A couple of weekends ago we journeyed back to the Wairarapa and stayed with my cousin Amanda for a night in Masterton. We were over the hill for a birthday party celebrating cousin Julian’s 30th birthday. We made the most of our time starting with lunch in Greytown with Amanda and Uncle Michael. Before the evening entertainment we had a walk in the Holdsworth area of the Tararua Forest Park. We had three dogs with us and all was going well until one disappeared. Amanda went off looking for the missing mutt while Keryn and I took the Gentle Annie track up to a viewpoint called Rocky Lookout.

The track wasn’t steep but did pretty much wind uphill for forty minutes of walking, so we were grateful for a rest at the lookout. The track is fairly new and looked it being well maintained and with very nice steps. Being the middle of the afternoon the sun was high in the sky and there was little in the way of clouds so the light was a bit harsh for decent photos, not that it stopped me snapping away.

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Looking to the hills

Heading back into the forest I took more photos as we came down to the valley floor, the big trees and undergrowth looking good with the sunlight filtering through the canopy.

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The remains of a grand tree

Amanda was waiting for us with the three dogs, the wantaway one having found his way back to the car on his own. A few more photos and then we were off back to Amanda’s for dinner and then it was on to Carterton for the birthday celebration. There were school collegue guests as well and we had a good evening of talking spiced up with a mamoth drinking game session. We left in the early morning (Keryn not drinking, therefore driving) and retired once back in Masterton.

A slow start to the morning turned into a trip out to Castlepoint for Keryn and I. We took in the lighthouse and the fishing boats lined up on the beach, sitting in large boat trailers with tractors positioned ready to take the boats into the surf. There was a clever sculpture made by nailing lost jandals (thongs, flip flops) to a post. The sculpture was labelled “Home of the lost soles”.

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Castlepoint Lighthouse

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Lost Soles

We had parked on the beach and moved the car to a carpark off the sand. While getting ready to walk to Castle Rock another car pulled up and out got John Howe, an artist known for his painting around the writings of JRR Tolkien (amongst other artwork). John is in New Zealand working on the Hobbit movie pre-production. We left him and (I presume) his family alone to enjoy the scenery and set off on our walk.

The path took us through a stand of tall pines and along a ridge above the beach. We reached the rock after stopping to take some photos of the bay further down the coast, Christmas Bay. There isn’t a proper path up the rock itself but a track has been worn in by countless people passing this way. We made our way up and stopped at the edge where the rock drops away to the ocean far below. The wind was quite strong on this exposed edge and we didn’t hang around for long.

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Christmas Bay

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A photo from the edge

Down on the beach we could see a group going through surfing lessons. They were improving all the time, loud encouragement to be heard when ever anyone stood on their board to ride the incoming waves. We walked back along the beach and got back to the car. We bought some food at the local dairy/cafe and ate it in the car while looking out to sea. Then we started back heading for Wellington.

We took a last minute diversion when we spotted a sign for the Waiohine Gorge. Amanda had talked about the bridge over the gorge, the highest suspension bridge in the Southern Hemisphere and I wanted to take a look. The gorge road was unsealed and very dry so the car was soon dust covered and even more in need of a clean than it had already been. We drove till the road ended at a carpark and after looking at the map by the carpark we realised we didn’t have much of a walk to the bridge.

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The bridge

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From the bridge looking up the gorge

As indicated we walked for all of a minute to find the bridge and it was indeed very high above the river. I must be getting over some of my vertigo as I had no problems with the bridge and we were soon on the other side. We didn’t hang around on the bridge as we still had an hour drive back home, but when I found a path down to the river back at the carpark I headed down for some river shots. Sunlight was leaving the gorge so I concentrated on the water and finding patterns in the flow over the rocks.

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River over stones

A final few shots looking up at the bridge and I was done. The drive back to Wellington and our place in Epuni was without incident and we had a nice meal of fish and chips from So Fine Seafoods to end our day.

The weekend just gone we joined some of my family in visiting Ohakune. We drove up on Friday night with Catherine and Paul in their car. We were staying in an a-frame holiday home and arrived well after dark to find Bridget already arrived and my nephew Adam already asleep in bed. Being tired we didn’t stay up for long.

Saturday we all walked into the town centre (five minutes down the road) and had a look at some of the shops and the information centre. On the way back we stopped at a bakery and got some lunch. Keryn and I then drove with Bridget and Adam up to Turoa skifield so have some time in the snow. The skifield itself was closed, the lifts shut down probably due to the high winds on the upper reaches of the mountain. We all wrapped up and walked on the snow and had a quick slide on a plastic sled bridget had bought with her. Adam seemed nonplussed by the snow, taking his first experience very quietly.

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Bridget and Adam ready to slide

Heading back down the mountain we stopped at a signposted waterfall lookout. It was a very short walk to the lookout and the waterfall was impressive. I took a few photos and then we headed back to the house.

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Lined up at the Mangawhero Waterfall lookout

Keryn and I went for another longer walk in the afternoon. We walked the Waitonga Falls Track through attractive forest and then on a boardwalk over a mountain bog. After the boardwalk the track descended into a valley, eventually coming out at a stream, the Waitonga waterfall visible ahead. We walked along the stream for a while looking for an easy way across without getting wet but didn’t find one so I settled for taking photos at a distance. After I had sated my photographic need it was back up the track heading for the car.

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The boardwalk

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The Waitonga Waterfall

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Russett colours on the bog

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The bridge near the start of the track

Back at the house Keryn and I cooked up nachos for everyone and we relaxed for the evening. The next day dawned wet so the planned walk to somewhere for breakfast turned into a drive. We had a nice breakfast at the Fat Pigeon Cafe, I had a very nice stack of pancakes with banana and berries on top. The rain stopped any plans for more walking so we returned to the house to pack and clean up, heading back for Wellington around lunchtime. We ended up stopping in Taihape to get some lunch and had one more stop in Levin to stretch the legs. It was good to get back to Wellington and have one last drive back to our house. Dinner was a pizza from the local award winning Pizzeria, Pepes Pizza Parlour. The pizza was good, I imagine we’ll be back for more in the future.


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