Of raging rivers, a temporary lake district and mineral baths

This year’s Easter escape didn’t take Gregor and me where we had intended to go. Right before Good Friday, a cyclone tore through our part of the world. Luckily, Auckland and anywhere southwards was spared the worst.

So it was just VERY wet but otherwise warm and humid. Just what you’d expect from a tropic storm.

The campground we had booked was closed because of the deluge, and so we drove a but further South towards Paeroa where we camped in the Karangahake Gorge.

This area is quite extraordinary with its amazingly steep and deep gorges:

The river looks pretty tame now but in the days before our visit, the water must have been around 2 to 3 metres higher telling by the debris along its banks. All the rivers were still quite swollen with most gravel banks submerged, and I cannot even imagine would they would be like during and right after the cyclone. Big raging torrents I suppose.

With the landscape still more than saturated with water, we adjusted our footwear accordingly.

Tramping boots cyclone style:

The main attraction why we had decided on the Paeroa area for our Easter trip are the mineral pools. This time, we treated ourselves to an hour in the mineral spa with private tubs.

Gregor and I taking a soak:

Not sure what the mineral composition is but the water had a rich soft feel to it and no hint of sulfur. Very pleasant and very relaxing.

We also explored the historic relics of the wood logging era.

Massive Kauri trunks were carted out on little wagons, one of which was still around:

Yet another fantastic weekend away for us in an otherwise challenging year.

Fab Feb holiday -Anahata yoga retreat

When I left for the South Island for my holiday, it had been with a sense of foreboding. Of something life changing that would happen to me. Not quite like a booming voice speaking to me from the sky, but something significant, maybe a dangerous situation or some other challenge.

I was right. It was subtle, but powerful and came in the form of a number of important realisations about myself. It had slowly started while tramping, and gained real speed in my week at Anahata Yoga Retreat high up in the hills of Golden Bay:

I had no previous experience with yoga and in fact had never had any interest in yoga before. But I had heard that Anahata was pretty much a “white zone” i.e. minimal electro-smog . As I felt I needed more time for emotional-spiritual work than I would be able to have while tramping, it seemed like a good place to be.

Main house:

Atma Mandir where classes are taught:

It was amazing. It’s changed my life, in every regard. Body, mind and spirit. It was cathartic, uplifting and healing, all at the same time.

I was so well taken care of that I could really relax and focus on my inner work and not worry about electro-smog or my currently rather detailed dietary requirements (in fact, the food was outstanding). I was challenged in many ways, not just by taking in the new experiences from the various yogic practices, but also by what these experiences and my studies made me discover about myself.

“My” bench where I sat in the sun doing my study and thinking work:

Two months have now passed since my stay.  I have firmly integrated some yogic practices into my life. I’m well into the juice fast that the resident chef and nutritionist had suggested to me.

And I still think about Anahata every day feeling grateful for the momentum it’s given my journey to health, healing and wellbeing.

Fab Feb holiday – Kahurangi adventure

The second week of my holiday took me into the peace and quiet of Kahurangi National Park. It’s been my favourite park ever since I first visited in 2002, and this time turned out to be a a particularly interesting backcountry adventure.

That’s because of some really surprising contrasting experiences. The Anatoki-Waingaro track travels along a couple of river valleys, and I started off at the Anatoki end.

Basking in the morning sun at the start of the track:

On the first day, it was 99% easy walking along a well maintained benched track. But every so often, the track presented me with a real challenge with a windfall with no track marker in sight, or pleasant creeks with big boulders to navigate.

To my great surprise, despite the numerous creek crossings, I didn’t get my boots wet. And to my even greater surprise, on arriving in Anatoki Forks Hut I was greeted by a warning sign regarding hot water.

I first thought this was a joke until I went into the main room of the hut and saw the big water cylinder. This was for real! But as it was a warm day and I was on my own, I didn’t want to fire up the range and opted for a cold shower.

That’s until I turned on the shower and WARM water came out. Courtesy of the people who had been at the hut a whole 3 days earlier!

A day’s walk further down the track, there was another surprise waiting for me. A shelter that had only been opened less than a year ago and wasn’t on maps and track brochures yet. I had heard about it from other people so had decided to go there instead of camping.

The Soper shelter tent camp:

It was fantastic. A place of pure magic, and made with love. It was like stepping into Hobbit wonderland, with even small details having done with great love and attention right down to the toilet seat. It was very cold that night and I was shivering in my summer sleeping bag, but it was so worth it.

Lake Stanley, formed in 1929 by an earthquake:

Stanley river:

I usually had the huts to myself, but just when I felt like company, I got it. This was at Waingaro Forks hut,  a beautiful old style hut:

I shared the hut with a couple from Tasmania, and a veteran tramper and mountainbiker. Who had come up to the hut on his bike just to prove to his wife that he could do it. Not an easy feat by any means. He turned 65 the following morning.

Another 2 nights in a hut further down, and then a spectacular walk out thanks to clouds hovering

Reaching civilisation again, I was greeted by farmlands with a distinctly Bavarian look which gave me a short moment of feeling homesick.

Me at the end of my Kahurangi adventure:

Dusk in Golden Bay from Takaka campground:

Fab Feb holiday – Abel Tasman revisited

I did it again. The Abel Tasman Coastal track. 15 years after I had done it for the first time. It’s still as beautiful as I remembered it: Golden beaches, crystal clear blue sea, with a backdrop of regenerating bush.

But it’s a lot more busy than it was back in 2002. And I also noticed that the vast majority of people belong to two distinctly different groups of tourists: 20-somethings doing a multi-day walk, and older people in their 50s and 60s doing day trips.  What they had in common though is that most of them were from overseas.

Over Waitangi weekend, Gregor joined me, and I then completed the rest of the walk by myself. But not really by myself, as I’ve explained above.

Te Pukatea Bay – Abel Tasman at its best:

Beautiful sunrise on the next morning:

Boats anchoring at, well, Anchorage:

Gregor on the mud flats of Torrent Bay:

My picturesque camp spot in Tonga Quarry:

View towards Totaranui from the North:

My Abel Tasman tramping boots:

It was an excellent walk, with good weather most of the time and the sandflies and mosquitos weren’t too bad.  If you’re seeking solitude, it’s the wrong place. But if you’re after spending some time on the beach, it’s an excellent choice.

Northland holiday – Kauri forests, Bay of Islands, and a lake

The second part of our Northland holiday was a bit of a road trip combined with an island escape and a few walks here and there.

I usually don’t particularly like driving, but wow this time was different. I’ve always liked BMWs ;simply for their looks and the fact that they’re from Munich just like me.

Now having driven one (Gregor’s work car, a small 2003 model) along some seriously windy roads and the odd bit of gravel, I can definitely say that they’re my kind of car. No wonder that I ended up doing most of the driving up there, and it made this fantastic holiday even better.

But back to where I left off. We spent the following night in Rarawa and it turned out one of the best beaches I’ve ever been to in NZ. Crystal clear turquoise blue water, waves just right to be fun, and the sand was absolutely world class white powder:

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The forests were just great, but as always not easy to take phtoos of… :

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In the Bay of Islands, we spent a couple of days  hanging out on Urupukapuka Island. We went for walks in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day reading, talking and maybe a very quick dip in the sea.

Which was unusually cold, just like the windy weather we had throughout our entire holiday. Great for doing stuff, not ideal for frolicking on the beach.

A calm morning in Urupukapuka Bay at the campground:

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Green hills, deep blue sea, sailing boats, and an old woolshed:

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Very nice sunsets if you went up the hill:

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In places, the coastline reminded me a little bit of the”Calanques” in the South of France where I had holidayed with friends what now seems a lifetime ago:

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More forest, here’s Gregor in a stand of young Kauri :

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Lake Taharoa impressed with clear blue water and the petrified remains of an ancient forest:

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Not that you can see much of it as the lake shore drops off steeply to great depth where most of the forest is.

We rounded off our dream holiday with a BBQ on an Auckland campground. Gregor enjoyed a serious chunk of steak while I stuck with fish and had a most delicious salmon. Most of which got into my mouth as some of it was blown off my fork on the way to it. It was that windy!

Hope you all had such an amazing Christmas break as we did. And should you ever be in need of a  holiday destination, with Northland you won’t go wrong..

Northland holiday – Te Paki Stream walk

Back from an amazing holiday up North, in Northland. As far North as you can get in NZ that’s publicly accessible, and without getting your feet wet.

Here are a few photos of the first part of our trip – The Te Paki Stream walk which goes around the coast from the East, around Cape Reinga, then over to the West and down to 90 Mile Beach.

Starting off in Spirits Bay on a glorious morning:

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Gregor chilling out in the rock pools above Pandora Bay:

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Most of the Pohutukawa had already lsot their flowers, but this one here at our camp spot was still in in full bloom:

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Obligatory photo of  the famous lighthouse at Cape Reinga:

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Fancy a 1 hour beach walk? Try Te Werahi Beach:

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If you love the desert, you can get your fix, too:

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Twilight Beach at the end of a long 8 hour tramping day:

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We finished off our tramping with sandboarding the Te Paki dunes. Gregor absolutely loved it, despite nose dive into the sand and the slog up the steep dune. He went up saying “this is my last run” at least 3 times.

The Lord of the Boards Northland style:

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My photos can’t quite convey it what an amazing walk it was. Great Walk material if you ask me. Every day was different, the scenery was absolutely stunning, and technically, it’s easy walking. You could do it in your bare feet if you like!

We concluded our top North experience with a nice hot shower (1 of 2 during our two-week holiday, aahhh)..

And a short night of disrupted sleep fed upon by the local mosquito population., thanks to Gregor’s 30 years old vintage tent and its holes.That’s until I got up and pitched my small but mosquito proof tent in the middle of the night where we gratefully took refuge.

The humming of the mosquito chorus lulled us into sleep and we did not venture out and through the black cloud of these ravenous little buggers in the tent’s vestibule until in the morning.

Kahurangi tramping holiday – Mount Arthur and the tablelands

Part 2 of my tramping holiday was no less amazing and enjoyable than the weekend with Gregor at Lake Sylvester.

The weather was incredible, day after day of sunshine and blue sky. Not a single drop of rain, and I completed my entire walk never getting my boots wet!

After Gregor dropped me off on Monday afternoon on his way back to Nelson, I went up to Asbestos Cottage. It hadn’t changed at all since I had first been there in 2002:

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It’s quite a character hut, and was home to a couple for nearly 40 years at the beginning of the previous century. I spent the night there and it was nice to enjoy the comforts of a hut, in particular because I had it to myself.

The next day turned out to be a much bigger day than I had planned. It all started off as anticipated, but things then took a different turn at Lake Peel:

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I had wanted to camp there and had actually found a very nice spot. It was a fight to throw up the tent though as it was quite windy. I should have heeded this early warning because after having watched my tent being flattened a number of times by particularly strong gusts, I had to declare defeat and take it down again. No way I could have slept there with the tent in my face every few minutes.

So I didn’t have much choice but to carry on to Balloon Hut where I found a nice sheltered spot in the trees by the hut. Even though it made for a very long day, it was a very nice walk across open tussock in the gentle late afternoon sun:

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On the following day, the hut and tablelands were in thick mist. When it finally started to burn off by mid morning, I left for my next accommodation at Dry Rock:

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I absolutely loved staying in this big rock bivvie, all by myself with just the resident weka for company. From the comfort of my sleeping bag on the platform, I had a view of  rolling tussock and later the star-studded sky.

The following day, I woke up to another perfect day. Which again turned out bigger than I had planned.

My way first took me over tussock with a single picturesque tarn on the way:

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Then up Gordon’s pyramid from which excellent views were to be had:

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Then up to Mount Arthur with even better views. 360 degrees of steep mountains, golden tablelands, dark green forests, and the endless blue sky above it all:

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I really liked the forest on the way down to Mount Arthur hut with quite a few pineapple trees:

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At the hut, I made the quick decision not to stay and carry on down the hill to Flora. It had been a hot day and I just really wanted to have my usual pot shower in the evening, which was impossible at Mount Arthur Hut as there was no stream or tarn anywhere near it.

Another big day, and a real high point of my walk.

As I had arrived at Flora a day or so earlier than I had expected, I found myself with time on my hands to actually not do much at all. Which is kind of boring, so after lunch the following day, I set off to Gridiron rock shelter further down the Flora valley:

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It was another night in a place that others have described as pure magic. This time, I had 3 Minnesotans for company. And down on the valley floor, a family group of 5 had made the forest their bed for the night.

It was at Gridiron that the resident weka actually stole my brand new toilet roll. I didn’t actually see it. Just when I came back from my pot shower in the stream, by stuff on my bunk had clearly been ruffled through, and the toiled roll was missing. I later found a few small remaining scraps in the forest. No idea what a weka would do with a whole toilet roll…

I went back to Flora on the next morning to have breakfast in the sun. And then I spent the rest of the day working for the business. Here’s my office:

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As I had worked hard and completed what I had wanted to get done, I rewarded myself with a walk up Lodestone on the following morning which also was my last full day in the hills. It was yet another fine day with stunning views of mountains, hills and the Tasman Bay.

This is Mount Arthur:

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The following day, I took a shuttle back to Nelson and jumped on the plane back to Wellington in the evening.

So that was my summer tramping holiday. It was awesome!

I just wish I could do this more often not just once a year. It’s the hills where I really can roam freely. No cell phone towers, no wifi, no worries.

Life as it should be!

Kahurangi tramping holiday – Lake Sylvester

I was down South for the last 10 days on my usual summer tramping escape. I spent the whole time in Kahurangi National Park one of my favourite parks ever since I set foot into it for the first time in 2002.

It’s located at the top of the South Island and has some impressive mountains to offer as well as tussock covered high plateaus, lakes and tarns.

This time, I combined my holiday with a long weekend so Gregor could come along for the first 3 days.

We headed up to Lake Sylvester where found a nice spot to set up our camp with a view of the lake and the range we were going to climb on the next day.

Here’s Gregor at our little camp:

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Once up on the ridge, we had stunning views of the lakes below us and the mountains beyond. These are Lake Sylvester and Little Lake Sylvester:

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Further along the ridge, there were more lakes. The walk itself was in part over very easy grassy slopes, with the occasional scramble around rocky outcrops.

One of those is Iron Hill which looks like a heap of giant rock cubes. Seen from below, it’s hard to imagine that there’s actually a perfectly good route leading up to it:

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Looking the other way, here’s Gregor with a backdrop of the cold clear waters of Lake Iron:

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It was a great day with stunning scenery and fantastic weather. We finished it off with a refreshing bath in the lake, and a delicious dinner.

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Well, at least my dinner was delicious, as Gregor had some rather peculiar stuff which primarily consisted of two-minute-noodles.

On the following day, we slept in and then slowly made our way back to the car with a lunch stop by a little creek with clear fresh water to drink from.

Gregor then dropped me off a bit further down the road and left for Auckland.

I shouldered my pack again and set off down memory lane on the track that I had done when I had come to the park for the first time in 2002.

Pararaha weekends

At the end of last year, Gregor and I went camping a couple of times in the Pararaha Valley in the Waitakere Ranges in North East Auckland.

We had wanted to go back there and do this ever since we did the Hillary Trail a year ago but didn’t stay at that particular campground.

From Kare Kare, it’s an easy and very pleasant walk through the dunes under an endless blue sky:

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A little creek runs through the valley which makes for a very refreshing dip on a warm day. It also supplies the water for drinking (it needs to be treated though).

I just loved the Nikau palms along it which give it such a subtropical look:

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Here’s a view up the valley, with a beautiful cabbage tree and some flax in the foreground:

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We were really lucky with the weather, and it was just nice to be out and about and enjoy the scenery and the sun.

Auckland weekend

I was up in Auckland over the weekend, the first time since April.

Gregor and I went camping in the Waitakere ranges which was really nice. When we did the Hillary Trail during the last Christmas holidays, we had passed through the Pararaha valley but not camped there, and we had wanted to come back to do that ever since.

It’s an easy two hours’ walk from the car park to the campground, through dunes dotted with wetlands. The valley itself is clad with regenerating bush, and a small creek runs along the bottom of it.

The weather was cooperative, too and it was pleasantly warm. We didn’t really do much but lying in the sun being lazy. Which was good as at home, there’s way too much for me to do to relax.

Coming back to Wellington was a bit of a shock to the system though with a Southerly blowing and a cozy 10 degrees….that’s Wellington…