After a couple weeks of no running while in India, I was so excited for New Zealand! I will include both running hikes and walking hikes in the next few posts.
Our first stop in New Zealand was Waiheke Island which is about an hour ferry ride from Auckland. We were staying on the island for Christmas week with my in-laws. Hidden message— the adults could get away for a few hours! The island is known for wines and beaches. Perfect!
Owhanake Trail Run (Dec 20)
We started with a run on the first day arriving at the island! We were anxious to be outside and able to breathe deeply! But we were also running on fumes. Over the last 48 hours we had flown from Dehli to Singapore; then 18 hours in Signapore; then flight to Auckland; then ferry to Waiheke. Unfortunately we discovered 2 days later that there was a 100 km trail loop on the island- Te Ara Hura (http://temp.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/parksfacilities/walkingtracks/Documents/tearahuramaps.pdf). We might have been able to complete the entire trail over the week (if we had planned correctly). Our first trail run was part of the Owhanake section. We had a quick drive (all drives are quick on this island) to the parking lot and we were off. The trail took us by a ferry terminal and along a small harbor. We had a level start along the water until we headed a bit inland and started climbing. It was divine to be surrounded with glorious open space and deeply inhale fresh air after nearly three weeks in India. The trail was mostly single runner width and some technical areas. After making our first ascent, we had a series of hills and valleys. Some of the trail followed large estates with full water views. Once we left the water, we had more climbs/descents as we crossed back to our start. The signage was easy to follow along the trail. The theme of climbs/descents would be present in all of the hikes for the week.
Garmin data: 3.60 miles, total elevation gain of 415 ft (largest climb of 252 ft).
Unfortunately, my garmin stopped uploading data to my laptop for about a month, so I don’t have the nice screenshots from garmin connect. Luckily the data did sync with my phone to prove that I ran those miles!
Rocky Bay Trail Run (Dec 22)
Our next trail run/hike started in Whakenewha Regional Park in the Rocky Bay area. We were quickly in a forest after starting. We found a small waterfall about 10 minutes into the trail run before continuing with more climbs/descents through the forested park. The waterfall and small swimming hole would be great for a 4 legged running companion! We used Nikau Track to Tarata Track and back on via Gordon Road. We ended up slightly short of our distance goal so we added a loop along the beach camp grounds (Rua Loop and Pa Loop). We ran along a beach that was a dotterel breeding area- but none were spotted. A sculpture garden started in the parking lot and continued towards the water (kiwis like the sculpture gardens). The water along Rocky Bay was so quiet and calm. It was refreshing to dunk my hat in the water to cool off! The mornings were generally cloudy and the sun was full strength by the afternoons so it was perfect weather for morning runs and beach afternoons.
Garmin data: 3.75 miles, total elevation gain of 505 ft (largest climb of 300 ft).
The afternoon hike will live in our family’s history for a very long time. Lessons learned from this afternoon—the estimated mileage on the map was “estimate”; NZ “easy” trail is not our idea of easy; and check an elevation map!
We had Jerry (my father in law) drive us out the area of our morning run. We were going to hike another portion of the Te Ara Hura Trail along Putiki Bay to Okoka Bay and then across to Te Whau Drive (and the edge of Kuakarau Bay) and finally along another couple bays- Hitapa Bay, Kuakarau Bay, Omiha Bay, and then Rocky Bay. I failed to recognize that each bay consisted of a steep descent DOWN to the beach followed by steep cliffside ascent OUT of the beach- such a rookie mistake. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I hadn’t found a complete mileage, but estimated it at 6 miles (I was wrong on several accounts this afternoon). We passed by many art galleries and wineries as we walked the first 1/3 of the hike. There was one epic hill on Te Whau Drive that changed the demeanor of the kids. Luckily, we found a wonderful shop shortly after named Azzuro. It was owned/operated by a wonderful German couple that had moved to NZ 21 years ago after falling in love with NZ while on holiday. We bought a jar of locally sourced honey and snacked on several home cooked goodies. After a bathroom visit, water, and a few minutes of AC; the children were once again in good spirits. And then they saw a llama! We saw llama before sheep in New Zealand! Our excitement rose even higher when we spotted the “Penguins live here” while approaching Okoka Bay. Well, we saw the sign…but no penguins. After the third bay (perhaps four or five) of DOWN, water, UP….we had a really low moment and were very tempted to ride a local bus back to the rental house; but Ella really wanted to finish what she started. And on we went! We were at the carpark within 30 minutes and everyone was still talking to each other! My kids said the hike was my birthday and Christmas and Mother’s Day present. They generally grumble when “hike” is mentioned. However, in all honesty, I didn’t mean to start them off with such a challenge. I was so proud of them! Now everytime I suggest a hike, they ask to see a map to check distance and elevation. I didn’t use my garmin for this hike (so I don’t have the elevation changes) but my apple watch tracked 5.40 miles.
Trig Hill to Te Matuku Bay (Dec 24)
Epic hike adventure!
First hike- 1.29 mile
Second hike- 4.12 miles
But total distance was 7.96?
To feul for our hike, we had a wonderful lunch at Passage Rock Winery. The wineries on this island were wonderful. Each winery had an incredible view matched with yummy wines and delicious food. How can one go wrong?
After lunch, we were dropped off at Trig Hill and started on our adventure. We had hiked several times and felt pretty comfortable with our navigation skills (essentially our ability to find the trail signs). We were wrong this time. We started the hike and followed the signs into a pasture. And then we lost our way. We walked across the pasture- no trail. We walked the perimeters of the pasture- no trail. We walked just beyond the pasture- no trail. We were sure the trail led to the pasture. We felt pretty defeated and headed back to our start point wondering if we would have cell service to call a ride. That was hike #1 (and I think the 1.29 mile was completely off). That was a nearly an hour spent. We have left our car at a winery and had asked if we could access it after closing time but didn’t know when the gate from the road would close. Luckily, we passed a house with a wonderful soul working outside in her garden. Within minutes we were on our way again! The typical sign was completely hidden from our view by long grass and we had missed it essentially as we started. And the trail didn’t lead to the pasture. Thus began hike #2.
A summary of this adventure–
Have you ever needed a rope for assistance climbing uphill? A rope was provided on the trail. I couldn’t spare a free hand to take a picture!
Have you ever seen landscape on a slope while climbing uphill? It was on this hike. Again, it was hard to capture on camera.
Have you ever see a trail just heading straight up in front of you? It was on this hike. We had some serious climbs. And we went straight down sometimes. The lack of switchbacks was amazing (for uphills and downhills).
Have you ever laughed at the “reasonable level of fitness required” and “several steep sections” when it describes a hike? I am not sure what the kiwi definition of reasonable level of fitness is. We are above the national average of fitness among Americans and we really worked hard.
Have you ever cursed yourself for not bringing your garmin AGAIN because Apple watch doesn’t have a altimeter. Lesson learned!
Have you wondered about fuzzy apple watch math? Hike 1 + Hike 2 = total miles of the day. Because the hike was my walking for the day.
Have you ever had the most amazing views while on a hike? Yep….we got them!
I thought we had walked to the mainland and back by the time we had finished.
Five Bays (Dec 26)
Our last hike in Waiheke! We were dropped off at Oneroa Bay and then headed east towards “our” beach rental house. We passed several bays: Onera Bay, Hekerua Bay, Sandy Bay, Enclosure Bay, and Mawhitipana Bay (our beach). Compared to our most recent hike, the signs were extremely easy to follow even with a detour! We felt this hike was the easiest for the week. In retrospect, this hike would have been wonderful with the kids on a nice sunny day. We would have enjoyed swimming at each of the bays; however it was cool and slightly overcast so we didn’t bring our swimsuits.
Garmin Data: 4.51 miles; elevation change of 690 ft (largest climb 300 ft).
Next North Island!