[ Article by Shawn Gough ]
[ Photographs by Emma Groom ]

When any resident of Christchurch looks to the east, they will see the hills that form the picturesque landscape view that separates the city from the Banks Peninsula. It not only serves as a comforting backdrop, but also an adventure paradise.

If you head east, towards the hills there are a number of places you can stop to experience historical tracks, adrenaline-fuelled downhill mountain bike runs, spectacular views of the city and the bays hidden from view until one hits the summits.

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The focus for this article is on one trek. I plan to start at Rapaki, conquer Mt Vernon, and trail my way along the Crater Rim Walkway to the Sign of the Kiwi and down the Harry Ell track down to the Sign of the Takahe.

Rapaki Track begins quite quickly once you leave the cul-de-sac. It is a popular track used by runners, walkers and mountain bikers but there is an unstated understanding between all users that it is a shared adventure playground.

The track is volcanic dirt-coloured, a slightly light tainted orange and is reasonably well-maintained. There are a few ruts from water runs created during winter that add to the flavour and ensures one has to concentrate as they ascend towards the summit.

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At the summit, as well as catching your breath, you get some breathtaking views: a view of the city and of the Harbour including Quail Island.

Your heart rate quickly gets pounding as you wind your way up and after a while you start hoping for the up feeling to stop. The relief for the quads comes and it is well received. When you look around at this point you get some amazing views across the valley and; if you turn your head, of the city spreading out towards the west; whatever time of the day you attempt this mountain challenge. The easy walking and breathing continues for half a kilometre before the climb to the summit, but the reward at the top outweighs any burn the muscles may inflict.

At the summit, as well as catching your breath, you get some breathtaking views: a view of the city and of the Harbour including Quail Island.

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To get to the Sign of the Kiwi, I journey along the Crater Rim Walkway up over Mt Vernon. After catching my breath and the view, the climb up Vernon is steep and winding. Your legs get a fabulous workout and at its summit a wonderful 360 degree view of the city and the hills surrounding the Harbour. You really feel euphoric.

The Crater Rim passes by a number of landscape views; it is an undulated walk along the backbone of the hills which is exposed to all elements with the occasional cover provided by a sprinkling of trees.

It may seem obvious but all this adventure is close to all residents of Christchurch. . . . it will give you the opportunity to see your city in a new light.

Just before Sugarloaf, you must decide whether to ascend or take Mitchell’s Track and go around. Either gives you something memorable and each has its own challenges. Once over or around, you hit the Sign of the Kiwi. This is a gateway to further adventure: one can continue on to The Sign of the Bellbird or take the Harry Ell Track down to Victoria Park or to the Sign of the Takahe. The latter is a tailored walkway that is well-maintained and frequently used. It is a gentler run up and a pleasant uphill walk for young children. In fact, it is the perfect walkway to introduce your children to the outdoors and best of all, it’s free.

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It may seem obvious but all this adventure is close to all residents of Christchurch and whether you decide to plunge into this walkway or go up and down Rapaki or Harry Ell, it will give you the opportunity to see your city in a new light.