by Victoria Murray-Orr, Alexa Forbes, Jenna Matthews on November 5, 2010 9:44 PM

Lake Wanaka offers new walking tracks for summer

Victoria Murray-Orr

Lake Wanaka's position as one of New Zealand's most popular walking and hiking destinations has been further enhanced with the construction of a number of new tracks. Designed to highlight the region's spectacular scenery to walkers of all ages and abilities, the tracks offer a mix of scenic day and overnight excursions.

The recent completion of three river and lakeside tracks; the Glendhu Bay Track, Hawea River Track and Clutha River Track serve to link the outlying communities of Lake Hawea and Luggate offering stunning scenery and a variety of walks for locals and visitors with all levels of fitness.

Lake Wanaka now boasts over 750kms of recreational tracks and routes from gentle lakeside strolls to high alpine treks. Sections of the new network are incorporated in Te Araroa, a national walking and tramping trail from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south.

"Lake Wanaka is a walkers' paradise offering some of the most unforgettable hiking in New Zealand, with breath taking scenery and great variety, from short local walks along the rivers to multi-day guided adventures in Mt Aspiring National Park," said Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore.

A keen walker in Wanaka can do a number of day walks from the town centre such as the gentle Outlet Track which winds along the Clutha River, the Mt Iron Walk with 360 degree views of the Clutha basin or the Waterfall Creek Track along the lake's western shores. The walks are all spectacular in autumn with the brilliant reds and golds of the poplar trees.

More adventurous hikers are well catered for with a number of good day and overnight walks in the Mount Aspiring National Park. A scenic drive up the peaceful Matukituki Valley or to Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka provides access to the start points for many hikes. From Makarora the Wilkin-Young three day (58km) circuit travels through stunning valleys before heading over the 1490-metre Gillespie Pass with impressive views.

Last summer the Motatapu Track was opened, a challenging 34-kilometre, three- to four-day alpine tramp for experienced parties. It follows much of an historic route that linked Wanaka and Arrowtown areas during the gold mining era.

The Lake Wanaka region has a proactive community of hikers and community organizations, such as the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust and the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway Group who work alongside the Department of Conservation and Queenstown Lakes District Council to develop the trails in the region.

"The 45kms of new tracks are a real conservation gain for the region. The range of recreational opportunities including walkers, runners, mountain bikers, events and fishermen will all make good use of the tracks. I hope many will take the opportunity to get out and enjoy them," said Paul Hellebrekers, DOC Wanaka.

Funding of the tracks has also come from various community trusts such as the Central Lakes Trust, Otago Community Trust, NZTA, and the Wanaka Walkers Trust.

A hiker taking in the spectacular view over Lake Wanaka
A hiker taking in the spectacular view over Lake Wanaka
Credit: Lake Wanaka,
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Ultimate Hikes opens for the season

Alexa Forbes

Ultimate Hikes, New Zealand's premier guided walk company, waved off its first guests on November 1 for the start of the outdoor guided walking season along its Milford, Routeburn, Greenstone and Hooker Valley tracks.

Those first guests will be fully guided along world famous trails and each evening welcomed with the comforts of home in lodges that have been fully prepped for the opening of the summer's trekking season.

Over the past few weeks, the 120 Ultimate Hikes staff members have been provisioning 8 kitchens, preparing 320 beds, polishing 600 wine glasses, cellaring the wine and checking the workings of 210 taps among a myriad of other tasks as they readied for the start of the season.

Up to 10,000 people will visit the South Island this year for Ultimate Hikes traversing Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park - all of which hold UNESCO World Heritage Area status.

Ultimate Hikes Track Manager Andrew Jolly said the staff, mostly returnees, were all excited about the start of the season.

"We're all delighted to be back here, welcoming people into the great New Zealand outdoors," he said.

"It's fantastic to welcome back our team, everyone has worked flat out to make sure our lodges are ready and waiting for guests with ample hot water, fresh linen, fully-stocked fridges and plenty of home comforts. We're ready to offer our guests the experience of a lifetime in some of the world's best scenery and most beautiful wild places."

Ultimate Hikes applies decades of experience to ensuring people have an unforgettable experience while on New Zealand's iconic walking tracks. The Milford Track Guided Walk, Routeburn Walk and Alpine Guides Trekking Mount Cook allow walkers to choose from a range of multiday and single day walks, each offering a unique opportunity to encounter natural landmarks and stay overnight in idyllic secluded lodges.

"Ultimate Hikes has developed into a world class organization with an international reputation. We make it possible for all sorts of people at all ages and most fitness levels to enjoy some of the world's most amazing places," said Mr Jolly.

"From first time trekkers, through to avid hikers, young and old – there is an adventure for everybody wanting to get out and explore the back country, soak up some fresh air and experience New Zealand's special wilderness."

The Ultimate Hikes tramping season runs from November until late April. All walkers are accompanied by expert guides and the packages include all accommodation, meals, snacks, backpacks and rain jackets.

Walkers taking in the view in the Routeburn Valley
Walkers taking in the view in the Routeburn Valley
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The view from Sandfly Point on the Milford Track
The view from Sandfly Point on the Milford Track
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'Big Day at the Office' just got bigger

Jenna Matthews

A popular Canterbury multisport event used for Coast-to-Coast training has upped the ante this year, with changes to routes, the addition of an extra discipline and more flexibility for entrants.

The Big Day at the Office, organized by Multisport Events Ltd, is held every November and has grown from around 70 entrants to 180 from all corners of New Zealand.

This year the multisport course has replaced the canal paddle with a river paddle to make it even more like the Coast to Coast.

As well, the addition of a mountain run and a new duathlon course has organizers hoping to draw more competitors.

Multisport Events Ltd race director Simon Hampton says this is the first change of course since the event began almost six years ago.

"The multisport race has been quoted by competitors are being the best lead up to the Coast to Coast. We usually get around 45 competitors in the 'Open Male' section so it's great for guys wanting to test themselves against New Zealand's best. The Open Female field of around 13 has been strong competition over the past three years also."

Hampton says the Big Day at the Office isn't just for the elite.

"It's also good for people considering their first Coast-to-Coast giving them a taste of a true multisport event with the conditions they are likely to face."

Replacing the usual canal paddle with a river paddle down the Rakaia River was a key change and would make the race more challenging, he says.

"The Rakaia paddle has more volume than the Waimakariri so it will be a good training ground. On the other hand, if Coast to Coasters just want to do a part of the event, we will have the infrastructure to accommodate that. We expect two-person team entries to be up this year."

The multisport race consists of a 40km bike ride leaving from Methven, a 24km run through the Mount Somers sub alpine walkway, followed by a 25km cycle to the Rakaia Gorge Bridge. A 17km kayak is followed by a 2km run up Lowers Cutting and a final 10km bike ride to the Blue Pub in Methven.

The duathlon, which is the same 40km bike ride, the Sub Alpine walkway run and then a 33km cycle to the Blue Pub, will have gender and age categories and is 7km shorter than last year to make it attractive to a wider range of athletes.

The events on the day can be done by a single competitor or a team of up to 4 making a big day out of the office a team building exercise for fit bike and running lovers. A provision for newcomers entering the team category allows an extra person, making it a 5-person team effort if desired.

"Also this year we have added a separate run event which is a 24km mountain run through the sub alpine walkway. This race is likely to attract people who like to run in great scenery but maybe not compete in more than one discipline like the multisporters.

"We are noticing an increased interest not just in fitness but in people who are wanting to push their boundaries and compete in different terrain. The beauty of this event is that they can have their times officially recognized in a professional event that is part of a regional series.

"The aim of the Big Day at the Office is to meet the athletes' needs, not to have them meet our agenda, so we have worked on our infrastructure to ensure maximum flexibility.

"People can do the tough multisport event, or just parts of it, the duathlon, or just the mountain run. They can compete solo or in teams so it should be an incredibly satisfying day."

The Big Day at the Office event on November 27 is preceded by the first multisport race of the Spring Canterbury Multisport Champ series - the Frost Buster on Saturday October 16.

A view along the Mt Somers walkway.
A view along the Mt Somers walkway.
Photo credit: Fleur Robinson
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Athletes on the Mt Somers walkway for athletes in last year's Big Day at the Office race
Athletes on the Mt Somers walkway for athletes in last year's Big Day at the Office race
Photo credit: Glyn Davies.
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