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.

Still looks lovely in the rain
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.

Heading off on the track…so many options from here – we chose the Sentinel Rock lookout
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.

This tree is a young 600 years old
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.

Time for a brew!
The view from the lookout…extra dramatic with an approaching storm
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.

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.

After a morning of rain, a stroll along the beach is in order, Waihi Beach looking dramatic
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.

Enjoying the view from the butterfly garden
Sculptures dotted around the park add to its beauty, many with interesting stories
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
And the time is….? 2pm
More sculptures overlook the vista


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!).

Monarch butterflies are everywhere
A newly hatched butterfly drying its wings
The gardens are planted to attract these beauties
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!

23-29 December: Christmas week round-up

Author: Mrs A

Location: Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

It’s been a fabulous week with family and friends, meeting neighbours and getting tips and hints for future travels. We have also managed to catch up with friends from Sydney into the bargain, with a couple of lunches enjoyed.

Mr A and I have done some more paddling and hiking throughout the last week, making the most of the weather, which has been typical New Zealand (rain-sun-rain-sun!).

We had a great paddle up the nearby Waipapa River, timing it perfectly with the tides helping us in and out on our trip.

Heading off across the glassy bay
Mr A heading up the river
Enjoying an apple for breakfast in the pouring rain
Mr & Mrs and the bumper boats

Christmas Day was glorious, with a delicious family dinner and an afternoon walk to work it off.

Christmas cheers around the tree
A Tui drinking nectar on the flowers
Stormy skies over the Kaimai Range
A king tide brings the water up onto the reserve…the low lying house owners would have been nervous
Rowing boats waiting to take owners out to the sail boats
“I saw three ships not sailing by…on Christmas Day in the morning….”

On Boxing Day we caught up with friends in the morning, and spent an afternoon walking in the Kaimai Range, not far from Omokoroa:

Seconds from the car you enter lush forest
Heading off down a path
Boardwalks help avoid much of the boggy mud…
Not all the streams have bridges though

On Thursday, stepbrother Simon, Sue’s eldest son, came to visit, bringing wine and gifts. A delicious family brunch was followed by a short walk.

A fan-tail chases flies as we walk through the woods
Summer berries in the hedgerow
A peaceful paradise along Omokoroa beach
A pair of eagle rays entertain us as they hunt in the shallows
Never tire of these views!

Friday saw us heading about an hour’s drive north up to Karangahake Gorge to catch up with friends Sara and Barny who were passing through on their Christmas holiday. After a pub lunch we went for a short walk to some waterfalls, and then a circuit walk through the gorge:

Owharoa Falls – known as bridal-veil falls for their perfect distribution of water
Sara, Barny and team Anderson enjoying the refreshing spray from the water
The roaring Ohinemuri River
The path is pretty narrow here – attention required!
A beautiful short walk before we farewelled Sara and Barny on their way up the Coromandel

We’ve really enjoyed exploring this area, but will be ready to head off a little further afield next week, packing up our tent (and hopefully no punctured mattresses!) to explore some more.

We hope you had a lovely week, whether you celebrate Christmas or whether you just took the opportunity to spend some quality time with friends and family. Seasons greetings from us both!

20-22 December: Continuing our exploration of the Bay of Plenty

Author: Mrs A

Location: Bay of Plenty, New Zealand North Island

Thursday morning reminded us why New Zealand is so lush and green, with the heavens opening as we awoke. Fortunately we were prepared for inclement weather and had planned a day that didn’t require sunshine. It began with a pedicure for me, while Mr A did a little shopping, and then we headed to Mount Manganui.

Driving around this area is a slow process, with one main road heading down the coast and an ever increasing population as people move out of Auckland to the coast. We’re getting used to Google Maps telling us there is a ‘6-15 minute delay’ on every route we take!

We enjoyed lunch in Mount Manganui, one of the more civilised areas nearby, with a choice of shops and eateries. It’s one of the ports cruise ships call into when travelling down the coast. It’s such a shame more has not been made of the waterways in terms of public transport – we’d love to just jump on a passenger ferry across from Omokoroa to here, but no, the only access is via road.

The rain disappeared once we returned back to dad’s and we headed back down to the bay for a walk. Sorry if we are repeating ourselves photographically but the scenery is so lovely!

Late afternoon sunshine – this is around 5pm
Sacred kingfisher not hanging around for a photo
Ring-necked doves like hunting for snacks on the white sand
Walking across the golf course wetlands
Walking across the golf course wetlands

We finished off the day with a dinner of delicious New Zealand green-lipped mussels, always a favourite when we visit these parts, and well worth the effort of cleaning and scraping.

Mr A on debearding and cleaning duties

Friday was another showery day, but Mr A and I were determined to head off into the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park for a decent walk.

We had only walked 50 metres and we found the sign we didn’t want to see ‘Track Closed’!

Oh no! Track closed!

Fortunately we knew this particular walk was a circuit, so we thought we would attempt a return hike from the other end – into the Waitawheta Valley and up to Waitawheta Gorge.

We started off through picturesque farmland
Expecting Gandalf to appear around the corner at any moment!

The path wound its way through farmland, bordered by a beautiful babbling river which we followed the whole way. We climbed over styles and through gates, the experience feeling very English!

A waterfall plunges out of the side of the gorge, crossing our path

As we entered the forest park the scenery changed, with lush tree ferns, red and silver beech, kamahi and kauri trees.

Mr A admires the views from alongside the Waitawheta River
Mrs A heads off along the track
The rain draws in, increasing the water flow and the overall atmosphere in the gorge.

The Waitawheta River was ever our companion, tumbling over rocks and carving its way through the gorge. We followed the route via which early settlers transported the Kauri tree wood, chopping down magnificent giant trees, often over 2000 years old, and shipping them around the world for building.

We crossed the river several times via swing bridges, evidence of the logging history visible in the rusty rail tracks and old struts from former bridges. A replica of a bogie, a rolling contraption which ran on tracks to carry tree trunks, helped demonstrate the area’s historic past.

Beautiful colours in the ferns alongside the track, glistening in the rain
Path or stream?
One of the most visually rewarding walks we have done

At 10km but predominantly flat walking, this was not a challenging hike, but it was definitely picturesque, and the wet weather only added to the atmospheric ambience. Highly recommended if you’re in this area.

Saturday: Three days before Christmas, we were determined to not head out in the car today, assuming the roads would be even busier than usual. Instead we took off on the short 5km circuit walk from the bottom of dad and Sue’s garden.

Mr A strolling around the headland…can you spot the photobombing Tui?

It’s just ridiculously pretty, this friendly local community all pooling together to take care of the pathways, raising money for new steps down to the water after storms destroyed old ones, and one lady telling us we were sat on a bench her husband had constructed ‘just to hide an eyesore there’! No eyesores on our walk…just gorgeous views.

Views upon views…
Parkland or walk?
How many blues can we see?.
And hardly a soul on the whole walk…just serenity…

We had lunch at a waterside cafe mid way around, before returning to dad’s for a relaxing afternoon. What a little slice of paradise this is!