Hot water, Hacky Sack and Hiking in Hanmer Springs

Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs (18)

View from Conical Hill


Hello again. Hindsight lets us know that, for us anyway, a week in Hanmer Springs too long. The title pretty much sums up the entire week. We spent a lot of time walking/hiking, playing hacky sack and soaking in the thermal pools for which Hanmer is well-known. We’d been told on more than one occasion that it is a very popular holiday and weekend destination for locals, especially those living in Christchurch and that it was pretty “flash” Having called ahead, thank goodness we knew there would not be much of a selection for reasonably priced groceries. Armed with this information, we made a stop at the Pak-n-Save in Timaru before heading north up the coast and then into the mountains. The scenery along the way was of course spectacular and again the road was clear. We encountered no frost or snow.

On the drive to Hanmer Springs

On the drive to Hanmer Springs

Monday afternoon when we rolled in it was very quiet. Because of this we were able to upgrade to a larger room for the 5 days that Paul would be working and as it turns out we were grateful to have the extra space. As a result of making this choice though, it meant that the heater had not been turned on in the bigger room.

view from our room in Hanmer Springs

view from our room in Hanmer Springs

Luckily, the little heater (plus an extra one) managed to get the place warmed after the first day and was comfortable for the remainder of our stay. The internet however, did not get better, the connection kept dropping randomly. This allowed both of us the chance to practice patience. Neither of us would describe the little mountain town as “flash” as that conjures up images of Vail or Aspen, Colorado. For those of you familiar with Colorado, the thermal pool resort was very similar to the one in Glenwood Springs but the town was more like Grand Lake or Granby. A small little town with lots of little cafés and shops and tons of trails in the surrounding area for walking, mountain biking or 4 wheeling.

I’d purchased ingredients to make a “surprise” breakfast for Paul. The plan was to make orange cinnamon French toast and I’d already checked out Google to see if it could be done in the microwave. Well, the internet lied to me, can you believe it. I found more than one recipe that indicated you could zap egg soaked bread in the microwave and it would turn out like French toast. That seemed way too good to be true and it was. I cooked for a minute or so, soggy. Tried again, still soggy. Repeated a third time, no change in the spongy squishy bread other than I was sure the eggs were well cooked. That’s about the time I abandoned the microwave attempts and turned on the hot plate and pan-fried it. So after setting a record for the longest time to prepare breakfast, we sat down to the “surprise” French toast. Surprise! It tasted amazing.

The next morning, for some reason I thought it’d be warm enough to go for a jog. Not sure why I didn’t see my breath when I stepped outside to check the temperature. That would have been a clue that perhaps it may not be warm enough for my preference. So, based upon my inaccurate evaluation of the temperature we proceeded to dress in our running gear. A few steps out on to the street and I knew I was going to have to do some seriously strenuous exercise in order to stay warm. Off we went on to some trail that looked like it went somewhere. Turns out it was pretty much a hiking and mountain biking trail. Lucky for us it wasn’t too muddy, because it was frozen. The temp was motivating me to move at a much faster pace than usual, but then we’d have to stop and examine the signs at each branch of the trail so we could keep track of our path to make our way back. These stops gave the cold a chance to catch up. The cold did not deter us from enjoying the beauty of the forest.

forest walk, Hanmer Springs (1)

mushrooms on a log, forest walk, Hanmer Springs

Hanmer forest walk (3)

Ivy on the trees, forest walk, Hanmer Springs

On we ran through the woodland walk area, past the trail to conical hill, deciding we weren’t up for that challenge on this particular day. That’s where we turned around and followed the trail back the way we’d come. I decided to pass our hotel and run up a little further and then back through town, so we could check out where the pools before returning to our room. I was in the lead probably because I have been known to be somewhat clumsy and Paul wanted to keep an eye on me, but my sense of direction is not particularly keen. We found the pools and I kept going “back to the hotel.” A couple more blocks and I wondered why we weren’t at the street where the hotel was. Well, as Paul pointed out, we’d passed it several blocks back. I hadn’t informed him of my plan for the end of the run so he was unaware I meant to go straight back to the hotel. This resulted in a longer jog than intended, but luckily only a little longer. By this point, we were both totally ready for a soak in the hot pools.

Thermal pools, Hanmer Springs

Thermal pools, Hanmer Springs

What a luxurious treat the pools were! They had three very large pools with jets all around. These were tremendously therapeutic. Unfortunately, we didn’t find these until we’d been in a cooler pool soaking for a bit. Anxious to get into the hottest, unfiltered sulfur pools, we didn’t stay long in front of the jets. After this first visit we decided we would like to come back during the rest of our stay so we bought a punch card that would allow us five more trips.

The following day was warmer and the sun was shining bright. We walked straight for Conical Hill. The path was wide and very well maintained. As we glimpsed the view of the valley at the switchbacks, our excitement for the rewarding panorama that the top grew. WOW! The pictures should speak for themselves.

Hiking Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs (14)

Conical Hill Lookout

Hiking Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs (7)

View from Conical HIll

Conical Hill, Hanmer Springs (15)

View from Conical Hill

Periodic birds’ songs enhanced the scenery the most noticeable sounds were from a couple of Tui or so we were told. We never did actually see the birds but their serenade was mesmerizing. I was able to capture a bit of it in this video, we were discussing the bird calls with our hosts they shared a hilarious story of a wood pigeon. They told us to duck if we hear the swoosh of wings because the big guys aren’t terribly graceful and may crash into you. One afternoon one of their guests alerted them that their room had been broken into. The window was shattered all over the couch. When the hosts went to have a look, there behind the couch they found a wood pigeon, alive but dazed and confused. They picked him up and held him outside where after wobbling about for a bit he finally flew away. They were speculating that he perhaps had eaten too many fermented plums from the plum tree outside the building and that’s what led to his dramatic entrance through the window. After hearing the story I did hear the swoosh of wings during one of our walks in the woods, but definitely not in time to duck. Luckily the massive bird did not collide with my head but he certainly startled me. They remind Paul and I of the annoying doves that are prolific around our house in Johnstown, similar noise, just as clumsy, only on a much larger scale.

wood pigeon

wood pigeon

The soak in the pools this night was not quite as long since we knew exactly which ones we wanted to visit. First we spent time massaging our muscles in the therapeutic pools and ended with a nice soak in the hot pools.

I woke feeling so energetic and motivated to get moving and the sun was shining bright. Paul agreed when I suggested we run up Conical hill as part of our workout this morning. By the time we made it through town and to the trail head, I was gasping for air and asking Paul if maybe he misunderstood me to say “Do you want to run UP Conical hill?” when I meant to say ” Do you want to run TO Conical hill?” Lucky for me there was ice on the trail just as I was saying this to Paul so we had to slow to a walk to navigate the next several steps safely. Then off we went at a staggering pace–yes, I mean almost literally staggering, at least I was. It seemed Paul could have bounded up the entire hill with ease and here I was, thighs burning, breathing hard and barely moving. I had to set small goals. “I’ll make it to the next curve,” I’d tell myself. Then I’d reach it and have to take a short break. By the time we got to the top I was still in pretty much the same condition, at least I was consistent and I hadn’t quit. We only spent a few moments at the top to catch our breath and take in the views before bounding down – covering the same distance in five minutes less time, and boy by the time I got down I felt I could run all day. We kept going and going and going. Ok it wasn’t even close to all day but it was definitely the longest jog we’ve had in quite some time. Utterly refreshed, that’s how I felt once we finished. Who’d have guessed after the first 10 minutes of the journey.

You guessed it more soaking in the hot pools. The outside temp was considerable warmer today and we were able to manage a couple laps in the lap pool and several trips around the lazy river before heading to the therapeutic pools.

The next day it was again sunny and relatively warm, such a welcome sight. After doing laundry in the kitchen sink, enjoying our little patio and playing hacky sack on the grass, we strolled through the forest and through a couple of parks. Then, yes, the same routine followed for the evening. We were back to the pools. After the French toast episode, cooking was fairly straightforward for the remainder of our stay, I stuck to the familiar one skillet meals so I don’t have any new additions to no-bake NZ.

For the last two days of our stay in Hanmer, over the weekend we moved into a smaller studio room because the hotel was completely booked for these 2 nights and as just as we’d been told, the city swelled remarkably on Saturday in sharp contrast to all the other days of the week. After we shifted our goods to the next room we made our way into town for a leisurely walk and the sidewalks and streets were bustling with people. All the picnic tables were full in the park along main street and the shops were alive with activity. After seeing this we were sort of prepared for what we encountered on our daily visit to the pools. All the pools were open and nearly full of people. We wandered about for a while and spotted an opening in the therapeutic pool so we took it, hoping to scope out a time that we could get into the hot pools. This was easily the shortest time we spent   in the water and my microbiologist background suddenly kicked in for some reason. Seeing the hundreds of people all getting in and out of the water, I remembered the description of the “unfiltered” water in the hot pools and watching the stuff floating around in the water just aided my imagination of what you could grow on a petri plate with a small sample of the poo, oops I mean pool where we were seated in. Eeeewww! Paul did not appreciate me sharing the details of my imagination. I was more grateful than ever for a shower and soap after that visit. Fewer crowds and less floaty things in the water helped keep me from getting carried away by my imagination on the remaining visits. Overall, the therapeutic pools were definitely relaxing and therapeutic.

Our schedule on the last 2 days in Hanmer was similar to the first several. On Sunday, we woke to mist which was from the rain on the mountain blowing our direction. The sun was still shining where we were and this resulted in a perpetual rainbow for many hours.

Hanmer Springs

Perpetual rainbow

A-Maze-n-Golf (14)

A-Maze-n-Golf, Hanmer Springs

We walked the opposite direction through town and discovered an awesome or “A maze n golf” mini golf course and maze. We played the course and finished shortly before the rain made it over the mountains into town. We treated ourselves to two dinners out–once at an Irish bar and of course once at the pizza place. I love that they are so liberal with the apricots here. One of the pizzas we tried this time was smoked chicken with apricot, cream cheese and cashews. We are both really looking forward to getting back to the ocean after spending a week in the mountains. Though Hanmer was nice, much of what makes NZ special to us is the ocean. Kaikoura, here we come.



2 responses to “Hot water, Hacky Sack and Hiking in Hanmer Springs

  1. finally getting caught up with the blogs. I must remember to enjoy them with a hot cup of coffee in hand!! Your descriptions are so clear


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