A Travellerspoint blog

Rotten Rotorua...

...a good sort of rotten.

semi-overcast 23 °C

This fine NZ morning brings us to the Tarawera Falls just outside of Rotorua to gaze upon a very unique waterfall. We seem to have waterfallitis as we are sick of them and the draw we once had to them has diminished. However, Julie promises that Tarawera Falls will rekindle the lost love. After a long drive through a managed pine forest, we enter into the nature reserve and spectacular native bush once again. Within minutes of starting down the track to the falls a dull roar turns thunderous and we emerge to a clear view of the culprit. Water is blasting out of a huge crack in the shear cliff face, a very interesting phenomenon. We continue along the path to the top of the falls, where the river funnels into large crevices in the rock and disappears before shooting out of the cliff face.

Tarawera Falls

Tarawera Falls

From the impressive Tarawera Falls we end up at the rotten egg smelling town of Rotorua to explore Kuirua Park. The free thermal park in the centre of town is home to a few bubbling hot pools and steam vents. Nothing too exciting but worth strolling through and pondering about what is really happening below ground.

We drive to the south end of town to reflect within St. Faith's Anglican Church on the crazy things happening in Christchurch. Sitting in a pew we gaze through a glass window, which is etched with an image of Jesus wearing a Maori cloak. On the outside of the window is Lake Rotorua making Jesus look as if he walking on water, we have giggle before moving on.

Maori Meeting House in Rotorua

Maori Meeting House in Rotorua

Further south of town, Julie spots a sign post directing us to “Mud Pools” so we investigate further. The sight and sound of gurgling thick grey mud is very impressive to watch. It is almost mesmerizing watching the unique designs being created in the mud. From here we stop at another thermal highlight, Kerosene Creek. The stream is roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit and it takes a bit of time to slip our feet in. A little further downstream the hot water stream mixes with a cold water stream making the perfect spot for us to soak.

Bubbling Mud Pool

Bubbling Mud Pool


Bubbling Mud Pool

Bubbling Mud Pool


Kerosene Creek Feet Soak

Kerosene Creek Feet Soak

It is getting late in the day, so we pull into the DOC campground at Lake Rerewhakaaitu. We have an awesome view of the lake and are looking forward waking up to sunrise over it. But its not long before six huge camper vans squeeze between us and the Lake, creating a wall of white. We sit in the car to eat dinner imaging a lovely mural painted across this empty white canvas. While listening to the radio we hear about an earthquake offshore of Japan and the incoming tsunami. The radio warns listeners to stay off beaches around NZ as a precaution. Luckily we are no where near the ocean and have nothing to worry about. We fall asleep with excitement about what tomorrow will bring at Waio-tapu Thermal Wonderland.

Sunrise at Lake Rerewhakaaitu

Sunrise at Lake Rerewhakaaitu

We arrive at Waio-tapu Thermal Wonderland bright and early to avoid the crowds that will soon take over. There is a heavy fog as we stroll past some pools of black bubbling water, caves colourfully stained with minerals, and pools of bright green water. At 10am we rush to Lady Knox Geyser to witness the daily eruption. It's kind of chintzy, since the geyser doesn't erupt naturally but is prompted by an “biodegradable surfactant” or organic soap which is added by a park ranger. This surfactant breaks through the surface tension of the cold water which is sitting on top of the hot water leading to its eruption. Once the geyser is finished spewing all over the crowd, we continue along the trail to some amazing pools. The Champagne Pool is lined with a rusty red boarder with steam slowly rising off the surface. The natural colours around the park are so vibrant and each colour is caused by different mineral elements being brought to the surface by steam.

Devil's Ink Pots at Thermal Wonderland

Devil's Ink Pots at Thermal Wonderland


Artist's Palette

Artist's Palette


The Devil's Bath

The Devil's Bath


Thermal Pool

Thermal Pool


Lady Knox Geyser

Lady Knox Geyser


Pied Stilts Hunting for Insects

Pied Stilts Hunting for Insects


Champagne Pool at Thermal Wonderland

Champagne Pool at Thermal Wonderland

From the Wonderland, we relax by Lake Rotorua over our picnic lunch before heading south to Ohinepane Campground. Ohinepane is located on the Whanganui River but further upstream from where we started our canoe adventure back in mid-February. After relaxing by the river with my fishing pole, we watch a strange sunset-rainbow. What does it mean?

Tiki Mural in Rotorua

Tiki Mural in Rotorua


Sunset Rainbow at Ohinepane Rec Reserve

Sunset Rainbow at Ohinepane Rec Reserve

Posted by ontarions 08:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Superb New Zealand Native Flora & Fauna...

...so much go'in on in that forest.

all seasons in one day 22 °C

On route to Gisborne, fresh from Pete and Jenny's, we hit the Rere Rockslide for some intense action. The natural 60m wet and wild rock slide is a great place to use that beat up boogie board or inner tube that is collecting dust in the garage. Pete supplied us with a boogie board that was cracked in the middle and it worked well. Julie and I take the plunge into the river waters at great speed, Julie avoiding at all costs to keep her head above the water. After all, the river runs through paddocks and is no crystal clear glacial stream.

Rere Rock Slide

Rere Rock Slide

Back on the road we head around the quiet highway along the east coast. We past many secluded bays ripe with surf and golden sand, before stopping at Anaura Bay for more boogie board entertaining. Other than beaches and heaps of Maori culture there isn't much to see along the drive. In Tikitiki, our guide book raves of St. Mary's Church and its intricately flax woven interior and detailed stain glass. I pay the two dollar donation and we venture inside. The walls are meticulously crafted with an array of dried flax creating geometric patterns that span every centimetre. Everyone's seat has a unique pillow to fart in while singing hallelujah to the Lord.

Boogie Down Julie

Boogie Down Julie


St. Mary's Church in Tikitiki

St. Mary's Church in Tikitiki


Seat Cushions in St. Mary's Church

Seat Cushions in St. Mary's Church

We cruise into Te Araroa Holiday Park, the closest campsite to the East Cape Lighthouse and one of the first places on earth to be greeted by the morning sun. The dude running the camp informs us to start the drive along the slow gravel road to East Cape by 6:00am, so shortly after dark we are both tucked into our fart sacks. The alarm sounds way too early for us to handle these days, the sun isn't even up! We quietly pack up and hit the road in search of a new days warming glow. Unfortunately, in the dark we start hiking up the wrong trail and end up in a shit strewn paddock tiptoeing around with only our jandles on. Finally we reach a suitable spot to watch the sunrise in peace. It's a hazy morning so the anticipated mind blowing colourful display is nothing more than a faint smear across the horizon. It is still something to be grateful for as we are one of the first people on earth to see the sunrise today. Smiling, we head back through the paddock past the cows, stopping at the ocean to wash our feet.

Sunrise from East Cape

Sunrise from East Cape

The rain arrives as we putter along the winding roads, through villages and past endless ocean front. We pass through Hawaii, yes Hawaii. But this place consists of clear cut forests and road construction. We don't make any stops until Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area, where we stop for lunch among the dunes. As we graze, Julie reads about the restoration project being tested on the dunes. They are planted with native grasses which send out shoots and hold the sand, helping to hold it in place. From the beach we finish today's drive east of Opotiki at Wayne and Wei's to commence wwoofing domination once again.

First we met Wei, the mom, working away finishing up some sewing projects before they head off to Auckland for four days. She shows us to our quarters, a sweet little sleep-out, overlooking their property of native old growth forest. We are introduced to their two pet piggies, Captain and Daisy, two ducks, and chickens. All of which will be under our care while they are away. Home from school, in bounces Earina and Entelia, two very intelligent and wonderful kids. Julie is in awe at their fabulous heads of curls. Finally, Wayne arrives home from work and he is our personal nature guide as we stroll through the lush and dense old-growth forest on their property.

Relaxing on the Deck

Relaxing on the Deck


Family Pets

Family Pets


Tawa Tree with Rata Vine

Tawa Tree with Rata Vine


Piwakawaka (Fantail)

Piwakawaka (Fantail)

The forest is rich with diversity and is the most amazing stand of native trees we have seen on the North Island. He shows us a Puriri moth's larvae burrow covered over with a camouflaged membrane of lichens on the trunk of Putaputaweta tree. When the 10cm long larvae emerges from the borrow, as a moth, it has a 15cm wingspan and is a stunning shade of lime green. We stop at the small creek deep in the bush to spy on the Banded Cockatoos, a type of Galaxies species of fish that lives in muddy freshwater streams. His two girls come along for the walk too and being very observant they point out many interesting flora and fauna. One of which is an immense rata. Rata is a vine, which grows up and around trees and after hundreds of years it eventually encapsulates the tree and becomes a tree itself. This amazing rata tree was the selling feature of the property in Wayne's eyes and it was definitely spectacular!

X-Rated Giraffe Weevils

X-Rated Giraffe Weevils


Possum Trap

Possum Trap


Julie in Treehouse

Julie in Treehouse

While we are out exploring the new surroundings, Wei prepares a feast of smoked fish and veggies to fill us hungry travellers. Before they leave for Auckland they go over our wwoofing duties and other important household details. For the next four days we lounge around eating like kings and queens and getting fat. Just kidding, Julie cracks the whip and we are out wwoofing by 7:30am everyday. Julie takes on the huge job of caring for and re-potting neglected native trees at the nursery near the back of the property, while I replace a bridge over a stream on one of the many paths throughout the forest. It is about a 10-15 minute walk to work, and is definitely the best walk to work one could ever imagine. The forest is so lush and diverse that sometimes our 15 minute tramp takes a wee bit longer since there is so much to explore. We get intermittent heavy rains for four days, and one day we find ourselves running for cover and ending up soaked to the undies.

In the Office Re-Potting Native Trees

In the Office Re-Potting Native Trees


Julie Re-Potting Native Trees

Julie Re-Potting Native Trees


Nate Working on Bridge in Forest

Nate Working on Bridge in Forest

On Monday, the family returns from Auckland and Julie is pumped to help Wayne clear invasive weeds from the pond on the edge of the forest deep in the valley. We all slide into our waders and get prepped to enter the murky waters. As Julie is pulling on her waders, Wayne tells her to freeze. An Australian white-tailed spider, just over an inch long is crawling out of the waders. As he crushes it dead he tells us it is the biggest white-tail he has ever seen and that they give a nasty bite. I get the job of barging the heaps of soggy sludge and weeds from where Julie and Wayne are removing it to the dump sight where they will be covered with black tarps. The heat and darkness under the black tarps will eventually kill the weeds. It's a tough job but we get amazing results and hopefully the native wetland grasses will have a better chance at establishing themselves.

Pond at Wayne and Wei's

Pond at Wayne and Wei's


Native Wetland Grasses

Native Wetland Grasses


Pulling up Invasives in Pond

Pulling up Invasives in Pond


That's Full of Invasive Weeds

That's Full of Invasive Weeds

Wayne also has us helping him on the beach measuring dune profiles to monitor erosion on his test plots. Turns out that Wayne is the force behind the dune stabilization work at Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area, the beach we checked out before reaching Wanye and Wei's home. At each beach he has 2 profiles through planted dunes, and 1 profile through an unplanted dune. The results are showing that the planted beaches are in much better shape than the unplanted. Julie loves to learn and help with anything do with environmental problems and implementing solutions. I feel super lazy working on these gorgeous beach and I know that if my job was anywhere close to a beach, I wouldn't be laying too many bricks.

Dune Planting Site at Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area

Dune Planting Site at Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area

Julie and I always try to work longer days in order to earn a day off from wwoofing to explore the area around where we are situated. With our hard earned day off in the Opotiki area we scoot over to get an aerial view of the Ohiwa Harbour and ocean view. The skyline has two main features, Whale Island a nature reserve, and White Island, an active volcano. From the shore, 50 kms away, billowing steam hangs over the island like a warning to all, that a possible eruption could be immanent. We looked into scuba diving around the island but the costs were insane. Instead we opted to wait and dive north of Auckland in the future.

White Island - An Active Volcano

White Island - An Active Volcano

Back at Wei and Wayne's we realize that we are super spoiled here. Wei loves to cook new and flavourful meals from her Malaysian background. We love everything she makes and its fun to try new foods. Their property also gave us the opportunity to stroll through the dark forest with strings of glowworms twinkling like the stars in the sky. It was such a surreal experience, and Julie said it felt like she was in a fairytale as we strolled along.

Sunest from Wayne and Wei's Driveway

Sunest from Wayne and Wei's Driveway


Evening Walk

Evening Walk


Glowworms

Glowworms


Tree Fern under Night Sky

Tree Fern under Night Sky

After such at great week of wwoofing and strolling past 1000 year old trees everyday on our way to work, it is hard to move on. We are heading to Rotorua, to be anointed in sulphur gas seeping from thousands of pores in the earth. So long Wayne, Wei, Earina and Entelia, we will miss your company and the native bush that surrounds your sweet home.

Huge Kahikatia Trees

Huge Kahikatia Trees

Posted by ontarions 12:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Pete & Jenny's Mahanga Beach Hide-A-Way...

...Lake Waikaremoana is awesome!

all seasons in one day 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.

National Tobacco Co. in Napier

National Tobacco Co. in Napier

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.

Feeding Young Gannet

Feeding Young Gannet


Young Gannet at Cape Kidnappers

Young Gannet at Cape Kidnappers


Looking Along Coast from Cape Kidnappers

Looking Along Coast from Cape Kidnappers


Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers

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.

Daily Telegraph Building in Napier

Daily Telegraph Building in Napier


Catholic Church in Napier

Catholic Church in Napier


Napier Water Fountain

Napier Water Fountain

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

Pete and Jenny's Pad

Pete and Jenny's Pad


Mahanga Beach

Mahanga Beach

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.

Julie Working in The Garden

Julie Working in The Garden


Morning on Mahanga Beach

Morning on Mahanga Beach

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.

Lake Waikaramoana Track

Lake Waikaramoana Track


Lake Waikaremoana from Track

Lake Waikaremoana from Track


Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana

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.

Rosie Bay on Lake Waikaremoana

Rosie Bay on Lake Waikaremoana

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.

Onepoto Caves

Onepoto Caves

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.

Little Stone Job

Little Stone Job

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...

Mahia Peninsula

Mahia Peninsula

Posted by ontarions 01:09 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Awhi Farms and Tongariro Crossing

...Volcanic Villa

sunny 26 °C

Julie and I wake with clear skies and one thought on our minds, the Tongariro Crossing. We have come to realize that when the weather is good, just get out and hike, no matter what. After talking to Bowman, he encourages us to head to the mountain and make up the wwoofing hours the next day. So we make a quick stop at the grocery store for lunch supplies and hit the trail head by 9:45am.

The sky around the summits of Mt. Doom and Mt. Tongariro are cloudy, but Julie and I chant together that “it's going to clear off”. The tramp starts at 1100m and its like another world as the vegetation is stunted and clearly has adapted to cope with the harsh climate at this elevation. A stream flows along the trail tainted orange from minerals. I'll keep the descriptions of the surroundings brief and let the photos do the talking.

The Crossing is NZ's most tramped day walk and the trail is packed with other keen tourists. After a stop at Soda Springs, a beautiful waterfall cascading over volcanic rock, we start the ascent to the South Crater (1650m). We briefly consider making the two hour side trip to the summit of Mt. Doom, but figure today's 20km hike to complete the Crossing will be loads. We cross the barren South Crater floor and head up the rim of the Red Crater to the highest point on the track (1886m). The clouds have lifted and the hot sun feels even hotter in this desert-like landscape. From here we take a side trip half-way to the summit of Mt. Tongariro to get away from the packs of people on the main trail. We sit down, using volcanic rocks as chairs and a table, and eat lunch while taking in 360 degree views. Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira sit far off to the north and the mountains of the Kaimanawa Forest Park lay to the east.

South Crater with Mt. Doom

South Crater with Mt. Doom


Julie looking south from Red Crater

Julie looking south from Red Crater


South Crater and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom)

South Crater and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom)


Hiking up to Red Crater

Hiking up to Red Crater


Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Blue Lake)

Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Blue Lake)

After a nourishing meal we start the decent down loose scree terrain to Emerald Lakes. The lakes are brilliant green in colour from the minerals leaching from the adjoining thermal area. Sulphur fills the air from vents around the small strange lakes – evidence that the crater is still very active!

Emerald Lakes

Emerald Lakes


Emerald Lakes

Emerald Lakes


Julie and Emerald Lake

Julie and Emerald Lake


Red Crater in foreground and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom)  in background

Red Crater in foreground and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) in background

Before heading on the Tongariro Crossing, signs advise us to be prepared for quick changes in weather on the mountain. Thankfully we had come prepared. We notice large black clouds closing in behind us as we make our decent. We throw on our rain jackets for about an hour until we sneak low enough in elevation to elude any further saturation.

Julie needs a pee break and Ketetahi Hut is the perfect stop. Most tramps have ample places to relieve yourself in somewhat private areas, but this is not the case in this barren landscape. As we follow the winding trail down the sloping mountain, the vegetation gets larger and larger until we are shaded by a lovely podocarp-hardwood forest. The forest canopy provides a dark cool environment to end the hike, perfect after the long hot tramp out in the elements.

Since the Crossing isn't a loop, it is now necessary for us to hitchhike back to our car around the other side of the mountain. (We hitchhike to avoid paying the ridiculous fees most tourists pay for a shuttle). We walk along the quiet stretch of highway, without any results for nearly 45 minutes. Finally, an elderly lady visiting from the UK stops to help out two very worn out trampers. She drops us off at the gravel road that takes us to the car park where our car is located, another 7km away. So we keep walking, until a family from Spain squeeze us into the back seat with their son and drive us to our car, finishing off our journey.

Back at Awhi Farms, no one is around, so Julie cooks up a quick dinner in their shabby outdoor kitchen before the guys return from an afternoon selling pizzas. Our day was full-on and we are ready to head to bed but first we water the gardens for about an hour at Bowman's request. Afterwards, Julie hits the hay, but it's Alex's last night at the farm so the party is on. I stay up late with the guys and we have a grand old time getting acquainted.

The morning brings big wwoofing tasks for us. I help with the earth bag building that is being constructed on the farm, and Julie is working on some data entry. We cool off after the long hot day by jumping into the crystal clear waters of Tongariro River from a tree high up on the river bank. The water is frigid and the river is moving really fast, but it is great to hang out and wind down with the guys. Julie opts out of the polar bear dip to take some action photos of us.

Earthbag Construction

Earthbag Construction

Urban and Bowman working on Earthbag House

Urban and Bowman working on Earthbag House

Earthbag House at Awhi Farm

Earthbag House at Awhi Farm

Later in the evening we cook up a curry dinner with Urban. We chat late into the calm darkness about our future dreams, the future of Awhi Farms, and vent some frustrations about the Farm. He is 21, from northern California, and already has a good idea of the path he wants to take in life. We have some great conversation before calling it a night.

We say goodbye to Awhi Farms in the morning for reasons of lack of proper accommodations and facilities, but it was still a very rewarding experience. The Farm has a lot of awesome projects, some have been completed and others are planned for the future. One completed project is an outdoor shower with hot water warmed by coiled pvc pipe buried in a big compost pile. The earth bag structure was also new to us and an eye opening way of building. These eco-friendly projects are things that would be amazing to incorporate into our future property, tweaked for the Canadian winters of course!

From Awhi Farms we stop at the Tongariro National Trout Centre to view the process of raising and restocking fingerlings. Trout were introduced into Lake Taupo in 1898 with very successful results. I have to try my hand at catching one, so as we drive north along the east coast of Lake Taupo we pull off to fish in one of its tributaries. With my first cast I reel in a gorgeous rainbow that really put up a fierce battle. The remainder of the afternoon was relatively slow, only catching a tree branch and loosing a lure and my temper.

Catching Rainbow Trout in Waitahanui River

Catching Rainbow Trout in Waitahanui River

Further along Lake Taupo, which is actually a flooded crater, we stop at a beach and notice it is made up of pumice stone. I throw one in the Lake, showing Julie that there is such a thing as a floating rock. Julie is more impressed with using the stone to exfoliate her feet. At the north end of Lake Taupo, we pull into the city of Taupo, a touristy joint with plenty of adrenaline pumping sports on hand. There are unrestricted views south across the Lake to the peaks of Tongariro National Park. Lake Taupo spills out through a 10m wide, 15m deep chasm and over the Huka Falls to form the Waikato River, NZ's longest river. It's a raging torrent of water, very powerful to watch. We spend the night at Reed's Farm, a free campsite donated by a local farmer and located upstream of Huka Falls. I put the rope swing to use plunging into the clear cool water before resting peacefully for the night.

Julie and her Pumice Stone at Lake Taupo

Julie and her Pumice Stone at Lake Taupo


Water Rushing out of Lake Taupo before Huka Falls

Water Rushing out of Lake Taupo before Huka Falls


Huka Falls near Taupo

Huka Falls near Taupo


Rope Swing into Waikato River

Rope Swing into Waikato River

Posted by ontarions 02:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Lazy Trip Down The Whanganui River

semi-overcast 25 °C

I awake bright and early to pack our car and load up on organic veggies. We say our goodbyes to our wwoofer friends before heading north along the west coast. Tomorrow we start a three night/four day canoe trip down the Whanganui River (pronounced Fong-a-newie). It will be an epic journey through deep cut gorges and down some raging rapids, but with our extensive training on the Saugeen River we'll be fine. Today, we have to reach Wades Landing, just north of the town of National Park, where we will be renting our canoe and camping for the night. Our first stop after leaving Harmony Farms is at Papaitonga Scenic Reserve for a quick jaunt through native vegetation to Papaitonga Lake. The “dune lake” formed over time by steady winds building up sand and damming off a stream from the ocean. This is our first walk on the North Island through native forest and its just as stunning as the South Island.

Further up the sandy west coast we reach the town of Whanganui located at the mouth of the largest navigable waterway in NZ, the Whanganui River. We take the winding scenic route up a shingle road beside the river to gaze over the waters that will carry us on our journey. Along the way we come to a slip which has pummelled sandy soils across the road. Luckily there are vehicle tracks through the sand and we barrel through the single lane safely. Finally after umpteen hairpin turns and Julie telling me slow down around every one we reach our destination. Julie checks us in at Wades Landing and they instruct us to have our gear packed into their waterproof barrels and be ready to leave by 8 am. Our essentials pack up nicely into 5 barrels and of course we have the cooler containing more essentials.

Slip Across Road

Slip Across Road

In the morning the sun greets us warmly as we load the truck and are driven to the launching point at Whakahoro (pronounced Fa-ka-whoro). With some aid from the driver, we get our canoe packed, we jump in, and our oars hit the water. The Whanganui River is 2 to 3 times larger than the Saugeen and is carved deeply into the soft sandstone/mudstone to form amazing sheer cliffs and waterfalls. I start fishing as soon as we reach a nice deep pool ripe with trout. The trout are huge and very feisty, causing trouble right away. I quickly went through my only two lures loosing 5 trout in the process! So, without any fish, we continue downstream, taking in the lush native fauna that drifts by. The riparian vegetation is made up of broadleaf podocarp forest, with beech trees dominant on ridge tops. We fly through deep rapids with Julie hollering out which way to steer the canoe to avert danger. Julie is frequently splashed by rogue waves rolling over the front of the canoe, so armed with only a bathing suit on we hit all rapids without fear of getting wet.

Waterfall Pouring Into Whanganui River

Waterfall Pouring Into Whanganui River


Whanganui River

Whanganui River

We pull into Ohauora campsite and are greeted by yellow caution tape across the trail leading up the bank to the camping area. Investigating further, we realize that a slip from the steep slopes above the campsite had destroyed the long drop toilets and left a trail of destruction. Our plan was to camp here but instead we forge on to the next spot, another two hours away. After a steady paddle, since the sun was dropping behind the gorge walls fast, we arrive at John Coull Hut and campsite. This is the where 95% of paddlers spend the night, and since we hadn't hurried our canoe trip in the morning we are one of last to setup camp. Luckily the rain waits to fall until after our tent is up and we are safely under the cooking shelter preparing our long awaited dinner.

Julie is All Smiles

Julie is All Smiles


Whanganui River

Whanganui River

The river is sign posted for each campsite and hut making it simple to find the many sites along the river. The campsites are spaced approximately 2 hours apart along the river, and the huts are spaced about 6 hours apart. Each campsite along the river has covered cooking areas with stainless steel counters and plenty of seating. There is a water tank which collects rain water from the roof of the shelter and a hand pump at the sink to provide rain water. It is a great well thought out system and we are thankful for such luxuries.

Through the night rain continues to fall, but with sunrise comes blue skies and another beautiful day on the river. Canoeing is an easy way to meet and chat with others paddling down stream. We canoe beside many couples, one particular pair offer to take pics of us, and us of them, with the plan to exchange e-mails and trade pics. For lunch, Julie spots a quiet pebble beach beside a small waterfall for a peaceful rest before continuing on.

Our days journey takes us alongside cliffs decorated with interesting lines and embedded rocks, and small caves and crevices. We reach The Bridge to Nowhere, where after docking the canoe and hiking for half an hour we find an interesting historic landmark. The bridge was completed in 1936 to provide access to farmland given to soldiers following World War One. But the settlement was abandoned and the bridge now stands deep in woods in the middle of nowhere.

Bridge to Nowhere Among the Forest

Bridge to Nowhere Among the Forest


Bridge to Nowhere Est. 1936

Bridge to Nowhere Est. 1936


Leaping off Cliffs

Leaping off Cliffs

We camp the night across the river from the Bridge to Nowhere at Mangapurua which turns out to be a very quiet choice as all other paddlers continue to Tieke Kainga, the next hut. The only sounds that fill the air as we hungrily eat dinner is the chirping of the fantails and the sound of them flying by catching bugs on their wings. Once the birds have had their fill, we fall asleep to cicadas humming and the river flowing. This is much more soothing than the previous night at the noisy John Coull Hut.

Cicada Humming

Cicada Humming

Julie and I set out on the river after a rejuvenating nights accommodation in our tent at Mangapurua. The waters are mirror like reflecting their surroundings, as we calmly make our way past trickling falls and waterfowl diving for breakfast. Cliff walls sandwich us in at times while paddling steady through the still waters. We reach Tieke Kainga, the full service hut and Maori Pa site to relax while having lunch. A Pa is a Maori meeting house used for funerals and weddings, among other community celebrations. They are sacred places which you must be invited into and you are not allowed to take photos within them.

Reflections in Whanganui River

Reflections in Whanganui River


Floating Along the Whanganui River

Floating Along the Whanganui River


Maori Carvings at Tieke Kainga

Maori Carvings at Tieke Kainga

Back on the Whanganui, we have another two hours of paddling to get to Ngaporo. This section of river is deep and slow with few rapids, so paddling is a must. We take turns paddling while the other lays back for a siesta. Eventually we hear the water roaring and get ready for some fast waters. We burst through the waves, taking on heaps of water and drift ashore to our last nights campsite, Ngaporo. Here we meet Peter, Dave and Bill, kiwis from Auckland and Northland New Zealand. They welcome us warmly to the site. They are in their mid 60's and drinking whiskey while bbqing up a feast of lamb steaks. After much conversation, Dave, from Kerikeri, invites us to drop into his home for a visit and even offers us his home to use as a base for exploring the Northland area. We have fun joking around with these old guys before watching another brilliant sun fall behind the forest on top of the clay cliffs lining the river.

View from Ngaporo Campsite

View from Ngaporo Campsite

We set out on our last day with thoughts of one last major rapid we must encounter named “Drop Scene”. With adrenaline pumping we make our way to the much anticipated finale after first stopping at a huge overhanging cliff and a secluded waterfall. Approaching the massive rapids, we dig in our paddles and Julie hollers directions to sneak down the right hand side out of the major waves that could swamp our canoe. We let out a cry of joy and relief after conquering the Drop Scene, now back to the lazy river that we know and love.

Looking Out of Cave Along Whanganui River

Looking Out of Cave Along Whanganui River


Waterfall and Pool

Waterfall and Pool


Fossils Along Whanganui Shore

Fossils Along Whanganui Shore


Julie Relaxing Before Hitting the Rapids

Julie Relaxing Before Hitting the Rapids


Drop Scene Rapids (Unknown Paddlers)

Drop Scene Rapids (Unknown Paddlers)

Today's short two hour paddle comes to an end in Pipiriki where we wait for Wades Landing to shuttle us back to their home base. It was an amazing 87.5 km journey through dense wilderness on a picturesque river with my best friend. We've had a blast and encourage others to travel down the Whanganui by canoe. With the remainder of the day, we hop in our car and head to Turangi, the trout fishing capital of the world. Here we will wwoof at Awhi (pronounced a-fee) Farms.

Along the way we pass the Tongariro National Park, home to the ominous Mt. Doom and Mt. Tongariro, two active volcanos. We have plans to hike the Tongariro Crossing in the coming days and hope for clear skies, since currently it is shrouded in cloud. It's Saturday night and the guys from Awhi Farms (Bowman, Urban and Alex) are out selling wood fired pizzas by the road to make some cash. They have made a cob oven from clay and mounted it on a trailer to tow wherever pizzas are in demand. We have a great dinner of pizza before retiring for the night in our tent at the back of the farm.

Urban's Pizza Oven Sales

Urban's Pizza Oven Sales

Posted by ontarions 18:50 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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