14-17 January: Walks in the Kaimai Range

Author: Mr A

Location: Omokoroa, Kaimai Range, Waihi Beach, New Zealand 

Monday: The Kaimai Range watches moodily over the Bay of Plenty, its dark craggy peaks regularly obscured in thundery clouds. We keep looking up at them from our haven down by the beach in Omokoroa and are inspired to keep reaching for the hiking shoes and driving up for a wander around.

It’s really hard to remember a more beautiful spot we have ever based ourselves, a huge thanks to Catherine’s dad Richard and wife Sue, who have shared their lovely home with us all these weeks. It’s a tough choice whether to head out on the water, paddling around the seemingly endless sheltered bays, or stride up into the hills. I know…life’s tough.

It literally poured with rain on Monday morning, so we dressed up in our waterproofs and took a short walk over to Omokoroa Beach.

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Still looks lovely in the rain
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After a bite of lunch the skies cleared and the Kaimai Range appears again

Tuesday: With a break in the rain, we headed up to the Kaimais to try out a walk on the Tuahu Track, one of the many that crosses the range a short drive from us.

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Heading off on the track…so many options from here – we chose the Sentinel Rock lookout
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Starting off along a civilised six foot track…

After an innocent enough start along a well formed track, the path headed almost vertically upwards, in the time honoured Kiwi fashion! We came across the all too rare remnants of the Kauri forest that once dominated the landscape before settlers realised their value as timber. The oldest specimen remaining has watched over the forest for 1200 years. Just writing that gave me goose bumps! What a timescale. Finally they are being protected and efforts to restore the forests are making some slow progress. In 1987 all the remaining tracts of Kauri forest came under government protection…it’s a nasty disease spread by walkers which is threatening the remaining trees now (Kauri dieback) – we made sure to brush and spray our shoes before starting or finishing any walks.

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This tree is a young 600 years old
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Feeling pleased these giants are now protected from the saw

With a lot of huffing and puffing we finally reached our lookout, and I got the stove on for a brew.

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Time for a brew!
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The view from the lookout…extra dramatic with an approaching storm
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Mrs A heads off down the slope

Almost immediately thunder started rumbling around the peaks, and it was a quick gulp or two before we donned rain jackets and slithered and stumbled our way back down. Thankfully the storm ebbed away and moved past us to the coast. I can’t imagine how tricky it would have been to get get down that path when it was even more slippery in the rain.

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A dramatic Omokoroa sunset ended our day, the mountains in the distance

Wednesday: The rain returned again the next day so took a nostalgic drive out to where Richard and Sue used to live at Waihi Beach. Dramatic skies shed an eerie light over this glorious place.

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After a morning of rain, a stroll along the beach is in order, Waihi Beach looking dramatic
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And at the end of the day, Sue and Richard enjoying another fine sunset from the front of their property

Thursday: The next day dawned fresh and bright, so we headed off down the road to a volunteer maintained park, the Te Puna Quarry Park, with a lovely network of paths running around an old quarry. The views from the lookouts were spectacular.

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Enjoying the view from the butterfly garden
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Sculptures dotted around the park add to its beauty, many with interesting stories
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A fantastic panorama across the eastern Bay of Plenty – Here is Mount Maunganui in the south, we could see all the way up to the Coromandel Range in the north
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And the time is….? 2pm
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More sculptures overlook the vista

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Enjoying the views

Mount Maunganui as usual dominates the scene, cruise ships clustered around the docks, and the endless channels and bays glistened in the afternoon light. Monarch butterflies flitted through the forest, and Catherine was in her element with her lens snapping away. It’s lovely to see her so happy, and breathing well at the moment (touching my head, ie wood!).

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Monarch butterflies are everywhere
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A newly hatched butterfly drying its wings
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The gardens are planted to attract these beauties
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One of the many caterpillars feeding on a Swan Plant – they are ferocious eaters – not many of the plants had leaves left!

Oh what a relief to be here in these temperatures and not back in Australia (currently experiencing temperatures over 40 degrees centigrade in some areas!)! For New Zealand it is exceptionally warm, with the mercury going over 30 some days. But there always seems to be a cooling breeze that kicks in, and we have never felt too hot to stop us heading off on a jaunt. It’s really making us wonder about the future of Autralia for us, to be living there in the summer in a caravan. Not so good. Maybe a Plan B is called for? Let’s see.

On the way home we stopped off to top up with avocados from one of the many roadside stalls. They taste incredible freshly picked of course, so creamy and exploding with flavour. Then we got chatting to a couple who had just pulled up in their motorhome for the night in the most beautiful spot at Plummers Point, right on the edge of a well kept reserve, looking out over the bay towards Omokoroa.

Apparently their club has 80,000 members in New Zealand, and you can see why it’s so popular with so many awesome places to pull up (free!) as long as you have a self contained motorhome.

We bid them a good night and wandered back for yet another fantastic meal of fresh local produce whisked up by Richard. Oh…and a decent bottle of Cote du Rhone to wash it down of course! The local pinots come rather pricey for our everyday quaffing budget!

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