About a week and a half ago, Jesse and I said good-bye to Hamilton and began making our way south. Our first stop was a visit to Lake Waikaremoana, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks on the North Island. Neither of us can actually pronounce Waikaremoana, so we invariably say it to the tune of “My Sharona”.
The drive from Hamilton is around 4 hours and the trail is 46 km (28 miles), so it clearly wasn’t going to be do-able as a day trip. We booked some accommodation (the only AirBnB listing) in Wairoa, about an hour and a half from the lake and journeyed down. We sang Christmas carols in the car for a while and found that we’re both a little rusty on the lyrics!
The next morning, using the handy dandy Garmin because this Great Walk is, for some reason, not well marked, we found the official car park! To the top of the peak is where we were headed!
Reminds me a little of my beloved Forest Park!
We were mostly walking along the single track trail and could jut off to the viewpoints to see the lake. Often these viewpoints were completely exposed and featured gale force winds, though just a few feet in we were protected. It didn’t take long to cool off in those spots!
We were only going to the first hut and back, which we found at 10km (6 miles) in. We ate some snacks, making friends with the other hikers and enjoying the warmth inside. It was a short rest, because they estimated our return time to be another 4.5 hours (which we see as “time to beat”). Easy!
It ended up being a gorgeous 20km / 12 mile day, complete with ~3,900 feet of climbing. It was so very different from our Tongariro Crossing experience, but I couldn’t pick one over the other. New Zealand’s Great Walks do not disappoint!
After leaving Wairoa, Jesse and I travelled another few hours south to Masterton to stay with his old college roommate. They have a gorgeous character house in Masterton and it was fun meeting them and exploring the area. Jesse especially like playing with their chickens! On the drive down to Masterton, we stopped in the cute coastal town of Napier for lunch – Jesse was sad Burger Wisconsin was closed but Burger Fuel was a nice alternative. I was not brave enough to try this one though:
We took in a little oceanside mini golf – someone is surprisingly good. A hole in one, even! I was a sore loser and was treated to ice cream for my valiant effort.
After relaxing in Masterton for the morning, we made a quick trip to Cape Palliser, which is the southern-most point on the North Island. We hiked the 253 steps up to the lighthouse, hung out on the rocks with the seals, hunted for paua shells, and then did a short hike in to see some of the Putangirua Pinnacles (funky rock formations where some of the Lord of the Rings was filmed).
*Bonus point round – count up the seals!
This is by far the best road sign in existence. *Note, we did not see any penguins here. Though on the drive from Picton to Chch, I was falling asleep against the window for a few minutes when Jesse shouted “Bobi, wake up and see the seal!” I look from him to the window, groggy and confused while he corrects himself: “I mean penguin!” I caught a glimpse, giggling at the mistake.
Friday morning, we were up at 4:30 AM, drove the winding road to Wellington to catch our 8 AM ferry, landed on the South Island 3 hours later, and drove 5 more hours to Christchurch. We arrived at Dan and Laura’s house saying “Hi, please feed us!” They did and everyone lived happily ever after.