As a GP, you probably tell your patients time and time again that it is extremely important to exercise regularly and that spending time outdoors in fresh air, enjoying nature, can be helpful as a form of stress release. So, why not make the most of your own recommendations and enjoy a delightful hike or walk through New Zealand's lush, verdant greenery?
Having access to picturesque, genuinely jaw-dropping natural landscapes is one of the undeniable perks of having a GP job in New Zealand. This country boasts a visual splendour that can be best enjoyed by getting up close and personal with the flora and fauna, meandering through stunning walking tracks. Here are three of the most spectacular pathways.
1. Lake Waikaremoana Track, Hawkes Bay
Admire the treetops nestled in the Lake Waikaremoana Track, the largest area of native forest on the North Island of NZ. The historic, iconic kauri trees of this land can be found here, soaring to dizzying heights of up to 30–40 metres. Kauri first appeared around 20 million years ago, and these gentle giants of the tree kingdom are a special part of local history, used in many ways for cultural purposes.
The lake itself is a highlight, translating to 'sea of rippling waters' in the native Maori language. Be sure to hike to the top of Panekire Bluff, a vantage point from where you can be treated to panoramic views over the emerald greens of trees and aqua blues of lake water. Head further into the walkway and be dazzled by Korokoro Falls, as this waterfall drops off a sheer cliff surrounded by rainforest.
Since this track is not a circuit, you can either begin from Hopuruahine in the north or Onepoto in the south. Completing the entire length of 46 kilometres will take four days and three nights, so plan accordingly. There are many ideal accommodation options along the track, including Panekire Hut, Waiopaoa Hut and Marauiti Hut. Admire the lakeside vista along the way.
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park
People travel from around the globe simply to complete this magnificent crossing through a dual World Heritage area. Situated in the oldest national park in the country, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a feast for your eyes due to the truly awe-inspiring scenery and natural landscapes. Throughout your adventure, you will see a myriad of diverse natural features, from alpine meadows to mountain peaks, and surreal volcanic rocky formations.
Encased between the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu are jewel-like crater lakes, glimmering like green-blue gemstones against the reddish-brown ground of the stark, rocky volcanic terrain. On clear days, your eyes can glimpse other landmarks such as Mount Taranaki to the west, and even Lake Taupo. Widely regarded as the best one-day trek in all of New Zealand, the crossing comprises a 19.4-kilometre journey through this wildly picturesque region. Certain sections are steep, and the weather may change during your sojourn, so pack rain jackets and light warm clothing accordingly.
Some accommodation and tour providers onsite offer transport to the base and pick-up services from the top, which is recommended. It typically takes between 5-8 hours to complete the crossing, so keep healthy snacks such as muesli bars in your backpack.
3. Mount Maunganui Summit Track, Tauranga
A shorter 3.8 kilometre walk, the Mount Maunganui Summit Track can be completed in under two hours. There are several pathway options to trek up to the top, but the Oruahine and Waikorire tracks are especially good for sightseeing as they dish out the best vistas. Oruahine is the steepest track here, ideal for a quality workout as you head uphill on a sharp incline.
Both tracks begin by the oceanfront side and conclude atop the mount, soaring 232 metres high. Your efforts will be rewarded by panoramic views of the ocean and sandy beach below, the coastline curving in an elegant arc with surfers and sunbathers appearing like small dots of colour down on the ground. If you'd rather cycle, there is also a circuit base track of 3.4 kilometres around the mammoth perimeter of the mount. The nearby Tauranga city is also a great place for a weekend trip, brimming with art galleries and quality restaurants.
Of course, keeping aside several days or a weekend for a lengthy trek is not always feasible and so there are shorter options available during your locum placement. These can be just as fruitful for your personal health and fitness, as a study by the University of Edinburgh found that as little as a 25-minute walk through nature influenced electrochemical changes in the brain to release endorphins. Simply head for a quick stroll around rural New Zealand after you leave the GP office for the day!