Having explored the Coromandel and celebrated an amazing birthday in Hobbiton, it was finally time to head back to Wellington with my parents. We had a few hours to drive and wanted to see some sights along the way, so we set out early from our bach in Putaruru.
Our first stop was Taupo to see the Aratiatia Rapids. We were lucky enough to time it just right, and got to the dam as the gates were being opened to release water down the Waikato River, which only happens four times each day. This influx of water is what causes the rapids, where Bilbo and the dwarves bobbed downstream in barrels in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Here’s the calm before the release.
And here comes the water!
We walked downstream a bit for a different view.
Just as we were turning to leave, the sun came out.
I’ve been to Taupo a couple times, but never made it to this spot. I’d definitely recommend it!
Huka Falls isn’t far downstream, so we headed there next.
We were even treated to a rainbow. I wouldn’t want to dive in for the pot of gold at the end of this one, though.
We stopped in for a coffee and bite to eat in central Taupo before hitting the road. After a hazy morning, we were excited that the sky cleared as we drove across the Central Plateau.
Andy waited patiently while we all got photos of the volcanoes.
Our next detour was to Rangitikei Gorge, another spot I hadn’t been to before. It turned out to be a longer side trip than we anticipated, but when we got to the bridge over the Rangitikei River, it was well worth it.
Standing by the edge of the bridge was thrilling, looking down from a dizzying height at the river far below. The Rangitikei sure has been working hard, wearing away the surrounding rock for a long, long time.
From there, we made straight for Wellington, only stopping for a kebab in Bulls. We were all eager to get to Higgs.
Needless to say, everyone got along like a house on fire, and we enjoyed a nice relaxed evening at our house. Higgs was thrilled to have eight hands to pat him instead of four, and to finally meet his grandparents.
The next day, Andy worked a half day, and I took my parents and Higgs for brunch in Kelburn and a walk to the Cable Car lookout over Welly. We then picked Andy up in town and made for our next destination, Martinborough. No wine lover should come to Wellington without a trip over the Rimutakas to the Wairarapa!
Our bach was an old general store, relocated and situated in an olive grove outside of town. Boy, it didn’t disappoint!
Here’s what it looked like in its previous life. They somehow managed to move it all the way from Eastbourne, across the harbor from Wellington, and over the Rimutaka Mountains to Martinborough.
We sat and basked in the sunshine, listening to birdsong and enjoying a drink (or three) on the porch.
We loved wandering through the peaceful olive grove just past our doorstep.
One of us even found some rabbits to chase. I’ll let you guess which one.
Olives were everywhere in sight, but not quite ready for picking.
It was easy to pretend we just lived here, in this tranquil grove in the countryside.
I can’t blame the birds who have claimed this spot for themselves. They obviously know a good view when they see one.
Even the sky put on a show for us on our first night.
The next day, we went into town for the massive craft fair that Martinborough puts on twice a year. The three boys weren’t as keen, one of them being especially barky, so my mom and I stuck around while Andy, Higgs and my dad walked back to the bach. After meeting up again, we toured the wineries on foot and enjoyed an incredible lunch at Poppies. Having ate and drank our fill, we came back to our little slice of paradise.
Since it was our final evening, I had to get a few more shots in the golden afternoon light. Fam photo time!
We took multiple shots, and it always makes me laugh to see how Higgs behaves.
I love how these group shots came out, even if Andy and Higgs missed the “silly face” memo in the final one.
For dinner, my dad grilled lamb, venison and sausages from the local butcher out on the barbecue. We played games, drank wine and had a wonderful night. Higgs even got some leftover lamb fat. To top it all off, we got a brilliant view of the stars overhead and listened to ruru (NZ native owls, a.k.a. morepork) calling as they hunted in the olive grove at night. What a beautiful place.
It was difficult to say goodbye on our last morning, but we had a Vallhund walk to get to! Most people live their entire lives without getting to experience the glory of a Vallhund walk, but my parents were lucky enough to come to NZ at exactly the right time, and I think it’s fair to say it was one of the highlights of the trip.
Up next, Queenstown! Wine, hiking, Lord of the Rings, and did I mention wine?