Christmas Staycation

Over the holidays, Andy and I both had two weeks off. In NZ, government offices and many private companies shut down for at least two weeks, and it’s great because people take a good chunk of time off (work to live, not live to work, right?). Although the Zoo doesn’t close (except on Christmas), I decided to take the two weeks as well, along with most of the office staff.

Wellington chose to smile upon us this year, and we had brilliant weather almost the entire time. Temperatures got up into the 30s (high 80s F), which feels a lot hotter with the NZ sun. It was perfect for swimming and evening dog walks.

After a lovely Christmas with friends featuring a huuuge meal, we settled in for some slow easy days. One of our first adventures was out to Tunnel Gully, an area we often visit. We started out on the Rimutaka Rail Trail, which as you guessed, used to be a train track. The tunnels are the most fun part!

We leashed up the three pups (we were watching Shadow for a week) and headed through. I got a bit of vertigo near the middle of the tunnel, as I all of a sudden had the sensation the exit wasn’t getting any closer as we walked. Luckily, it passed as quickly as it came on.

On the other side, we were soon in lush rainforest and exploring Tāne’s Track. In Māori mythology, Tāne is the god of forests and of birds, so you can see why that’s an appropriate name.

After about a forty minute loop walk, we were back at the same tunnel to head out. This time, we decided to leave the dogs free, but had to hurriedly grab them when some bikes came through. Luckily we had flashlights so we didn’t blend too much into the dark when they whizzed by. Oh yeah, and I don’t think they would’ve missed the sound of Vallhunds barking.

One of our next walks was closer to home, by Heretaunga Park. There’s a fabulous wetland there and the dogs always enjoy it. The fields around the wetland track had recently been hayed, and the pups had a great time chasing each other around.

Time to cool off – so let’s pick some really clear looking water…

Gotta love dogs! We found a clean spot for them to rinse off, and Fern swam after ducks for a good ten minutes, tiring herself out. The ducks weren’t concerned at all.

On one of the hottest days, we decided to head down to a place we’d wanted to swim for a while, below Riverstone Terraces in Te Awa Kairangi, the Hutt River.

The dogs even found soggy potato chips in the sand to eat – yum! Then they’d swim out and check we weren’t drowning every so often (as above).

Of course, the donut float came along! The water here is always pretty chilly, so I’m quite happy to float along.

It was an amazing spot to spend a couple hours, and golden hour was upon us as we headed back up to our car.

A couple days later, we decided to check out a new trail that we’d heard about from our dog walker, in the Haywards (only about five minutes from us).

The entrance to the Falls Track is almost overgrown, so if we hadn’t known where to look, we would’ve missed it. In the early evening, we were the only ones there and it had a magical feel to it, like we’d stepped through a portal into Narnia.

No gumboots for us, since we didn’t mind getting our feet wet on a warm day.

After over a dozen stream crossings, we made it to the falls at the end.

The path continued on for a bit and a sign said it was “for experienced trampers only.” Andy stayed with the dogs while I checked it out, since we could see there was a guide rope alongside, and didn’t want the dogs up there. As herding dogs, they hate it when we split up, so I could hear anxious yips down below.

Nothing much to see but some more smaller falls. Time to head back home, but we’ll definitely check this one out again!

Another morning, trying to beat out the heat of the day, we did the Horoeka Reserve walk in Stokes Valley. Even though it was early, we ended up pretty hot by the end! There are fairy homes all along the lower part of the track that local kids put up – a really cool idea. It’s not hard to picture fairies living somewhere like this.

One weekday, we went to Petone for a walk along the beach, which is a popular spot for dogs.

Higgs and Fern both love running into the sea, though they usually don’t go deep enough to swim.

There are great views across the harbor to Wellington and Matiu-Somes Island from here.

Our biggest adventure was an overnight camping trip to Mt Holdsworth, a great spot in the Wairarapa at the foot of the Tararuas, just over an hour from home. It ended up pretty rainy on the day we arrived, but it only made the lush forest of the Tararua Ranges even more enchanting. After setting up camp, we set off on a walk.

There were a few people out and about, but it was pretty quiet for the most part. I think a lot of folks may have been put off by the weather, but it was certainly better than sleeping in a tent on a scorching day.

Incredible places like this remind me exactly why I moved to NZ in the first place. The forest felt otherworldly, especially with the low-hanging mist and light rain.

We even passed an Ent.

Nearing the beginning of the hike after doing a loop, we crossed this beautiful bridge for the second time.

Back at the campground, we lounged in the tent, read our books and had a nice dinner, before retiring early. The dogs were pretty good, especially Fern for her first camping trip. Well, besides her eating something questionable off the ground and throwing up when we first arrived, and Higgs peeing on the outside corner of the tent. With all the rain, our tent did smell a bit of wet dog, but they were quiet throughout the night in their beds.

We had a fairly secluded spot because there was enough space at the campground to spread out, so it was a lovely night away.

That’s just a glimpse of our activities over the holidays, and now we’re struggling to adjust to normal life again after our first week back at work. At least there are some long weekends coming up!

Stay tuned for a sunny day trip into the Wairarapa, complete with lavender picking and a gorge visit.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Staycation

  1. Thanks for the trip and guide”notes.” Beautiful country, fantastic pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Just pop over here and I’d be happy to play guide. 🙂


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