Johnny Moore: Banks Peninsula's rugged beauty, Brazilian landscaping and Rangoon sheilas
OPINION: I've just returned from doing the Banks Peninsula Track with my wife and eight women from Rangiora.
I set out to spend all available time with my wife, but those sheilas from Rangoon were such a bloody laugh that I had to spend some time drinking too much wine with them – it would have been rude not to.
I've spent the past few years wandering through bush all over the country and it wasn't until earlier this year that my wife asked:
"Have you done the Banks Peninsula Track?"
The walk takes four days for people like me, my wife and fifty-something-year-old women from Rangiora.
It takes two days if you're spending more time walking and less time drinking wine with hilarious women.
The route runs from Akaroa and round the South Bays. It takes in four farms that maintain the track, provide access and offer lodgings.
And what a magnificent service they run. Started in 1989 as a means of diversifying their incomes, the farmers have been maintaining and planting new bush for almost three decades now. And the Peninsula is better for it.
Do you ever wonder what Banks Peninsula looked like before Europeans came and logged it 'til it could be logged no more?
I like to imagine it looked more like the Marlborough Sounds, where the bush falls down the hill and drips into the ocean. And on parts of the BP Track – brief glimpses – I could see a Sounds landscape.
Today's Banks Peninsula's landscape looks like it was designed by the same bloke that designed the Brazilian as a lower-hairstyle for ladies. It looks scalped.
But just because something is, doesn't mean it will always be. And good people like those running the BP Track are making this part of the world better – one tree at a time.
Now, one of the farms is pulling out. I don't know the reason for this, nor judge anybody for pulling out of something that can't be the easiest way to earn off the land.
But I do think you should go and do the walk in its original form. If just so you can be that smarmy prick who walks it in the future and spends the whole time saying:
"It's not as good as it used to be. I liked the old Pa site."
They only run 12 people on each section of the track and while this empty track is a large part of the charm, it does mean you have to book in advance.
I'm aware how middle class I'm being in my assumption that everybody can afford to do a walk like this. But I figure it's got to be cheaper than taking the kids to the Disneyland and by supporting the BP Track you'll know you're doing good for the environment – something Disneyland has never been accused of.
There's 400-year-old beech trees, a cabbage tree as big as a building, slowly establishing totara, kanuka, manuka, rata…
It's like a best of New Zealand native bush compilation. And it's all right there in our back yard.
So get off your bum and do the walk. If great businesses like this get support, we can all live in hope that with time Banks Peninsula can regenerate, the birds can return and we can learn to embrace the area not as a landscape to exploit but as something to cherish and treasure for future generations – more like the Japanese.
Now the women from Rangiora snickered when I suggested it and I had to tell them to grow up, but I think Banks Peninsula needs a new motto:
"Bring back the bush".