New Zealand – March 2018

Off on another adventure. This time to do a couple of the NZ great walks. First up is Lake Waikaremoana in the south east of the north island.

Lake Waikaremoana

The forecasts were for heavy rain the first day and showers from then on. Typical New Zealand really!

The walk is 3-4 days, 46km around a gorgeous lake high in the mountains.

We followed the DOCs (Department Of Conservation) advice to do the walk around the lake clockwise. Next time I would do it the other way around so the only big climb is done with an empty pack.

The local water taxi dropped us off at the start at Onepoto Bay. From here it’s a 500m climb to Panekire hut. Spectacular views all the way. Contrary to the weather report we had blue skies with occasional cloud the whole way😀.

Panekire hut is perched right on top of a bluff with outstanding views over the lake. We met up with a few other trampers who were going the same way. A couple, Edward and Louise had to put up with us the whole trip as we both booked the same huts each night. Lucky them😵.

Day two was a long descent down a lot of stairs through dense beech forrest to Waiopaoa hut. This area has very high rainfall. Everything is covered in a heavy coating of moss and lichen. Very Lord of the Rings!

The Kiwis have the usual suspension bridges over every creek and river of any size. Pauline is now become used to these since Nepal, so not as much fun for me to torment her at each crossing.

Waiopaoa hut is another kiwi master piece. Big sleeping platforms, cooking areas and deck. All looking out over the lake. The resident Kiwis (the bird) can be heard at night time. They live right near the hut. We met up with lots of German trampers and a bunch of students doing pharmacy from Dunedin. All really nice people!

There were also two older kiwi brothers heading the same direction as us. Seemed to be a bit of rivalry between them.

Louise introduced us to a new card game. The rules were very flexible, a bit like Ferguson rules. The game also never seemed to have an end.

Day three takes you to Maruti hut. The route follows the lake shore most of the way. No big hills! The side trip to Korokoro falls is well worth the 30 minute side trip.

Maruti hut is also a drop off point for the water taxi. Our German friends were being picked up that afternoon at 1400. One of the Kiwi brothers also hitched a ride to the next hut so he could beat his brother 😚 Apparently the rivalry has been going on for years.

After a few more rule changes the card game was progressing, but still never seemed to end😟.

The final day is to Whanguni hut. Lots of huge ferns and beech trees.

Along the way you pass the kiwi sanctuary. They have fenced off an entire point of the lake and removed all the introduced predators. DOCs have a very active trapping and baiting program that seems to be working. Lots of targets, stoats, cats, dogs, possums, hares etc.

Automatic Possum trap

From Whanganui the water taxi picked us up for a windy crossing back to the car and the shop at the campground.

The ice cream testing continues! Kapiti brand, sorbet – Fejoa and Pear, Cranberry and Blood Orange. Both outstanding 👌

Lake Waikareiti

A 20km out and back tramp to Sandy Bay hut.

From the main road we climbed for a km and a half through huge red and silver beech forest to reach the lake. It’s supposed to be the cleanest water in NZ. Sure looked clear. Then it was a steady traverse around the lake through more beech forest to reach Sandy Bay hut.

We had the hut to ourselves for the night. Great views out over the lake to watch the sunset.

We spent a lot of time trying to get a decent photo of the forest. Not sure if we succeeded. Pauline has a couple of great shots of the lake at sunset.

The next day we retraced our route back to the civilization.

The drive from Lake Waikaremoana to Rotorua is 100km of gravel road. Slow and lots of dead possums.

If your ever in Rotorua make sure you are here on any Thursday night. They close the main street off and set up fresh food stalls. Most cuisine is represented. We had the Chinese pork dumplings, yummmmmmm.

Ohakune

We have been lounging around Ohakune for a couple of days. Big ski village, so lots of mountain bikes in summer. Of course our idea of lounging is to walk the 16 km Old Coach Road bike trail. Lots of bikes because it’s Easter. Looked like fun on a bike so we hired two ebikes and did the 32km out and back along the same trail. We love 😍 ebikes. Never tried them before, makes the hills a breeze.

We are off tomorrow for our second Great Walk – Tongariro Northern Circuit. Four day tramp around a dormant (we hope) volcano. All in huts, so only carrying food, clothes and a sleeping bag, glamping👌.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Another of the Great Walks. A four day circuit and crossing of an active volcano.

Day one is an easy traverse around to Mangetapopo hut. Lots of other trampers at the hut. It is packed for the night. We all take it in turns sharing the cooking area and the two small tables. Despite the crowd we didn’t have a single snorer😴. The weather for the next day didn’t look promising.

Day two and it is supposed to rain. Instead we got strong winds and lots of low cloud. This is unfortunate as we are crossing over Tongariro today 😥.

A steady climb through the clouds to the rim of Red Crater and views of more cloud! The wind had picked up as we climbed. In places Pauline would drop to the ground to avoid being blown over the edge. The rim of the crater is only a couple of meters wide so its a real danger.

We hung around the top for a while as there were short breaks in the clouds and managed to get some views of Emerald Lakes.

A long decent to Oturere Hut bought us below the clouds and into the moonscape created by one of the lava flows.

This hut was even smaller than the last hut. We were packed to the rafters. The howling wind persisted for most of the night. Shaking the hut every few minutes.

The views from the hut the next day were stunning. Fantastic sunrise on the main cone of Tongariro.

The hike today was an easy three hour stroll to Waihohonu Hut through the pumice fields. The usual crew arrived in dibs and drabs during the afternoon. Huge hut, 40 years younger than the previous two.

We talked for a while with a girl who had just finished the Te-Araroa trail. 3000km from the top of NZ to the bottom. Lots of useful tips!

The next morning we had another fantastic sunrise.

The tramp back to civilization took about five hours with great views of Tongariro along the way.

Whanganui River

A three day Great Walk that is actually a canoe trip down the Whanganui river.

The trip really begins the night before as we had to organise packing all our gear into waterproof barrels. The chances of capsizing are high!

The first day starts with a long bus trip into the start of the journey. Followed by a lot of unloading and setting up of canoes. After a short intro into canoeing and a quick demo to the bus driver that we have a basic idea of how to handle a canoe we are off down the river.

A couple of the other paddlers are doing the Te-Araroa. They get to paddle all the way out to the sea which is a couple more days past what we are doing. One of them, a Kiwi named Ra, we saw a few days back at Tongariro. Every other kiwi seems to know him and offer him places to stay. Looks like a great brotherhood between them all.

The first day is a long paddle. I think it was six or seven hours. Lots of small rapids and fantastic scenery.

The ferns along the river are huge. I think the area gets a lot of rain!

There are also lots of feral goats. I believe they go through and cull these after the canoeing season is over.

The first night we camped with a bunch of the other paddlers. Lots of stories and tips on other trips to do!

Day two and we are off for a few hours paddle to the Bridge to Nowhere. The bridge was built for access to some remote farming areas. Cost a fortune to build and was never really used as the farms had been abandoned by the time it was finished. Now a big tourist attraction.

Along the way we keep leapfrogging all the other paddlers.

Another three or four hours paddle and we arrived at the camp for night two. Along the way we had our first encounter with a jet boat. Sorry, no pictures. When one of these go past you are pretty busy avoiding being swamped by the bow wave!

The last day we are getting pretty tired. Long stretches of calmer water mixed with much bigger rapids. Up till now we had managed to stay afloat. This all ended when I pointed us down the wrong line through a difficult rapid and we hit a huge rock and ended up capsized😭. Took a while to swim the loaded canoe to shore and drain all the water out. Only thing damaged was my reputation as captain 😨.

Another hour or so paddling took us to the pickup point and the end of the journey. A fantastic trip that I would recommend to anyone that is fit enough.

Unfortunately one of the guys doing the Te-Araroa was injured in a rapid and had to pull out of the rest of the canoe trip. This meant Ra also had to pull out as you cannot do the last section alone. A real pity. We had gotten to know him a little and were disappointed he couldn’t finish it. He took it all in his stride. I think he is one of the most positive people I have ever met!