Who doesn’t want to walk a trail called Peach Tree 🍑🌳 Track? Am I right? Enjoy this guest post written by my good friend and adventure buddy Stacey Walden, on her recent trip to Great Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand😀👊🌳🚶♀️
Aotea (aka Great Barrier Island) has become one of our favourite summer holiday places to visit in New Zealand. We have visited 6 times in the last 8 years, with our two children. My son Leo, now 7 is “a born a hiker” (as we say back home in Canada). There are many great short walks on the Island -from 15 minutes to a few hours, from waterfalls, to hot springs, to amazing coastal views, you name it, Aotea has it!
Last year I really wanted to walk to the summit of Mt Hobson, the highest point on the island at 600m, and take in the amazing views, but I hadn’t come prepared… This year however I made sure I was!
I wanted a clear day, so we could take in the views and not too much wind, as the start of the trail is ominously named the Windy Canon! The day finally arrived when we could see the summit from our beach-side bach and with it a light breeze, perfect. My hubby dropped my son and I off at the start of the Windy Canon (it’s the easiest way to get to the summit, with the least amount of climbing). I asked him to pick us up at the end of the Hotsprings walk in 6-7 hours time (as per the track times). Leo started off whining as he often does at the start of a walk… but after a few minutes he got into the groove. After climbing some steep stairs through the Windy Canon we arrived at the lookout and it’s incredible views of the island. We have walked this track many times (Leo began walking it on his own from about 1 and a half years old).
The Department of Conservation track guide says the walk to the summit takes 2.5-3 hours. After passing through the Windy Canon we continued along Palmer’s track and along the ridge line until we hit the stairs! I don’t think I’ve ever climbed so many stairs before in my life, and man was I glad to see the end of them! I was just thinking to myself, I hope we get to the summit soon when a mom and her daughter passed me coming in the other direction and said “Not long now.” ……. I though what??? It’s only been an hour. But sure enough a few minutes later the sign for the summit appeared, 2 mins to the top! Sweet!
However, we arrived to the summit in full cloud! My careful planning had been foiled, thankfully we could still see down to one of the harbors below. I would have happily waited for the clouds to clear but Leo was keen to get on to the hut. So we started heading down to the hut, more stairs! Down, down, down. I was very glad for the railings and don’t think I’ve ever felt my legs shake like they did! Leo of course was fine and kept rushing ahead. To my relief the track started to level out, just as my legs felt they may give out! We reached Mt Heale hut in the 45 minutes the sign had predicted and settled into an early lunch.
The views from this hut are incredible, Little Barrier Island is off in the distance, at this point both Leo and I wished we were staying the night. However after a nice rest and a text to my hubby to say we were way ahead of schedule (thank goodness we had cell coverage) we set off again.
More downhill! We returned via Peach Tree Track, which meets the Tramline Track after about an hour, but it was much more of a gradual gradient, my legs appreciated it 😀. The views just continued to impress. I couldn’t keep up to Leo’s fast pace, and he was often out of sight, but every now and then he would call to me to make sure I was still around. We saw a waterfall in the distance, crossed a small stream, and arrived at the Tramline Track. Yay – We had made it to the valley floor, no more downhill, hurray!
The next sign we came to said 45 minutes to the Hotsprings, at this point Leo started to complain that his legs were tired, I told him that mine were too, but that it was not too long now. I’d packed a day pack full of food and 2 bottles of water. I had more than enough food but I should have brought more water. If I was going to do it again, I would have Leo carry his own hydration pack (his suggestion) with a few snacks too.
Along the old tram-line, there were many beautiful Nikau palms, we also spotted some mushrooms and later I found 2 stick bugs mating on the side of a step. We arrived at a stream and at this point I was so hot I wanted to get in. So we did, Leo stripped down to his birthday suit and I went in my underwear. It was such a refreshing treat! From here it was 15 minutes to the Hotsprings where we each had a quick soak and waited for hubby and little sis to meet us. When they hadn’t arrived we decided to start walking the last leg of our trek to the car park and then ten minutes down the track we heard a little voice say “Mommy!”, it was my daughter and hubby. We all walked back together and my daughter complained that her legs were tired, she’d walked 30 minutes on a flat track!😂 I’d asked hubby to bring water, which Leo gulped down (I’d had to ration his on the walk so we had enough to last us). The last bit of the trail is beside a beautiful and nowadays unique wetland, sadly there are only 3% remaining in New Zealand. When we arrived at the car park, I showed the kids on the map the route we had walked. A total of 11 km up, across and down a mountain range in about 5 hours – not too shabby!
We celebrated with a delicious treat at The Fat Puku, a local cafe = Bliss! The next morning when Leo awoke he said “Mom, lets walk to the summit again!” My calves were so sore the thought of it made me cringe, but I’m so happy to have my not-so-little hiking buddy.
🌿Awesome adventure Stacey! 👊 Way to go Leo!
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