November 14, 2023 Water & Forest (Day 48)

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!).

Our first view of Lake Waikaremoana, “sea of rippling waters”, at the south end of Te Urewera. It was so windy there were whitecaps on the lake!

We stopped at the visitor center at Aniwaniwa, but it was closed and has been since this sign from February 12!

Highlights are mine. Translations: Papatuanuku=’The Earth Mother’; manuhiri=’visitor, guest’; kaimahi=’worker, staff, employee.

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!

Papakorito Falls!

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.

Aniwaniwa Falls, I learned later!

We clambered down a steep slope to the base.

If you look closely you can spot a black swan in the lower right, calmly swimming around. We tried not to disturb it.

Robert is the happiest Birthday Boy! Nature is delivering great presents!

Hiking back up on what turned out to be a loop trail back to the car, we encountered a third waterfall with a tranquil swimming hole. Too bad it was too cold to swim!

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.

The views of the lake were fantastic. The lush native forest grows right to the edge!

Robert had to keep his eyes on the road!

Glad we didn’t meet anyone coming the other way!

Signs we are approaching a town!

A Marae being repaired/restored.

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!

“Wandering Stock” as the signs said!

“I’m ready for my closeup!”

We stopped at a picturesque park just out of town hoping to have some lunch, but it was too windy!

We stretched our legs a bit, then continued on to another less picture worthy spot, but less windy too!

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.

Looking back at the lush forests of Te Urewera on our way back home.

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!

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