On Waitangi weekend earlier this month, two of my friends and I had made plans to go camping about an hour north of Wellington at a campground called Otaki Forks. It’s on the western side of the Tararua Forest Park, which I mentioned in my Mount Holdsworth blog post. This was the complete opposite side of the Tararuas from that hiking spot.
On Saturday morning, I picked Kate up in Newtown and we headed north out of Wellington. Emma was meant to meet us up there, but she got a little beat up at Gaelic football and ended up staying home to recuperate. When we neared the campsite, signs directed us off the main street onto a gravel road. We had only gone a couple kilometers when we came upon a road block and a sign that the road to Otaki Forks was closed due to a landslide. Change of plans!
Kate and I took this opportunity to have lunch in the car while we contemplated plan B. The Department of Conservation site said they’d post another update on Otaki Forks in the early afternoon, but even then, there was no guarantee the road would reopen. Thanks to Google, we found another campsite not far off called Waikawa, so we decided to give that a go. It was nearly empty when we arrived, so we were in luck!
Time to set up the tent.
You can just glimpse the river behind our site and the bridge over it. Not a bad spot at all, especially for a free campground! I think DOC’s reasoning is generally: long drop toilet = free campsite. Hey, nothing we couldn’t handle.
After setting up, we set out to explore the surrounding forest.
It was a LITTLE muddy after the recent rain. Easy to see why there was a slip on the road to Otaki Forks.
See the dried mud line below the trail sign?
We were making for the “swimming hole,” but just for a look. It wasn’t exactly swimming weather.
For a relatively short trail, the flora was amazingly diverse. This next shot doesn’t even look like NZ to me; it’s more like a southern USA swamp.
Kate had brought her new DSLR, so it was fun to have someone else around to take photos with. Andy and Higgs are pretty good at being patient, but they both start to bark after a while.
Who doesn’t love a good pine forest?!
And we can’t forget the classic NZ fern.
We soon came upon the “swimming hole.” Hmmm, maybe it was all that rain, but it didn’t look very swimmer-friendly.
We headed back to our site before exploring in the other direction, over the bridge behind our tent. Here’s the view from just behind our camping spot. What I’ve referred to as a river is really the Waikawa Stream, but I think that name is selling it short.
We had a picnic for dinner later on overlooking that view. Can’t beat it!
The road on the other side of the bridge must have been for logging or maintenance of some kind, but it served as a great track for exploring.
As afternoon turned to evening, opportunistic birds emerged from the bush to snack on bugs. Dozens of fantails (piwakwaka) darted and dipped around us, sometimes coming within inches. It was an amazing show to watch. They were far too quick to get a decent picture, but here’s one for reference.
We also found a beautiful feather, which may be from a rosella or yellowhammer.
On a less cute note, we saw this mama spider, guarding her “nursery web.” The nursery web spider isn’t venomous, but I’d rather not get up close and personal with this lady.
No thank ya!
We turned back towards our campsite, and as I mentioned earlier, had a wonderful picnic dinner and drinks beside the river. When the weather turned, we retired to our tent and hung out for a bit before bed. The rushing river just meters away lulled us to sleep.
In the morning, we packed up and had a good breakfast in town before heading south to find a hiking spot. Otaki Forks was still closed, so we definitely made the right decision in going to Waikawa. We decided to do a hike in Waikanae that I’d previously discovered a year ago when house/dog-sitting nearby with Andy.
The Hemi Matenga track is a fairly steady uphill climb, but the views are well worth it.
It’s easy to tell which direction the wind comes from.
Before our outdoor weekend was over, we of course had to get one photo of the two of us. Let’s say the lighting and shutter speed weren’t ideal, but I still love the shots. Pretty much sums us up!
A weekend well spent! Thanks for coming along.
My parents arrive in FOUR DAYS, so stay tuned for some awesome Fly adventures in Middle Earth!