Monday, April 20, 2009

Urban Hiking

Since learning about multi-day alpine treks and their southern hemisphere equivalents in NZ (Milford Track, Kepler Track, etc.), we'd been itching to try one over the four day Easter weekend. The problem is that we don't have any proper gear such as backpacks or sleeping mats. Heck, until our trip to NZ in February, I didn't even have appropriate shoes.

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However, now that I have the shoes, there was no reason not to brave a multi-day walk. But without a tent, backpack, travel cook stove (or the certainty that we'd want to invest in any of these), we knew this would have to be an urban hike. And by urban hike, I mean that we ate in beachside cafes and stayed in reasonably comfortable hotels. We did travel, though, completely on foot from Manly Beach to Palm Beach (30 miles) over three days and for that, we're patting ourselves on the Jansport backpacks.

We walked an average of ten miles per day on sandy beaches, rugged coastal headlands, residential neighborhoods and busy coastal highways. It was never boring because when we weren't minding our steps to avoid golden orb spider webs and other dangerous native creatures, we were people watching and playing a loose game of coastal walk bingo. One point for kayaks, native birds, fishermen and cute babies; five points for dolphins, nude/topless bathers and ostentatious beach houses, one million points for penguins. Mickey is still disappointed about missing the penguins in NZ and raised the stakes pretty high. Sadly, we didn't see one, but I did spot a baby sting ray in the shallow waters of low tide near Palm Beach.

I like to joke that we were so not away from it all that Lee was able to bus in to Sunday's lunch spot (the town of Avalon), hike with us to Palm Beach and then ride the bus back home after dinner. We dined that night on imported and local cheeses and an incredible cioppino, or fish stew. It was a rewarding conclusion to a sometimes strenuous, but mostly relaxed, leisurely stroll up the coast.

I don't know how soon we'll be purchasing a tent and sleeping mats, but we just may work our way up to the Milford Track-esque hikes that involve pre-organized nights in huts. Especially if those huts are situated in and among wineries in Provence.

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