hobbyhiker

Peru: The breathtaking hike that is Laguna Llaca

Peru: The breathtaking hike that is Laguna Llaca

Cooking fried rice at 4.30am seemed like a good idea before my head hit the pillow the night before, but I soon realised that the smell of garlic wasn’t as appetizing before sunrise. Hiking in the rainy season means early starts, and we were up before many partygoers made it home from the night before. In fact, our small group of four watched in stitches of laughter as a group of young men went from potentially having a fight, to hugging each other and then chanting how much they loved each other. Alcohol does funny things to people.

We managed to catch a combi around 6.30am (Combi #15 for 1.50 soles one way) and made our way to Cachipampa, the start of our hike to Laguna Llaca. Denys and I sat in the front, her nephew found a seat in the back and unfortunately for the tallest in our group, Travis, all the seats were taken. I seriously considered changing places with him, with my five foot frame easily fitting inside. Luckily some passengers got off a few minutes down the road and Travis had a seat the rest of the way. Travis is an American tourist we met at an event a week before and found out that he was a keen hiker. I kept running into him throughout the week, so when we decided to do the hike, I invited him along.



Peru: Laguna Shallap - one of Ancash's hidden treasures

Peru: Laguna Shallap - one of Ancash's hidden treasures

The Ancash Region is renowned for its stunning lakes, yet the 17km return journey to Laguna Shallap gifts you endless opportunities for amazing landscape photography, even before you reach the lake. Laguna Shallap starts in Pitek, at the same place as its more famous neighbour, Laguna Churup. At 4,250m above sea level, it’s been one of the easier hikes I’ve experienced in Peru so far. If you’re a hobby hiker like me, this is a great day hike, though I highly recommend hiking it with others due to the distance and isolation.

My day started at 4.30am, because the group was supposed to meet up at 6am. That’s the eternal optimist in me, however with 15 in our group, we did have the combi to ourselves.



Peru: Hiking to the stunning Laguna Ahuac

Peru: Hiking to the stunning Laguna Ahuac

Burning muscles, cramps and even freaking diarrhoea – it may have been a beautiful Sunday, but this was no walk in the park. I’ve hiked almost 20km in a day, and even though it’s 6km one way, it’s the elevation that gets you. Luckily, I had experienced hikers with me who calmed me down when I started to doubt myself, especially as the air grew thinner. Altitude sickness comes in many stages and symptoms – the mild version makes you breathless, and at my worst so far (which isn’t that bad to be honest), I’ve had jelly legs and felt dizzy enough that I had to sit down.



Walking The Pakihi Track (Pakihi Rd
To Hut & Return)

Walking The Pakihi Track (Pakihi Rd <br>To Hut & Return)

I have been planning on walking the Pakihi Track since I came across a photo of the suspension bridge earlier this year. Unfortunately at this time, there is a massive slip that has taken out a part of the track about 300m upstream of the Pakihi Hut, so I couldn’t start my hike from Motu Rd. Instead I walked from Pakihi Rd to the hut and back on the same day. It was still an 18km hike, and was glad to finally make use of the hiking poles I bought as fatigue began to set in on my legs on the way back.

The Pakihi Track is a 20.7km dual use track for walkers/runners as well being a Grade 4 MTB track. Riders can only ride downhill, starting at Motu Rd. Walkers and runners can go both ways. I hope to see the other half of the track once the slip has been repaired - you can keep an eye on the Department of Conservation website for track updates, or head to the Motu Trails Cycleway on Facebook. For shuttle drop off and pick up, make sure to contact Motu Cycle Trails.



Tongariro Alpine Crossing: The Hobby Hiker's Goliath

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: The Hobby Hiker's Goliath

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park and about 3.5 hours drive from Whakatane. We had a house in Turangi for the weekend, which was a bonus, especially as we got home late on Saturday night after the walk. Our day started early (I was up by 5am) - we managed to leave the house just after 6am and made our way to the Ketetahi End car park.

We had booked a one way shuttle with Tongariro Crossing Shuttles, which cost $30 each. You can book a two way shuttle pick up, but we wanted the flexibility of taking our time, and in hindsight, was the best option for us (you’ll read about it later!). There is very limited parking at the Ketetahi End car park, so many sure to arrive 30 minutes before your shuttle is due.

There were four of us on this adventure: Myself, my friend Jem and another hiking buddy, as well Jem’s son, Joe, who was my road trip buddy from Whakatane. I have to mention that Joe’s only 12 years old and was the only one in our group who didn’t wake up with aching legs the next day!



Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve: Te Auheke and Ngahopua Tracks

Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve: Te Auheke and Ngahopua Tracks

Access Te Auheke track (also known as the Cascade Falls) starts by the Lake Okataina Outdoor Education Centre on Okataina Rd, which turns off from SH 30 in Ruato. The track starts behind the Outdoor Education Centre hut - walk along the left fence line until you see the wooden marker post. You can also access the shorter Rongomai track just a few metres away. I started the walk wearing my gloves, so it’s good to bring warm gear (just in case) even if the sun is shining.

The track itself is relatively flat, and wide throughout. The only time it narrowed was closer to the falls itself where I had to walk over some larger rocks. I thought about trying out my new hiking boots here, and there were some sections with overgrown roots and muddy patches, but as it was mostly flat terrain, my regular walking shoes did the job just fine.



The Whirinaki Falls Loop Track

The Whirinaki Falls Loop Track

The Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park is a place of immense, natural beauty and I invite you to see it for yourself as you walk amongst the giants of the forest. Located near the village of Minginui, it’s about an hour and half from Whakatane, where I live.  

I have wanted to do this walk all Summer, and with Autumn’s shorter days, I didn’t want to leave it too much longer. It took me almost two hours drive just to get to the River Road car park, mainly because I didn’t want to risk a flat tyre in the pot holes on the gravel road. I’ve learned to add at least another 30 minutes to my driving time vs Google’s estimate, especially if there’s a gravel road along the way. If you’re experienced in back country road driving, this probably won’t affect you, but if you’re mainly an urban driver like me, you will want to keep this in mind. River Road is a single lane gravel road, so make sure to take extra care.