Category Archives: Tramping

Adventuring in the South Waikato

The Waikato River Trails are such a hidden gem and we had such a great time riding ( and walking some of them ) and exploring the Waikato River by kayak at dusk and seeing the most glow worms I have ever seen.

KAYAK GLOW WORM TOUR

Kayak Glow Worm Tours from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

The Glow-worm kayaking tour was fun for young and old. The team at Lake District Adventures had everything you need to keep you warm and dry. After a full briefing including paddling instruction we set off.

The Waikato River was calm and the kayaks were very stable ( even with excitable children in them) so it was a relatively easy paddle upstream and then up a side stream through a gorge. We then got to stretch our legs and learn some fun facts about native flora and fauna as we waited for the sun to set.

Once it was completely dark we drifted back down through the gorge to view the glow-worms. At first I thought I was seeing stars in the sky but it was actually the most spectacular glow-worm display I have ever seen. The moon light filtering through the trees added to the magical experience as we drifted through the gorge as the glow-worms tinkled above us.

EXPLORING ARAPUNI

Waikato River Trail – Arapuni to Little Waipa from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

While it wasn’t quite the day we planned due to persistent rain, we still had a great time walking from Arapuni Power Station and swing bridge to the Arapuni Dam. An easy 4km return walk ( mostly in the bush so we didn’t get too wet ).

Then we cycled from Arapuni to Little Waipa. A relatively easy 12km return ride beside the river on a gravel path and through the Huihuitaha Wetland on a boardwalk. While there were a few steep hills and the trail does have some steep banks towards the river, this section is a great trail for beginners and children. All in all a great day exploring Arapuni in the rain.

Sally from Lake District Adventures can help you out with all the details on cycling in the area and has bikes, baby bike seats, tag-a-longs and bike trailers for hire along with shuttles and you can even hire a support vehicle for the day.

WAIKATO RIVER TRAILS – ATIAMURI TO MANGAKINO

Waikato River Trails – Atiamuri to Mangakino from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

We hadn’t heard much about the Waikato River Trails so we weren’t sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the trails ever-changing scenery & terrain; stunning river views, vibrant native bush, iconic farmland, boardwalks through wetland, rugged cliffs, impressive dams and more lakes than I knew existed on the Waikato River, not to mention a great lunch at the pub in Whakamaru.

We rode the two southern sections, approx. 36km from Atiamuri to Mangakino. Even though there had recently been heavy rain and its been a wet winter, the trail was in great condition. The trail was a relatively easy grade and we rode with our two kids and my Uncle who is only new to mountain biking.

The one thing that sets this trail apart from other cycle trails we have done is the easy accessibility from the road. This means you can do the stages that suit your ability and stop and start in many places. The team at Lake District Adventures can work with you to tailor a ride to suit you and even provide a support vehicle should members of your group decide not to ride one section or want to get to the pub faster.

P.S. and if like me you are wondering about the name ‘Lake District’ based around the Waikato River – the river has lots of lakes created by the dams, hence the name Lake Districts.

 

Hooker Valley Track

When you are road tripping there are some parts of the journey that are just an overnight stop on the way to your destination and I think that is what I thought our overnighter at Glen Tanner was. I couldn’t have been more wrong and the walk we did was one of the highlights of our 3 weeks in the South Island.

There aren’t many places to stay at Mount Cook; a Department of Conservation campground with stunning views of Mount Cook but we were there at peak time and it was packed.

View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner
View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner

We had already booked in at the only other campground, Glen Tanner and arrived at about 4 in the afternoon and found a spot with an impressive view of Mt Cook.

Already I was impressed as I love a campsite with a view.

After a quick set up and a lot of time admiring the view we set off on the Hooker Valley Track about 5pm. One of the things I loved about the South Island was how light it is in the evenings so we could make the most of every minute of the day.

And what an amazing walk up the valley with stunning views of Mt Cook and the surrounding mountain ranges. Awesome suspension bridges spanning an impressive river. It’s a very walkable track and I expect it could be quite busy during the day but walking it at 5pm meant we didn’t end up with too many other people in our photos.

It took about one hour to get to Lake Hooker. It’s not the most picturesque lake as the dirt washing off the glacier at the other end of the Lake makes it very sludgy looking. The glacier at the other end of the Lake doesn’t look that glacial either as it’s covered in grey sludge but the views of Mount Cook are stunning and the little icebergs floating in the lake add to the atmosphere.

We popped our beers and cider into the lake to cool down and then sat for about half an hour soaking in the views.

As we returned to the carpark there were still people starting the track, making the most of doing a very popular South Island walk when it wasn’t too crowded.

More on our South Island adventures.

Kerosene Creek at Rainbow Mountain Reserve

I love the feeling of discovering something new, well new to us anyhow. We have spent a far bit of time in Rotoura ( mostly mountain biking ) so decided to head to Taupo for a long weekend of mountain biking. Where the discovery happened, was as we drove from Taupo to Rotorua ( yes we just can’t stay away ) We had read about Rainbow Scenic Reserve and thought we would do a walk round the Reserve.

Imagine how delighted we were to find that the walking tracks were shared paths. A quick 3 km through the bush and we could be at Kerosene Creek, which I had seen photos of and was keen to explore. So we did a quick change in the carpark and jumped on our bikes – excited to be discovering a new ride. The ride was listed as a grade 2 but we thought it was more of a grade 3 as it had quite a few uphills, switchbacks and the volcanic scoria made it quite skiddy.

The native bush was gorgeous although the trail mustn’t have been used much in places as the tracks were a little overgrown, sometimes with blackberries so it was a little scratchy. Add to that some rain and we were in for a true adventure.

So the 3km seemed further than we thought – that could have been on account of the rain but Kerosene Creek was well worth it.

I should mention at this point that you can drive down a gravel road to Kerosene Creek. I should also explain that although the name doesn’t sound that inviting Kerosene Creek is actually a thermal stream with a waterfall into a dammed pond that people come from near and far to soak in.

The path to the pond meanders down the stream a little and while this may look inviting keep walking as the dammed area is a few minutes walk further down the stream.

It’s a slight clamber down the bank to get into the pond but well worth it. This is a very popular spot and at times there were about 30 people in the pond, however at one point we were lucky enough to have the area to ourselves which was truly magical.

Sitting in thermal water while the stream cascades over the waterfall has to be one of the best experiences of my life. Whether you drive directly to the carpark or walk or ride through the Rainbow Mountain Reserve it’s well worth a visit.

Tarawera Trail

Update April 2017:  Unfortunately the Tarawera trail is currently closed due to recent weather events. Check the Department of Conservation website for further updates.

After walking the Tongariro Crossing with our 7 and 12 year old, we were on the look out for our next adventure and were delighted to find it in the Tarawera Trail.

The first thing to organise is the water taxi to drop you off or pick you up, unless you wanted to walk both ways. I booked the water taxi online about a month before and didn’t find the website that easy to use. In fact our friends had a toddler that we didn’t have to pay for but there was nowhere on the booking system to note that we were bringing a toddler and I thought they might like to know. So I rung the next morning and was told that they didn’t have our booking. Upon further investigation it turns out that when the booking was transferred to a spreadsheet the booking was put down for the wrong day. So I am certainly pleased I rung.

The weather forecast for our walk wasn’t too good but the day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over Mount Tarawera and turned out pretty good. There aren’t a lot of carparks at The Landing where the water taxi leaves from, so I am not sure what you would do if you turned up and the car park was full but we didn’t have to worry about that.

The water taxi ride was awesome, the views stunning and the skipper was very informative and jovial.

I spent a lot of my childhood kayaking in the Tarawera River so was quite excited to go to Hot Water Beach but like many things high expectations can lead to disappointment. I wasn’t prepared for so many people camping there. There isn’t a lot of flat land beside the beach so all the people that were there made the spot seem quite cramped. Still very interesting to visit though and the kids had a great time playing in the warm water. Strangely the hot water entering the lake “floats” on the surface of the cold water lake so the temperature can fluctuate dramatically and burn rings around your ankles.

So after a little foot soak we were off on our hike. I should mention we got dropped off at Hot Water beach and walked back to the landing so we didn’t have to rush with the kids to meet the water taxi. That did mean we couldn’t soak in a hot pool for long but having rushed for a pick up before I enjoyed being able to walk at our own pace.

Its an awesome walk with a little hidden gem that we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere and it was very kind of the seasoned campers at Hot Water Beach to share the fact  that there is hot water running in a stream that has been dammed to create a pool. Its about 1 hours walk from the campground to the amenity / rest spot.  Then take a short side track towards the lake its about 15mins walk. The kids loved that pool and so did we. Enjoy this treasure.

I like a scenic spot for lunch ( whether road tripping, mountain biking or hiking ) and the amenities area had picnic tables but in the direction we walked this was more of a morning tea stop. So we were on the look out for a lunch spot and as we came over a hill we spotted a gorgeous white sandy beach not far off the track so we bush crashed a little to get to the lakes edge. Beautiful. It was only small but it was nice to be by the water for lunch, although our friend who got two mossie bites probably didn’t think so.

The rest of the walk has stunning scenery and was very achievable as it’s mostly undulating terrain ( bearing in mind our kids had walked the 20km Tongariro Crossing the year before and we have maintained their fitness with walks and mountain biking ).

We are back at The Landing at 4pm after setting out from Hot Water Beach about 10am. This included stopping at the hot spring stream pool and a lunch break. The Trail is not too steep and you can keep up a steady pace. We passed quite a lot of trail runners along the way too. Also our friend walked all the way with a 2 year old in a baby backpack.

We would love to do this walk again.

Top tips:

Check your booking with the water taxi.

If you are concerned about making a pick up time like we have been in the past ( and I think this particularly applies when you are walking with kids)  get dropped off at Hot Water Beach and walk back. This did mean we couldn’t enjoy a long dip at Hot Water Beach, but it was so much more relaxing than other adventures when we have been rushing for a pick up.

Check out the dam in the hot stream near the amenities block ( directions above ).

Although the full walk is 15km, if you park at the Landing, water taxi out and return there, it is a shorter walk because you don’ walk back to the tracks main car park start/finish point. Not sure exactly how much shorter, maybe 2km, but you do avoid the final hill.

Climbing a volcano

I have lived in Auckland all my life and travelled around the country climbing up hill and down dale, and all the while one of the coolest adventures sat right there in the middle of our stunning harbour. Rangitoto Island is New Zealand’s youngest volcano and only emerged from the sea 600 years ago – thankfully it’s now dormant.

Looking out at Rangitoto Island from the many beaches around central Auckland is one of my favourite views of all time but it wasn’t till my 4 year old decided he wanted to climb it for his 5th birthday that I considered changing the perspective of the view.

We normally do the ‘standard’ kids birthday party with family and friends but since this was celebrating my son’s 5th birthday we decided to invite the family along with us. My in-laws thought we were mad ( not the first time ), ‘won’t it be dangerous taking a 5 year old to Rangitoto’… ( only if it starts erupting! ) Anyhow they eventually came round and eight of us set out on our Rangitoto Island adventure on a sunny May day.

We caught the train into town so we didn’t have to worry about parking, and who doesn’t love an adventure that starts off with a train trip. There are no cafes on the island so we had a quick coffee stop before we jumped on the ferry.

I always love being on the water and it’s a great view back to the city from the ferry, with the added bonus of the skipper giving a commentary on points of interest. Of course we couldn’t hear a lot of it over my son’s excitement.

From the minute you step on to the island you realise it’s quite different to anywhere else you have been. The exposed volcanic rock made it feel like we were on the moon – not that I have ever been on the moon – but what I imagine the moon would look like.

There are many different walks on Rangitoto. We did the Summit Walk which was a relatively easy ( bearing in mind we had a just-turned-5 year old and 70 year olds walking with us ) one hour climb to the top where the views of the Hauraki Gulf are stunning. As no birthday celebration is complete without a toast to the birthday boy we had beer and bubbles with our picnic lunch while we enjoyed the view.

On the way back to the ferry we did the side track to the lava caves and my Aunt introduced us to the torch apps on our phones. It was nice to get off the main track and scramble a little bit. This side trip takes about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour though so allow for this in your walking times if you can. It’s well worth it and the kids loved it.

Then we get a nice rest on the ferry back to the city after a great day of adventuring right on our back door step. Also a great way to celebrate a birthday and share an adventure with family young and old.

Top tips

There is no shop or café on Rangitoto Island so be sure to take enough food and water for the day.

Wear footwear that can cope with rugged lava/scoria terrain.

Don’t miss your ferry, as there is no accommodation on the island and I hear chartered boat trips can be expensive.