We started out after a hearty breakfast into a chilly very windy day. The sun would break out of the clouds briefly, but it felt like rain was threatening. We were taking highway 38, most of which is gravel, through the heart of Te Urewera (literally “the burnt penis”, why? I couldn’t find out, this is as far as I got! Another reason to come back!).
We stopped at the visitor center at Aniwaniwa, but it was closed and has been since this sign from February 12!
Luckily the store/office of the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park was open and we could get our hot coffee & tea! At the suggestion of the gentleman behind the counter we should take the road to the right before we cross the bridge to see a great waterfall and swimming hole. So of course we did! After driving down a smaller gravel road to the end we parked and walked the trail to emerge to this!
Returning to the main road we crossed it and parked at another parking area to follow a trail towards the sound of a waterfall. After walking up and around a forested hill we descended to the next waterfall.
We clambered down a steep slope to the base.
All the signage for the falls was apparently destroyed in the cyclone because tho we saw posts, there were no signs. We left the falls area and continued on the winding and narrow road, ascending along a ledge above Lake Waikaremoana and descending through lush forest, opening to valley meadows in the interior at small towns.
Robert had to keep his eyes on the road!
We reached the town of Ruatahuna – The Heart of Te Urewera. There was a health fair going on, we didn’t stop, except for the traffic on the road!
We stopped at a picturesque park just out of town hoping to have some lunch, but it was too windy!
We could tell when we left Te Urewera because the forest changed from lush diversity to monoculture pine trees (can’t really call it a forest), planted in rows.
What we took away from our 3 day adventure is the peace and beauty of the area and the generosity and resiliency of the people who call it home. What disturbed us was the difference between the lush forests of the interior and the barren, blistered, overgrazed looking pastures around Gisborne and towards Wairoa. The areas where the cattle and sheep graze had gashes of tan earth where sections of the hillsides seem to be sliding down. I don’t know if it was the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, or 150 years of forest elimination and intensive agriculture or a combination of both that create that circumstance. I can’t claim I’m not partly responsible, I do like a glass of chardonnay with my lamb chop!