DAY 323...Off the Beaten Track

Washing done, clothes tumble-dried, a quick shower, updates on my journey sorted from my Garmin watch onto my online history, together with the stats of this trip. Oh, how I dislike this part of my life! But at least it was done while drinking coffee and eating breakfast. The sun was trying to shine today as we said our “goodbyes” and gave big hugs to Martin who had decided it was time to start heading south to see this amazing country of ours. Accordingly, the crew pounamu was passed to Anna and then we were off on our day’s adventures.

Once stocked up with some food supplies, we headed for Lake Rotorangi. Anna was in the driver’s seat and what a trip we had on the narrow, back-country roads once we left State Highway 3! The route we took can perhaps best be described as “the road hardly ever travelled". The forest and native bush got better and better the nearer we got to the lake which is in an amazing location. As we drive, the highlights for both of us are the many small animals and birds. Of course there were the standard cows, calves, sheep and lambs, but we also had horses on the roadsides, donkeys, numerous bush turkeys, pheasants and lots of goats hop-skipping along in front of us!

As we rounded one corner, there were not only sheep, lambs and goats, together with a baby kunekune pig in a paddock, but also a llama; it was almost like driving through a farm animal theme park! Before we get to the lake itself, we arrive at an archway, fronting the entrance to a long, narrow tunnel carved into and through a massive hillside. I was scared that Cuzzie might prove too tall to get through but, after stopping and carefully checking, we proceeded, keeping well to the middle. Thankfully, she made it through okay (if only just!) and we both gasped at the magnificent view on the other side. Out of everything we saw today, that sight was totally amazing.

Once at the lakeside, we parked up, had lunch and looked out the windows, scanning for the start of the walking track but alas, weren’t able to locate it. We headed back along the same route, happily absorbing the incredible views and travelling safely through the tunnel again, eventually arriving in Hawera where we checked out the town and its crazy water tower in the centre. It was only then that I realised the usually reliable Google map had taken us to another section of the lake, no wonder we couldn’t find the hiking track next to the boat ramp which was where the brochure said it should be! We had been at the wrong section of the lake and at the wrong boat ramp! Jeez!! That hike has now been postponed until another day.

We headed to Ohawe beach and the ocean, to feel the rain on our faces and walk along the shoreline, looking up at the massive cliffs beside us, with green foliage giving way to brown and golden earth. By chance, we stumbled on an incredible waterfall cascading down through rocks onto the black beach. Anna said that it all looked so beautiful. She was right. This coastline is like nothing else I have ever seen and, even on this misty, wet day, it has that special, rough, tough beauty that we tend to look past and can sometimes miss all too easily. The beaches may not be golden but, let’s face it, how many places in this world have black sand beaches? Very few I’m thinking and, again, it’s so nice to hear from overseas visitors what they love about our country for it makes us look at things again and see them through fresh eyes.

We have to scramble high up on the rocks on our return walk as the tide was nearly full and the waves were making sure we noticed them! I had to look over my shoulder a couple of times to make sure we were safe and not about to get wet. We returned to Cuzzie, got out all the ingredients for making homemade nachos with mince, beans, melted cheese and avocado, topped off with sour cream. Anna declared it to be utterly delicious, and even my modified version with the cheese and sour cream removed was pretty yummy as well. After dinner, a couple from another camper-van came to visit us and share stories. Earlier, Anna had discovered that Ginna was from her home town and Tyler was also from the USA. What a crazy, small world we live in! We discussed the South Island; where to go what to see. How can I even begin to tell them how to see everything in just three weeks? It's a totally impossible task!

My Blog is late after eating, chatting and then doing my mandatory twenty-two push-ups. As I sit writing it, I look up at my whiteboard planner which sets out how and when I think I can complete this crazy journey. It seems okay put down in writing but it’s not yet okay on the water, so we will just have to keep on hiking and moving from one place to another. As well as DOC, maybe Tourism NZ could recruit me to tell everyone about the hardly-ever driven roads of New Zealand now that I have been on quite a few!

My smiles today:
The back-roads and the discoveries along the way.
The archway entrance to an amazing tunnel.
The waterfall we saw along the beach today.
Nachos. Yum.
Cats at the campsite. NOT making Anna smile.
E-mailing Martin to check he has made it to the South Island.

My thoughts today:
Everyone has a story to tell and every day produces surprises, who you meet, what you see, where you go. So live your life to the full, because you just never know what might happen tomorrow!

Goodnight from Red and Anna. Ma Te Wa.

The amazing carved tunnel.

The amazing carved tunnel.

Black sands at Ohawe beach.

Black sands at Ohawe beach.

Waterfalls on the beach.

Waterfalls on the beach.