australia
Watching the waves crash into the Totem Pole

 

Routeburn Track, New Zealand

The Routeburn is considered to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world. This ain’t hype. We drove all around New Zealand’s South Island, and saw a great many gorgeous things. But if we hadn’t completed this 32km track through Fiordlands National Park, well I shudder to think… You see magical fairy forests and pools, you camp in glorious meadows with snow-capped mountains in the background and arcing rainbows. You see crystal clear alpine lakes and waterfalls. It is beyond.

Coming from a mostly flat, dry country, my jaw dropped at some of the views, and I haven’t pick it back up yet. It will stay unhinged now, like a hungry snake waiting for more scenic noms.

Pros: You get to see the Alps without crossing the equator. It feels like you’re behind the scenes in some of the most scenic LOTR shots – because you are.

Cons: It is so popular that it can be hard to book cabin or campsite spots. We had to do a mixture of both, which meant we had o carry all the camping equipment for only one night, and hustle to the next cabin spot, essentially doing two days’ walk in one. Also as it’s a hike through, not a circuit, you need to leave your car at one end. We paid a hefty sum to have it picked up from Glenorchy and delivered to the trail head at The Divide, but that was still better than the very slow bus back to Queenstown.

How my body broke: Knee pain again. Also my feet swelled in my boots and rubbed. Gareth swapped boots with me for the last half day of the trip. To this day I don’t know how he managed this , given my boots are a size or two smaller than his.

Waterfall near Routeburn Shelter, New Zealand
The first waterfall of the hike gives a pleasant face misting
Routeburn Gorge, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
The swirling teal waters of Routeburn Gorge
Meadow campsite with rainbow, Routeburn Track
Our magical meadow campsite
Meadow and mountains, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
The view from our tent. Nuff said.
Harris Saddle, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
The long climb to Harris Saddle and lunch
Routeburn vista, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Lord of the Rings territory
Mountain path, Routeburn Track, New Zealand,
The road goes ever on and on
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Lake McKenzie or ‘Kiwi fairyland’
Earland Falls, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Getting wet at Earland Falls
Key Summit view, Routeburn Track, New Zealand
It’s mandatory to take the optional detour up to Key Summit

 

Salkantay Trek, Peru

I have always wanted to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. However reality caught up with my Romantic fantasy when I realised how busy it was – you essentially spend four days dodging wads of used toilet paper. So instead we picked the five day Salkantay Trek, which takes the long way round to Machu Picchu, hiking 70km past the striking peaks of Salkantay, Humantay, and Ausangate, and through jungle filled with tiny coffee plantations to Aguas Calientes.

It was our first guided hiking tour, and we felt very spoilt (and slightly guilty) having all of our meals prepared for us, and most of our stuff carried. The glacial moraines and mountains were absolutely stunning, and the 4650m altitude definitely made the first part of the hike very difficult. I had trouble breathing at the peak and decided to take a horse up the ‘gringo killer’ instead. Best decision ever.

Pros: Machu Picchu seemed like a bonus given all the incredible things we saw and did on the hike to get there. We swam in thermal pools, slept in sky lodges in the snow, hurtled across a river in a tiny metal box and drank the freshest most delicious coffee ever. I’m getting excited to do it all over again!

Cons: Getting into Machu Picchu itself was a bit pants. After walking 70km over 4 days, you had to wake up at 3am to line up for bus tickets, and then get in the bus queue (which stretched down the street) in order to get to the Machu Picchu gates at dawn. The alternative is walking up the mountain in the dark…

How my body broke: Aside from a little bit of altitude sickness, I nailed this one! I had purchased hiking poles beforehand, and they made such a difference on my knees. By the end of the five days I was leading the pack of 20-somethings while they trailed behind with aching joints.

 

Hut at Soraypampa, Peru
Hut life in Soraypampa
Sky camp in the mountains, Soraypampa, Peru
But we stayed in these…
Lake Humantay, Salktantay Trek, Peru
The vivid colours of Lake Humantay
Alpine sky, Salkantay Trek, Peru
A perfect Peruvian skyline
Salkantay summit, Peru
At the Salkantay summit – 4600 meters high
River Valley, Salkantay Trek, Peru
Moving from mountain to valley
Jungle coffee shop, Lucmabamba, Peru
The local coffee shop
Scarlet macaw, Cocalmayo thermal springs, Peru
Made a friend at the thermal pools in Cocalmayo
Double rainbow at Aguas Calientes, Peru
A warm welcome from Aguas Calientes
Macchu Picchu, Peru
We made it to Machu Picchu!
Machu Picchu ruins, Peru
MP from a different angle

 

Ancient Incan walls, Machu Picchu, Peru
Wonder wall.
Mysterious Machu Picchu, Peru
Worth the early start for crowd-free pics

So where to next? Now that we’re based in the UK, I was thinking the West Highland Way in Scotland, or something in the Pyrenees. Any recommendations hiking chums?

 

7 thoughts on “A walk in the park: hiking in Peru, Australia and NZ

      1. I highly recommend to visit Meteora and there are some nice easy routes for hiking. In addition, there are plenty multipitch and sport climbing routes on the rocks of Meteora.

        If you plan to go there and you will like some info, feel free to ask.

        Like

      2. I think spring is the best season to visit Meteora. Weather will be good and it will not be very hot. Also, it will not be very crowded with large group of tourists.

        In case you visit Meteora there are some nice hikes not very far away from there. Here I send you a couple of links to see/review:

        Verliga alpine lake – Wild camping on Greece’s secret paradise:
        https://olympusmountaineering.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/verliga-alpine-lake-wild-camping-on-greeces-secret-paradise/

        Hiking in South Pindos – Lakmos Mountain Pt.01:
        https://olympusmountaineering.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/hiking-in-south-pindos-lakmos-mountain-pt-01-anthochori-tsoukarela-peak-verliga-alpine-lake/

        Hiking in South Pindos – Lakmos Mountain Pt.02 | Verliga Alpine Lake – Megas Trapos – Baros – Kallarites:
        https://olympusmountaineering.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/hiking-in-south-pindos-lakmos-mountain-pt-02-verliga-alpine-lake-megas-trapos-baros-kallarites/

        Hiking in picturesque villages Kallarites and Syrrako:
        https://olympusmountaineering.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/hiking-between-picturesque-villages-kallarites-and-syrrako/

        In case you would like to have any further info, let me know.

        Like

  1. Fantastic photographs people! Well done. Perhaps a little bit of Wilsons Promontory [Australia] for your next blog? So sorry about your ‘broken bits’ Shell, and however did Gareth get into those boots?

    Like

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