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Archive for the ‘Waikaremoana’ Category

15,000 sheep

Quite a broken night due to the stormy, windy weather outside and due to the 20 or so big mosquito bites I have on my feet!  The “zapper click” thingy to stop mosquito bites from itching too much doesn’t seem to have any effect, either I have become immune to it or these are pretty bad mosquito bites …  Later today I put some of Mrs Brewer’s Anthisan Bite & Sting cream on my feet and that seemed to soothe them nicely!

Anyway, our packing didn’t take long at all as we only stayed here for two nights and didn’t unpack properly.  So after breakfast we handed in our key and in return were offered a bag of sweets to take with us – perfect timing as we had finished our sweeties yesterday (we sometimes use them as rewards for the girls finishing their diaries).

Today was a short drive to our next destination, less than two hours.  We drove down more unsealed gravel roads and reached the nearest town Wairoa after a good hour’s drive.  Here we stopped and went in search of an internet place and/or information centre.  Walking past the library we spotted a couple of boxes with books for sale and both girls each chose two books, which cost us 80 cents altogether!  Whilst in the library we took advantage of the free internet use to check up on messages, I had 17 messages all of which were junk/rubbish! (slightly disappointing)  The good news is that we received confirmation of our remaining flight dates which are now correct and updated (no thanks to Travel Nation!), so we can relax about that now..

We decided to let the girls run off some steam before heading to the fish & chips shop across the road for a picnic lunch of very tasty fish and slightly salted chips, it all went down really well.

Before heading on to our next destination, Tangiwai Station, we popped into a supermarket called Write Price Food Barn and stocked up on fresh bread, milk, veges and fruit, yoghurts and some drinks.

A good half hour later we arrived at Tangiwai Station, a very remote sheep and cattle farm amongs green hills.  The view is stunning, the self contained flat very nicely done up and the area peaceful and quiet.  This also means no internet access or mobile phone signal, we will have to head into Gisborne or Wairoa to keep in touch with family and friends (a 40 mile round trip!).

Our friendly host, Colleen, welcomed us and assured us that we could just ask her for any information or help should we need any.  We also met Jimmy, a sweet but slightly mad dog, who barked quite noisily which had Hannah hiding behind a bush with her hands covering her ears.  All he wanted was for someone to throw a stone he could then retrieve, he spent some time lying in the sun just outside our french windows.

We all settled in really quickly and flopped on the sofa or floor with some books.  This was followed by a jammy swiss roll for tea and ham sandwiches for supper.

When the girls finished writing their diaries for today, we headed out for a half hour walk around the farm.  The size of the farm is absolutely massive.  Kevin, the farmer, told us he had 1300 cattle and 15,000 sheep (including the new born lambs).  Tim and I simply couldn’t begin to imagine the size of it.

Tangiwai Station.
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Back home and wind down time for the girls and blog time for us.

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A flute orchestra tuning up – that’s the dawn chorus round here, between 5 and 6am. We got a bit more sleep after this, then up at our customary time of 8 am for cereal and toast at the picnic table outside – lake view and blue sky included.

We drove to the Visitor Centre where we parked and walked the Hinerau loop through beech forest and past three waterfalls, spotting some wetas (night-feeding insects) in their special tree-mounted weta-boxes.

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Next we visited Papakorito Falls, 2km up a track opposite the visitor centre.
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Then Ellen and I walked back to the Motor Camp along Black Beech Walk (after a couple of false starts) while Kirsten and Hannah returned by car. As we walked along the old road (in use until the lake level was lowered by 5 metres in 1946) a huge dragonfly decided it liked the look of me and settled on my sleeve for a quarter of an hour until we got back to our chalet.

View of our Motor Camp.
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Hitch-hiking dragonfly.
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This is a beautiful, unspoiled area, part of Te Urewera National park which contains the largest remaining forest in New Zealand. Most of the other guests here are Kiwis, here for the tramps (walks, not vagrants), and not many overseas visitors seem to know about the area. (The access via ’91 km of winding, unsealed road’ may have something to do with this – it’s certainly off the beaten track.)

Jacqueline Wilson appears to be the key to getting Hannah reading again; she borrowed a book (The Werepuppy) this lunchtime from the selection of used reading matter just inside the camp shop and she has scarcely torn herself away from it since then. So we might get her ploughing through Tracy Beaker, etc.

Our lake is Waikaremoana, which means ‘sea of dashing waters’. My grasp of Polynesian languages is slim, but it is fascinating to see the same words or names popping up many thousands of miles apart; on Easter Island, water is ‘vai’ and here it is ‘wai’. We also drove past an ‘Orongo’ on the way to Coromandel, just like the Bird-man village near Hanga Roa – and there’s a Hanga Roa not far from here, too. I suppose both NZ and Rapa Nui were relatively recently settled by Polynesian standards so the local languages have stayed ‘in sync’ to a fair extent. Also curious is how some common Maori/Rapa Nui words mirror their English equivalents: ‘te’ is ‘the’ and ‘o’ is ‘of’. Sheer coincidence?

A lazy afternoon reading/blogging – apart from Ellen, who has finished all her books and thus pootled around outside with a spray of flowering grass in her hand. I found frozen sausages and veges (as they say here) in the shop to feed us tonight; we are too remote to get deliveries of fresh food, and even the loaves are frozen.

It has clouded over this evening; there might be rain tomorrow. Only a short journey of less than two hours to our Wairoa farmstay, and then we stay put for five nights. So far, our New Zealand leg has felt far more rushed than our time in North or South America – a pity, as this was a country we were particularly looking forward to. We’re still taking things slower than our pre-kiddies NZ trip of nine years ago when we zoomed around the South Island in just under three weeks, but we’d like to have time to spare in a location, rather than attempting to shoe-horn all the essential sights and activities into the permitted temporal window. So for the moment I don’t feel that I am fully savouring the experience of being here; there is not yet the opportunity to rest, to relax, to reflect.

South of Wellington we’ll have a welcome ten days in the same place (over Christmas), then six nights in Te Anau and a week in Christchurch; that’s more like it. And from Australia onwards we have nothing booked so we can make it up as we go along (as we did in South America, where the timing worked out well).

I suppose we’re simply trying to do too much, i.e. aiming to cover a fairly big chunk of the country rather than basing ourselves for a full week in a smaller number of representative locations as we did in the USA. Two months sounds a long time, but it’s nothing once you halve it for the two islands and then divide by the number of interesting regions in each.

New Zealand is also the hardest country so far in which to connect to the internet, as evidenced by our sporadic blog updates. Only the first of our stays has had WiFi (courtesy of the owners upstairs) and internet cafes are less common here than in Peru or Bolivia. In our current location there is not even a mobile phone signal. [As an aside, what is ‘WiFi’ meant to stand for? Wireless Fidelity? Is that some sort of no-strings-attached relationship?]

Just starting to spit with rain now – might give our car a much-needed wash…

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After having been fed so well last night I slept really well.  We got up around 7.30am, showered and sat down for breakfast at about 8.00am.  Not much packing was left to do, and we were on the road shortly after 9.00am.

It took us a little longer than expected to find the right petrol station but once we had filled up the car we were off to Murupara.  Murupara is pretty much the half way point to today’s destination of Waikaremoana Lake.  Our satnav did not recognise the unsealed road directly to our destination and wanted us to go via Taupo and Napier which would have meant a 7 hour trip.  In the end it took us a good three hours along the windy unsealed road including a couple of stops.

We arrived at Murupara, an empty town/village in the middle of nowhere, and found a small bakery where we stocked up on sandwiches and a drink for our lunch later on.  I had a conversation with a local man who assured me that the windy road was very scenic but also advised us to take our time.

And off we went.  The road was windy, but much more manageable than some other windy roads we encountered further up north, and there was hardly any traffic.  We passed through two small settlements and I couldn’t help wondering what life would be like for those people in winter or on very wet days when the road might be closed …

Roughly halfway down this road we stopped for our picnic lunch and the girls had some playtime near the clear stream.  Once again I was amazed at the cleanliness and tidiness of the New Zealand countryside, fresh air, the scent of the trees…
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A good hour later we arrived at the National Park’s Information Centre where we picked up a booklet with some short forest walks.  I asked the girl how much longer it would be to the Waikaremoana Motor Park and was pleasantly surprised and relieved when she said it was just down the road and shouldn’t take more than three minutes.

We parked our very dusty car just outside the office at the Motor Park, filled in the necessary form and were handed the key to Unit No 4, which was just a little further down the main path. 

Our unit has a small kitchen, bathroom, a double bed and one single bed downstairs and two single mattresses upstairs.  Once we had emptied the car we wandered back to the shop to buy sausage rolls and potato wedges for supper – not very healthy, but just what we needed (there were no fresh vegetables or fruit in the shop).

The girls were happy to let off steam outside while Tim and I relaxed with a cup of tea and a biscuit.  After the girls wrote their diaries (107 words for Hannah, 50 for Ellen), we had our supper and then went to explore the area.  We walked up to the lake and had a look at the boats and the other types of accommodation.
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We spotted a sign for one of the short walks and Ellen insisted it would be good to walk up the hill.  We only made it two thirds up as it was pretty steep in places and flip flops were not the best footwear.
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Back downhill to our cabin, a cold drink of orange juice and 15 minutes of winding down time for the girls before bed.

We very much feel away and cut off from everybody else with no internet connection or mobile phone signal, the right place for New Zealanders, or people like us to get some peace and quiet …

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