Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Waitahanui River

What a day to step softly or gently cast a fly upon the moving waters. The Waitahanui river is a fly fisher's dream and our idea of a perfect walk. We got lost in the reserve each time we entered.

The original Waitahanui Lodge (we're staying in the 1950s version) was built in 1932 on 2.5 acres by ex-pat Englishman Fred Fletcher. He and his family worked from dawn until dark in the middle of winter to get the lodge up. 

In those days, the trout being caught here often weighed more than 20 pounds.

The old weatherboard lodge consisted of a dining room, kitchen, living room, and sleeping for nine, no electricity or running water, but most certainly a smokehouse to smoke trout and also to cure wild pork and venison.

In the early days there was no limit on the catch and word soon got out. Before long people from around NZ and the world came to stay, including diplomats and English royalty (who, it has been noted, were treated just the same as everyone else). In the 1950s, the lodge was rebuilt into individual units, still spartan by today's standards.

Look at the clarity of this water.

We walked the dreamy river on each of the three mornings we awoke here, occasionally speaking to the fishers, women and men skilled at arcing a line elegantly across the sky. More on the fishing here.

The reserve is just across the street from our small space, where we've awakened to the sound of waves each day.

2023 stats

Self-contained accommodation is common here and includes a kitchen and bathroom. I wrangled that oven-top electric range at left until we got meals from it.

Last night Art grilled on the gas grill just outside our door. We wanted burgers.

Here's a curious product, ground coffee in bags, kind of like tea. These came with the room so I tried them and was as underwhelmed with the result as I was in 2019.

It's summer's end and tomatoes are still decent, though not unsprayed. The meat was delectable.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Postcard from a Rotorua Marae and on to Lake Taupo

We walked an exquisite local marae before leaving Rotorua, marveling at the area's tidy symmetry and detail.

Unique to the Māori cultural experience is the marae, a communal and sacred meeting ground that provides everything from eating and sleeping space to religious and educational facilities.


At the front of the meeting house is the kōruru, carved to represent the face of the ancestor. The two long beams trailing down are the maihi and represent the arms, at the ends of which are the raparapa or fingers of the ancestor. Supporting the beams are the amo, or legs, holding up the entirety of the building. Finally, standing aloft at the top of the marae is the tekoteko, or statue, which represents the ancestor in all their revered likeness.



 There was also a cemetery on site.


Then a stop at the grocery, whose full bins belied the note below. Between the heavy rains and cyclone some weeks ago, it's true though that many growing areas have been devastated.

Next time I'm going to get the green-lipped mussels...

At the heart of New Zealand’s central volcanic plateau sits the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, Lake Taupo. This huge, shining expanse of water, moving between aquamarine blue and jade green, is crystal-clear to a depth of 13 metres. It is home to one of the best wild trout fisheries in the world, more than 30 species of water bird, several types of native fish and native koura (crayfish).
Art found a sweetheart of a spot right on the lake, redolent of summers long past. So much lakefront property has been built up, occupied by hotels or private homes, much like in the US. In the setting sun, Waitahanui Lodge is Kiwiana personified.

Inside, all the bits that needed restoring have been done, while some, like this workable range, have been left alone.
Sauteed gurnard for supper, with creme fraiche and chutney

Lake Taupo beckons to walkers.

And the individual units compel you to take off your shoes and stay awhile.

The Waitahanui Lodge has much more going for it, though. It sits steps from the Waitahanui River, world famous for its trout fishing. Just walking the winding river paths is a thrill. More on that next time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Twelve-Foot Swells?

Checking the ferry schedule to see if there were any earlier bookings, I ran across this. Twelve-foot swells? Just how keen are you to get across?

Interislander - Service Alert

Wednesday 22 March: The 3:45 pm (ex Wellington) and 8:35 pm (ex Picton) Aratere sailings are going ahead as well as the 8:30 pm Kaiarahi sailing from Wellington tonight but it will be rough. Swells are likely to be over 4 metres. You may want to reconsider your travel if you get seasick. Full refunds are available and unfortunately, we are fully booked and cannot offer alternative sailings.  See Service Alerts for more. 


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Full Disclosure: A Report from NZ's North island

Before we get into it, here's me with a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, happy en general, but also a wee bit frustrated.


John Lennon famously sang "life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans" and for us this rings especially true. Geography review: NZ is made up of two main islands, north and south. This being our fourth visit, you'd expect us to have a favorite, and we do.

The South Island it is, with the spine of the alps, Aoraki/Mt Cook, and many many other treasured spots. The North Island? So much to love and we've seen a lot of it, though this time sadly many roads in the eastern cape have been decimated by the recent cyclone, putting it out of reach.

People move from North Island (Wellington) to South (Picton) across the Cook Strait via ferry, either Interislander or Bluebridge. You can also fly, but obviously not with a vehicle or freight. And here's where our story gains some drama. On March 14 we innocently logged onto the ferry website to book a crossing one week away, plenty of time to drive to Wellington. We quickly discovered there were no slots available until April 17.

Historically, we've been able to book within a few days. We now find ourselves kicking around the North Island for an extra month. We had to delay pick-up of the caravan, the nice people on the South Island saying they fully understood, had people living in caravans because they couldn't get a ferry back north and couldn't get accommodation in the overloaded town of Picton. Some had to leave their cars at the airport and fly back north for work.

In late February, the ferry fleet was reduced from six to one. Read more here. One of the Interislander ferries broke down at sea in mid-February, drifted toward rocks, and put out a mayday call, leading to what one person on board called "the scariest 12 minutes of his life." More on that here. And extra engineering issues here.

I'm honestly finding it difficult to collate all the mishaps the ferries have endured, with stories of people--and freight--stuck on both ends. Right now we're feeling grateful to have the April 17 crossing.

So how 'bout some mini-golf?

With weeks to forge fresh plans on the North Island--and still jet lagged--we booked into a hotel in Rotorua that had an array of outdoor activities. Art's clearly been holding out on me regarding his mini golf skills.

Five under par


The next morning, with nowhere to be but a second hotel in Rotorua, I attempted to regain my dignity with a near-hole-in-one ("If there were a minor earthquake right now that would have gone in").


Our new hotel is right on the water with walking access everywhere in town.

The dramatic waterfront redevelopment in Rotorua gets high marks. Check out the boardwalk, new plantings, and truly the best play park for kiddos, who were out with parents yesterday, a Sunday.

It was a dramatic day, overcast and warm in the low 70s.

 The park even has a zipline...

 Brighter this morning

We have plenty of time to get organized. Today we walked to AA (NZ's version of AAA) and reinstated our membership.

Also space to regain our sense of time and to read, eat, and ponder our next move.

We found a bookshop and I finally got the new Eleanor Catton, Birnam Wood, which the woman at check-out said was received variably by her book group. I'm hopeful, though, since I devoured her Booker Prize winning The Luminaries.

Steak and vegetables for first meal.

A few days ago we walked to Atlantis Books, a used shop.

Yesterday, Sunday brunch why not. What does body language tell us about the couple at Table 46?

Everywhere in Rotorua, Maori culture and geothermal activity.

Rotorua has the nickname Sulphur City, because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions, which gives Rotorua a “rotten eggs” smell...It is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers – notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa – and hot mud pools. This thermal activity is sourced to the Rotorua caldera, on which the town lies...37.5% of the population are Maori, compared to 14.9% in New Zealand as a whole.

Walk on, friends. We'll keep you posted.