Expat Magazine

Kaka Hill! Hiking in New Zealand!

By Martinemler


Hiking in New Zealand


Did you know that frightened cows get diarrhea? Well, I learned that on our first trip.


Everybody is hiking in New Zealand. Kiwis call it tramping. Since we do not know anything about tramping and we are new in town, we decided to join a tramping club. The Christchurch Tramping Club is offering trips   with variant levels. Everybody can join on a tramping trip with the club. Membership is only available after participating at least three times. A trip schedule is online searchable:



The great thing about it is that even tourist can participate.



I choose an easy to moderate trip. Every week Wednesday the club is meeting to cover the latest trips. Sometimes some people do presentations. We went to one of this evenings and they told us at that time what we need for a day tour.  Similar to my article “Properly dressed in New Zealand” plus tramping boots, rations and long trousers or gaiters. This is important because we will go through bush land and it scratches the skin. One of the grass calls spear grass and they are really dangerous. We were told to avoid falling into it.



Wikipedia does not have much to tell about this speargrass except the latin name. As the name already says it, this grass is sharp as spears and they are everywhere on Kaka hill.


Kaka hill is around two hours to the west of Christchurch and after leaving Christchurch we drove through the Canterbury plains. At the end of the trip a gravel road will pass by lake Georgina and bring you to the start of the tramping path.


Google maps are great for traffic directions but when it comes to tramping there are better maps. Look at this map and click on it. You will find many lovely tramping trips. The dashed line shows the path over Kaka Hill. This hill is only 1,000 m high.

View Larger Topographic Map


We drove with two cars from Christchurch. 10 people participated. A young French woman hopped into our car. The tramping party usually meets at a certain gathering point in Christchurch and than leaves for the trip. The two hours drive was very entertaining. H. from Paris is since a few months in New Zealand and could tell a lot of stories. She arrived three days prior to this trip in Christchurch and is already going for this tramping trip, sensational.



First we had to climb over a fence and than we passed by a herd of frightened giant cows. One cow threw her head right and left, as if she were watching tennis and her eyes squinted….

Well, first we passed them and than we walked behind them ….

What I learned next, cows getting diarrhea when they are frightened and the thorn bushes on the right and left side of the path doesn’t help. So we had to step through it! I lost the view of our elderly leader after the first 20m, he was maybe 70 years old. 45 minutes later the man behind us lost patient and told us (my family who pulled me along) to go strait up the hill, so we can catch up with the group. The group went in zig zag up the hill but we should go strait up. Passing sheep, cow and rabbit crab and a few dead sheeps, yes, dead sheeps. I have never seen a dead sheep and those ones were dead for maybe 2 weeks more or less. Trauma! Well, at one point I was so exhausted that I saw stars and felt like vomiting. Above all I had to watch out for the speargrass.

At first I thought we reach the top but no, everybody waited for us/me. I apologized and offered to go back since I still could see our car but all agreed  that I should move on.

Between all this we had a wonderful view on lake Coleridge & Mount Olympus (north-west from Kaka hill).




I do not have pictures from Kaka hill but from all hills and mountains around it …. I also know their names… somehow they look very bald.



We had two rests. At our first break I felt so sick from the struggle to get up the hill that my bento box did not appealed to me. I ate a muesli bar. At that point of time I wanted to go home. Unfortunately the weather was great and I had no excuses to go back. The second break was on the top of the hill, 1000m. Loose stones, speargrass, rabbit crab …. everywhere and of course the sensational view. The bushes look nice on the photo but if you think about them as spears then it is not that great.

But something is different than in other countries I visited: The colors! So many different green variations, magical dreamful!





After a very long lunch break the weather suddenly changed. I little drizzle, nothing bad. For the descent this is not a good thing. Well a few minutes into our descent it stopped. The photo from the mount hutt range shows it a little bit.

The old men club went downhill in a nosedive and I tried my best to keep up but it was impossible. I almost run. Even my boys said that it was to fast. They went tramping a few times with their grandparents and uncle in Switzerland and they told me they walk much slower. Here we had loose stones, no path and through the speargrass field or should I say minefield? Maybe I will think about it differently in a few months but this time we thought it was very fast tramping or running.

The great thing is that Kiwis are very entertaining and it is never boring with them. We had a great chat.

For my little son the descent was really hard, since he has problems with his knees. He has a disease which is actually seldom but not in his age group: Osgood-Schlatters Disease. He will grow out of it and had no problems for a long time but on this tour it was to steep.

The last meters we went down a steep grass slope and the rain started again. So the stones, which were covered by grass and the dried up water paths started to get slippery again. At the end we were all standing in the rain waiting for our car to arrive. We place one car at the beginning and one car at the end of the tramping path.





After the trip ended we agreed to gather at Harorata to drink coffee, tea and hot chocolate. If someone got a ride he had to pay 18 NZD and additional 5 NZD for the club. At the time we sat in the cafe, someone was singing life. This was a very nice surprise after all that nature.

We were so groggy!

Our group leader tramped this path only the second time and I think this view point from Kaka hill to lake Coleridge is unique and less photographed and/or published on the internet.





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