...Lake Waikaremoana is awesome!
23.02.2011 - 02.03.2011 25 °C
We start out this morning with plans to explore the Taupo thermal area but after getting lost and ending up miles from our intended destination, we end up at an op-shop looking for used merino wool garments. While browsing within the shop, a television broadcasts news of a devastating aftershock crumbling the city of Christchurch. It's hard to digest news about hundreds of people trapped under debris and hundreds more already confirmed dead. Instantly we worry about the friends we have met from the area, and can only hope for the best. The eastern suburbs of Sumner are hit the worst, with cliff-side homes being crushed by car sized boulders. Water and electricity is not available to most of the city and it will be weeks before these systems are back up and running. Julie and I figure we better send news home of our safety to calm worried friends and relatives.
On CHCH we listen to updates about the quake and listen to the support pouring in from families around NZ to the people in need. People living just outside the city who are lucky enough to be unaffected are opening their homes to families in need. The generosity of the kiwis shines through once again. As we listen we drive east to Napier, a city devastated in the past by a massive quake. Napier was totally destroyed after an earthquake struck in 1931 and the city was completely rebuilt in art deco architecture.
Our first stop in Napier is at the I-Site to check the tidal schedule, as are hoping to hike the beach to the Black Reef Gannet Colony south of Napier at Cape Kidnappers. It turns out we can avoid getting swept out to sea by the incoming tide if we hurry to the Cape. The beach walk turns into a full on hike since it takes two hours to reach the point. It is a lovely hike of sand and mist, a vast ocean sprawls out to the left and soaring clay cliffs that have been scoured by pounding waves reach into the sky on our right. Arriving at Cape Kidnappers, we observe the Gannet Colony, a species of seabird, which are congregated on the rocky shoreline. Young fuzzy chicks feed on regurgitated goodness from parents returning from the sea. The young literally stick their head inside the parents mouth to enjoy fish barf and they can't seem to get enough of the stuff. It is a riveting display of nature and worth the walk but with high tide approaching we decide it is time to make the long return trip.
Back in Napier, the sun sets while we cruise the art deco infused streets in amazement. As we follow the walking tour outlined in our Lonely Planet guide book, it really feels like we are strolling through a movie set. Darkness sets in as the tour ends along the ocean front in a park with a hypnotizing waterfall spitting an array of neon colours.
The only DOC campground is located an hour north of Napier at Lake Tutira, so we say good-bye to the city frozen in the 30's. Rain is falling hard against the windshield now and we are dreading setting up the tent. Until now, we haven't had to put up or take down the tent in much precipitation, but tonight is our night. The dark campsite is scattered with sleeping travellers as we throw our shelter up in the headlights of our car and hunker in out of the rain.
The next day, our arrival to Pete and Jenny's at Mahanga Beach surprises them because they didn't get Julie's last e-mail. Their caravan for wwoofers isn't currently liveable, so she puts us in one of their guest accommodations for the night. We chat over dinner and Jenny fills us in on the long court battle they are involved with regarding the Council permitting development on coastal area that would impact a freshwater stream among other features. Julie is very interested, so Jenny invites her to join the community meeting on the subject. It turns out the meeting is at David Trubridge's bach! He is a famous NZ artist who creates furniture and lighting, among other things, out of sustainable bamboo resources. Check out his unique designs at www.davidtrubridge.com
As for wwoofing duties, we are constantly told to relax, and multiple times we are told to take the rest of the day off because we are working too hard! But being stubborn Ontarions we continue to work until we have put in our proper hours. We clear the overgrown veggie patch, and collect heaps of seaweed from the ocean which is a stones throw away. We spread the seaweed around the base of the fruit trees as a mulch which provides beneficial minerals to the trees. After wwoofing in the sweltering heat jumping into the cooling ocean to rinse the garden off is refreshing. Julie doesnt last long though as a Portugese Man of War (jellyfish) scares her from the water. On Sunday heavy rains force us inside where we make awesome buckwheat pancakes and talk reflexology with Pete. He has a great book covering essential reflexology techniques and he allows us to scan multiple pages to help with whatever is ailing us.
Many people we have talked to along this trip through NZ have highly recommended tramping the area around Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urewera National Park. So we pick a couple of sunny days to take a break from wwoofing and get a taste of North Island wilderness. We take the trek up to the Pukenui Bluffs over-looking Lake Waikaremoana and the dense green carpet tightly protecting it. The steep climb, aided by tree roots forming perfect natural steps, rises to some excellent vantage points.
Fishing is suppose to be sweet as around the Lake, so after the hike I toss the lures around a bit. One nice brown trout shows interest but is fearful of the unknown. After giving up on fishing we make a trip to Papakorito Falls before setting up camp at majestic Rosie Bay. I give the fishing another go here while Julie organizes camp and cuddles up with her book. Winds are gusting across the Lake and fishing sucks, so we head to bed after some much needed reflexology.
We decide to explore the Onepoto Caves first thing in the morning before heading back to Pete and Jenny's place. The caves were just a series of crevices under mammoth boulders but is a nice change of pace from climbing to an alpine summit.
With the remaining day, we scoot back to Mahanga Beach to finish up a promised wwoofing duty. Jenny really wanted me to extend the hearth around their fireplace with some grey river stones from the area. We bombard them with our news to finish off the hearth asap, since we want to leave for East Cape early in the morning. Everyone helps to prep the work area, gather the materials and Julie mixes the mud. Within a couple of hours the job is done and they are tickled with the finished result. Jenny whips up an array of vegetarian delights for tea (dinner) to show her gratitude for all our hard work.
Pete and Jenny are excellent hosts, incredibly kind, easy-going, and easy to talk to. They have so much to share with us and we chat well into the evening. Julie cherishes the last night in our lavish accommodations and in the morning we clean up and say our goodbyes. Jenny jots down a couple of her recipes at Julie's request and Pete goes over some massage techniques for the persisting tendinitis in my arm. Pete also gives us his sister's contact info in Australia and insists that we should spend a night there. They send us off with heaps of produce from their garden. We are so grateful for meeting these amazing people.
We head towards Gisborne, looking for the natural rock slip'n'slide...