17 Mar 2017

Making Tracks in North Canterbury

From Country Life, 9:31 pm on 17 March 2017

Country Life visits two families at Conway Flat in North Canterbury who run a private hill country walkway leading from windy hilltops to the cliffed coastline which connects their sheep and beef farms.

Diversification and a desire to share their scenic properties with others led Heather and Bruce McFarlane and David and Sally Handyside to start making the Kaikōura Coast Track about 20 years ago.

Sally says animals did the ground work for the track and family and friends finished it off.

"We followed a few rough sheep tracks but it has improved since then… and anybody that came to stay was given a grubber and came to help too!"
Over time, comfortable rest huts have been added to the 26-kilometre track. They have been handcrafted by Bruce and David and are built to last. One is located on a hilltop on the highest point of Bruce and Heather's farm.

"I guess it's an opportunity to be slightly creative with design and the roof has lots and lots of screws in it because the wind velocity up here can be quite intense," Bruce says.

A two-hour trek along Conway Flat beach is part of the walk and Sally describes how one lucky walker saw something she has never seen.

"The dolphins were travelling past at quite a rate, jumping and leaping and swimming and out of the sea came an orca whale and grabbed a dolphin."

The Kaikōura Coast Track has grown into a two-day walk with rustic accommodation and now it attracts hikers from around the world.