I’m extremely grateful to past Lucy for getting her act together and taking up running in May last year. Before this miracle occurred, my level of fitness could have been described as negligible at best. If I had attempted the Banks Peninsula track a year ago, I’m fairly sure I would still be trying to make my way up the first climb. Nearly 6 months later. In all seriousness though, this track, whilst rewardingly beautiful, is not to be undertaken by someone who gets out of breath walking to the fridge. I would recommend at least a basic level of fitness and a high functioning set of lungs. Not trying to be discriminatory or anything but, yeah.
So anyway, health warning over (I’m such a conscientious travel guide right!?) back to the tale. After a surprisingly good nights sleep in my bunk bed I was awoken bright and early by Mark to begin our first days worth of walking from Onuku to Flea Bay and Flea Bay to Stony Bay. I was actually feeling pretty optimistic – it was a gloriously sunny, warm day, I’d managed to have a quick shower AND a cup of tea, I’d feasted on a breakfast of Jen’s delicious flapjacks and I was in the company of one of my favourite people in the whole world and about to witness some incredible sights.
This feeling of optimism lasted all of 10 minutes as the track introduces you to your 35km hike with a nice, sheer ascent to 600km above sea level. As with most of the climbs on the Banks track, this first ascent was unbelievably steep. Even my brother, who is a seasoned walker and all round macho man had to take a couple of breaks on our way up (this also might have had something to do with the fact he was wearing a pack which potentially weighed more and was nearly as tall as me). To add to this, in a perfect demonstration of how my life usually pans out – a mere 15 minutes into the walk, wearing brand new walking trousers and with a full day of walking to endure before reaching a shower, I stepped into a quagmire which sent a muddy (well I hope it was mud) spray all up my leg. Lacking any sort of cleaning implements, I had to improvise with make up wipes to get the mud/shit off me whilst Mark, helpful little bugger that he is, stood pointing and laughing at me. To add insult to injury, my huffing and puffing and bitching to Jen on the way up this climb, caused Mark to ‘motivate me’ by insisting I refer to him as ‘Sarge’ and consider myself one of his army underlings. He proceeded to pretend we were on an army training exercise and Jen and I were lowly maggots who needed verbally pushing up the hill (I say hill it was more like a cliff face). Suffice to say, Jen quickly pulled rank and argued that if Mark was ‘Sarge’, then she was definitely General and to pipe the fuck down. Despite this, my big brother continued to try and enforce his alter-ego on me whenever he could.
Although I have yet to procreate, I imagine that the feeling I experienced when reaching the top of my first climb was akin to the moment immediately after you’ve expelled your spawn. I was breathless, red, sweaty, sore and begging for mercy – but when I laid eyes on the view from the top, it’s like the process of getting there didn’t matter. 600km above sea level, the views at the peak of the first climb on the Banks Track are spectacular. Also spectacular is the sense of achievement you feel when you realise what you’ve done. However, whereas a fair number of people go on to willingly repeat the process of childbirth twice (my own mother did it thrice), I had absolutely bugger all desire to repeat the experience which brought me to the peak of the track. Sadly, I had no choice in the matter. The Banks Peninsula Track, as I was soon to find out, is essentially a series of very very steep climbs, followed by knee-breaking descents and the occasional, merciful level bit.
We spent about 6 hours reaching our lunch stop on the track – a pretty little inlet called Flea Bay, where we spent an enjoyable hour feasting on the lush packed lunch Jen had prepared and admiring the beautiful sea view. There is a cottage at Flea Bay which is where 4 day walkers spend the night. This cottage can be used by 2 day walkers as a place to use the toilet, eat their lunch and just generally chill out before their afternoon hike. The cottage also has a fridge fully stocked with all manner of beverages which walkers can purchase using an honesty box. I have never tasted anything as wonderful as that ice cold diet Coke after hours of walking in the sun. If we had been doing the 4 day walk, I definitely would have loved a swim in the clear waters at Flea Bay – it’s a gorgeously secluded, lovely place with green grass and flowers leading to a pebbled beach and blue waters. Sadly we couldn’t stop for long as we needed to reach our destination for the night – Stony Bay – before it reached nightfall. So, despite my aching feet and full belly we began another ascent up the Peninsula.
Now, if I thought Flea Bay was beautiful on the ground; getting an aerial view of it is even better. In fact, we were lucky enough to spot some endangered Hector’s Dolphins in the water swimming below us. Unfortunately, through some combination of heat, exhaustion and just me being Lucy – I managed to slip and fall. This would have been fine, except we were walking on top of the Peninsula, on a single, narrow bit of track with a sheer drop on one side. My slip caused my leg to flail out and slide over the cliff, twisting my ankle in the process and placing me very close to the jaws of death. Lucky for all you lot, I avoided meeting my end but I was extremely shaken and had a very sore ankle to boot. Also luckily – I was on a walk with two doctors! Their advice – walk it off. Walk. It. Off. Walk off a sprained ankle… great.
By the time we reached Stony Bay I’d never been so grateful to see somewhere to sit/lay down in my entire life. Peeling off my sweaty boots, putting on my flip flops and taking the weight off my ever-expanding ankle was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had. I was looking forward to food, alcohol, a shower and a damn good night’s sleep.
Sadly, I only achieved three out of those four things that night thanks to a group of over-excited penguins…
Till next time,