Matt Lyter – Dunedin, New Zealand
One of the many things to do on the weekends in Dunedin, New Zealand is to go tramping (hiking) with friends. By the end of my program, I climbed many hills, mountains and even a few waterfalls, but one of the most memorable hikes happened during my first month in New Zealand. One Friday night as some friends and I sat down in the flat’s courtyard to have dinner, we talked about what we should do for the coming weekend. We all brought our Lonely Planet books, Dunedin travel guides, and brochures of things to do. Stuck in with all the books and papers was the Guide to Tramping in Dunedin and Otago Region. Flipping through the book, we looked at the different trails and one peaked our interest.
After looking at the level of difficulty (since we were still new to New Zealand we weren’t quite used to walking up and down steep hills yet) and the suggested amount of time it took to do the hike, we finally decided on a hike called ‘Flagstaff Mountain on the pineapple path.’ The guide said it was of medium to low difficulty and would take about three hours to complete the circuit, so we decided to leave at around 9:30 AM the next day, and we should be home in enough time to eat lunch and then head to the beach.
After packing the essentials for our short hike we all met up and started our walk. We traveled through the city for about ten minutes, when suddenly we were on a dirt path in the middle of the dense bush. We saw many waterfalls, rivers, lakes, birds, plants, and even reminisce of Dunedin’s rich history of gold mining. After about two hours of hiking, we noticed that we hadn’t gained as much elevation as we thought we would have, and the fact that we could still see some houses in the distance tipped us off that we might not be on the right path. We sat down to rest for a second and looked at our map, we found out that we were on the right path, but it was on the path to get to the Pineapple Path, we hadn’t even made it to the base of Flagstaff Mountain yet! After getting our bearings, we set off and headed for the mountain, another hour passed before we made it to the Pineapple Path. So three hours already into the hike, we finally started to climb Flagstaff Mountain, and by the way the book was exaggerating on how easy the climb was, it was NOT medium to low, it was very steep! By this time we had made it out of the bush and started to climb up the ridge of the mountain where the sun was beating down on us, it was very hot but with no clouds in the sky it meant we could see for miles and miles in either direction where we could see the city and ocean to our left and some rolling hills and snow capped mountains to our right. Eventually we made it to the top of Flagstaff where there was a small cleared area and a nice plaque telling some history and facts of the mountain and path. We stayed there for a while taking beautiful pictures of the landscape and enjoying the views.
On our return trip to Dunedin, we somehow took a wrong turn and ended up getting pretty lost (we ended up seven kilometers from Dunedin). After walking through the winding outskirts of the city, we made it to a field where some kids were playing soccer and asked some parents for directions back to our flat. They told us to walk down a nearby road and go down the stairs. When we finally made it down those old, steep, concrete stairs (which seemed to be endless) we realized that we were literally 100 feet from our flat!
This trip was supposed to take only three hours, but almost nine hours later we made it back to our flats very tired and hungry, but filled with pride at what we had just accomplished. We also had a great experience to add to our memories of New Zealand!