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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Serendipitous Nookie, NZ's North Island

Redwoods!  In New Zealand; felt like home to a couple California kids.
Tararua Forest Park, New Zealand.
Catching an early ferry – or rather the fear of missing it – doesn’t lend itself well to leisurely romantic mornings (if you get my drift).  Ironically, we got an hour more than we’d planned, but mostly spent it waiting in line in a parking lot as BlueBridge Ferry bumped us to InterIslander Ferry. InterIslander left an hour later. 

On our way down to South Island, we opted to not take the overnight ferry from Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island).  We could’ve nabbed a room aboard for the passage for just a tad more than the day price, standard grab-a-seat-wherever.  We opted out to enjoy the view into New Zealand's South Island – and the view was fabulous (click here to see that)!

Wayne on the loop trail at
Kiriwhakapapa Campsite – aka
Forest Park, in the Southern inland
stretch of New Zealand’s North Island.
An overnight ferry wasn’t an option returning – there simply were none.  Again, we figured it would be silly to book a room for just the morning.  Besides, if we had and got bumped to InterIslander, unlike BlueBridge. InterIslander ferry didn’t offer rooms.

Thus thrice New Zealand ferries foiled my nefariously naughty plans…

In any case, Wayne and I were both feeling a bit randy as our drive Northbound along highway 2 progressed.

Was this one twisted tree?  An interloper taking over 
the base tree?  Or the base tree holding its own in a
dance with another tree?  We weren’t sure,
but it sure looked cool!
Now in the US, we’ve been known to explore a side road and claim it as our own little lover’s lane.  However in New Zealand, we find that dalliance a bit more challenging, with so much of the land gobbled up into fenced and often gated private pastureland.

Thus, well between towns, when I saw a treed turn-off, with an arrow pointing down what looked like a less-traveled country road to “Forest Park,” I promptly directed Wayne there. 

Vines surround and ferns spout out of these mossy trees in
New Zealand’s North Island Forest Park.  Again, felt like home,
in this case the USA Pacific Northwest Cascade forests.
And so Wayne drove.  And drove.  And drove a bit more, from paved to gravel road.  The sign didn’t say how far Forest Park was.  The only pullouts were homestead entry drives.  Not viable.

These tree roots gnarled their way across the trail,
natural sculptures in New Zealand’s Kiriwhakapapa Forest Park.
A little over 7 clicks but a good half hour later, we found ourselves at the end of the road, in Tararua Reserve, a perfect little park and Department of Conservation (DoC) campground.  Gravel parking lot surrounded by a flat grassy stretch dotted with trees and flax, bordered on one site by a burbling stream, in a small valley surrounded by forested hills, alive with the sound of songbirds.  There was only one other car there, and it appeared they were parked for the day hikes or perhaps the nearby Blue Hut for overnight tramping.

We parked in a flat grassy stretch tucked between trees in range of stream’s sweet serenade and “enjoyed our solitude.”

Shared "solitude' done, it was 4 pm.  We’d traveled only about 125 km; less than 100 miles since we exited the ferry a little past 1 pm.  We generally get in more miles, yet we also typically stop our driving for the day between 4 and 6 pm.  There was nothing all that awesome in the next hour’s worth of driving or so, except perhaps the Mount Bruce Centre, already closed for the day.

Kiriwhakapapa, a perfect little DoC campsite for $12 NZD
(about $7.50 USD) for two.  Grassy area, near a burbling stream,
flush toilets, and non-potable running water.
We decided to take a hike, and stay the night.  What are the odds of finding a perfect campsite like this and having it all to ourselves?  Flat grassy tent area, beautiful spot, running water and flush toilets, covered picnic area…. We were just as tickled as when it happened at Nikau Caves (click here to read about oasis). 

We returned from our hike, pitched our tent and ate supper. 





Much of the Tararua Forest Park trail paralleled
this lovely stream, which ran alongside
the campground as well.  North Island, New Zealand.
About a half hour later, I noticed a tall guy on foot looking around.  He and his girlfriend bicycled in and planned to camp the night.  They wondered about the water.  I offered him some of ours when I found out he was thirsty as the camp water wasn’t drinkable unless purified.  

Another hour or so and a campervan pulled in.  They drove around a bit and ultimately chose to camp a ways away, right next to the bathroom, where they lit a roaring bonfire.

As I drifted off to sleep, at 11:30 pm I was blinded by the headlights from yet another camper van trying to decide where to camp in the darkness.  After much driving about, they settled in less than 50 yards from us.  There were so many awesome places they could have chosen.  What the f--- were they thinking?!?  For at least 45 minutes they gibbered, banged and rattled about until they finally settled down for the night.

The next morn the songbirds woke us up, bright and early, which was good as we planning to make up for a bit of lost road time.  We paused only to make instant coffee and pack.  I was sorely temped to return the audio favor to the van parked far too close to us, but politeness barely overcame an intense, sleep-deprived urge to exhibit some passive aggressive behavior.

Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre sounded intriguing, but wasn’t open until 9 a.m.  With an hour-plus wait and a $20 NZD per person entry, we skipped it and hit the road.  We had many miles (or kilometers here in New Zealand) to go.
Even if you don’t have it all to yourselves come sunset, Kiriwhakapapa is great little spot for some pleasant, easy hikes and to settle for an eve.  We never would’ve found Forest Park – although it is marked on maps that show all the DoC campsites – unless we were looking for the right place for a little romance.  

Wayne doing dirty work where he pulled
Journey’s at Riverside Marina, Whangarei.
Most cruising boats have engine rooms;
the only reason there’s room here is
because our engine is out.
Location Location

We stopped at Forest Park on February 4, 2014; the latter part of our near month long road trip blitzing New Zealand from Northlands to its Southernmost mainland tip, at Bluff, South Island, then back.  Forest Park is between the Southern inland stretch of New Zealand’s North Island on highway 2, ~16 km North of Masterton and just South of Mt. Bruce Nature Centre.  We are currently back in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), doing some much needed boat work before we resume cruising.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).