As I reach the crest of the ridge after a slow steady climb through native bush and turn to look out across at the vista of the Hauraki Plains and beyond, I feel a sense of achievement. I wonder to myself why I don’t do this more often because it is so satisfying. Being in the bush, breathing in fresh clean air and feeling a keen awareness of the muscles in my body, gives me a sense of pleasure and peace.
It’s simple really, to make a sandwich, fill a water bottle, pack some essentials into a small backpack, don my tramping shoes, pick up a friend and head out for the day. But I find that each year when the ECHO Walking Festival comes around again, I haven’t kept my promise to myself to get out and experience more of our superb surroundings.
The Festival presents an opportunity for all to explore new tracks within a group led by a guide who knows the area and who usually has a good deal of knowledge of it’s history or relevance.
I always meet interesting new people on these walks and hear about other areas and walks available, or tips on good boots and gear. Friendships are formed and loners often find a walking group to join for regular excursions.
Whatever your fitness level or your penchant, you can find walks in the programme to suit everyone. From the Grade One easy short walks suitable for families and the less hardy, to a good hard six hour tramp up to the top of the Kaimai Ranges to see a magnificent view and waterfall, ECHO walks have it all. There are even a few walks of interest and intrigue designed to educate and delight, such as the Karangahake Night Adventure or the Weta Walk. Some of the walks take you into places normally “out of bounds” to the public such as the “Conveyor Belt Boogie”
The Festival began nine years ago with the intention of encouraging people to improve their fitness while getting the family involved in discovering new places to visit in this spectacular and easily accessible part of the country.
It is often those who live closest that don’t take the time to discover their own backyard but we are just as keen to show it off to the visitors.