Summer days part 2: The Putangirua Pinnacles

Saturday saw us traversing the Rimutaka Hill Road with a destination of the Putangirua Pinnacles on the Wairarapa south coast. We were not alone in our choice and as we sat at a picnic table for an early lunch there was a constant stream of vehicles arriving and departing the pinnacles campsite and carpark.

It was a hot day with little wind and it was refreshing to enter the forest as we took the track up towards the pinnacles lookout. Again we had Alayna counting steps and also introduced a game of hide a seek with various family members dispatched ahead to hide. Alayna enjoyed pretending not to notice people ineffectively hiding behind narrow trees and would be smiling when we walked past her hiding similarly.

Grandad "hides"

Grandad hides

Waiting to be found

Waiting to be found

Who is behind that tree?

Who is behind that tree?

You can't see me!

You can’t see me!

We reached a ridgeline and spent some time walking up, down and around the ridge mostly in the sun and it was a relief to finally reach the pinnacles lookout. We had a good sit down, rest and snack after taking in the view and after a brief discussion headed down the steeper track to the valley floor. It was a direct track and I’m glad we hadn’t walked up it (30 minutes up, 15 minutes down).

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

At the pinnacles lookout

At the pinnacles lookout

When we got to the rocky streambed that formed the valley floor I decided to head up to the base of the pinnacles while everyone else started back to the car. We’d been seeing (and passed by) lots of families and groups of tourists and the again there were lots of people around as I trudged upward. At the head of the valley there were two different groups playing around with their drones, filling the valley with a buzz like giant bees. I took a few photos and then took off to try and catch the rest of the family.

Heading down-valley

Heading down-valley

In amongst the pinnacles

In amongst the pinnacles

Up a narrow valley

Up a narrow valley

I caught up with everyone eventually and found Alayna happily throwing rocks into the stream bed. Picking our path alongside the stream we were not long to be back at the fork where we had headed up to the lookout and from there is was only 15 minutes back to the (stinking hot) cars. The road was quieter as we drove to Martinborough, perhaps most of the visitors already heading home.

Playing with rocks

Playing with rocks

The south coast road

The south coast road

Summer at the beach

Summer at the beach

Ice cream time

Ice cream time

The Wairarapa visit was completed with ice cream at the square and we sat on a picnic blanket in the shade feeling content. The ice cream was wonderful and made for a lovely footnote to our day.

Summer days part 1: Otari-Wilton and Titahi bay

The last few days have blessed us with lovely weather so we’ve been out and about. On friday afternoon we took a walk at Otari-Wilton Bush. There was abundant birdlife with dozens of tuis and kakariki flying overhead, plenty of kereru around and also a pair of k?rearea circling around a tree on the other side of a valley. We encouraged Alayna to walk as much as possible partially by having her count the steps we ascended, she did really well and also enjoyed crossing bridges, throwing leaves into streams for races and walking over rocks whenever possible. We ended up at the flax clearing which would have been better described as the daisy clearing for our visit, a carpet of flowers punctuating the dry grass.

Crossing the stream

Crossing the stream

Family in the daisies

Family in the daisies

Daisy Alayna

Daisy Alayna

Keryn made Alayna a daisy head dress and Alayna chased me around the clearing while I snapped away. We took a few family photos after clearing some (but not enough apparently) of the more intrusive grass stalks. We had some of the gingerbread that was left over from Christmas and watched a procession of birds fly overhead. There was a large pohutukawa covered in fading but still resplendent red blooms and the tree positively humbed with its audience of bees. There was time for some silliness and then we were off back towards the parked car.

Fading summer red

Fading summer red

The happy frog

The happy frog

It being such a nice evening we took the opportunity to purchase fish and chips in Porirua and then head over to Titahi Bay beach for a picnic dinner. We sat on some steps near the middle of the beach and watched the people wandering along the beach, the paddleboarders crossing the bay and the brave few playing in the water while the southerly breeze keep the temperature a little cool. We attracted a growing flock of seagulls and Alayna took great delight in chasing them away, at least until the numbers got so great that they just circled around behind her. It was a very pleasant evening.

Titahi Bay

Titahi Bay

The seagulls were persistent

The seagulls were persistent

Alayna chasing seagulls

Alayna chasing seagulls

Te Araroa: Pukerua Bay to Paekakariki

The new Paekakariki Escarpment track, a recent addition to the Te Araroa NZ trail, has been open for a few weeks now and we’d been thinking about giving it a go. The fabulous weather continues and we decided that Saturday morning would be our time. The only concern was my football in the afternoon so we had to leave early, as it turned out earlier than we normally leave for work. We decided to walk north and this found us driving and parking up at Paekakariki Station to then catch a train back to Pukerua Bay to start walking. It also helped get Alayna excited, she likes public transport a lot.

Travel by train

Travel by train

Train station playing

Train station playing

Here is my ticket

Here is my ticket

Everything went to plan and we started our trek at the right time of 8:30am. The walk is meant to take 3-4 hours and we thought we’d probably be a little slow but would get back to Paekakariki around lunchtime. From Pukerua Station the path took us through some streets and then a small park before joining the new trail at the now closed Muri station. We had a couple of trains pass by as we walked along beside the train tracks and Alayna got a few waves and a small toot from train drivers, they must be a friendly bunch.

Escarpment Track

Escarpment Track

Lets begin

Lets begin

We were soon rising up the hillside and getting grand views both of the Tasman Sea to the west and the farmland and coastal scrub to the east. The stands of trees all bore evidence of the often harsh climate with windblown branches leaning away. It was a calm day with only a slight southerly and out to sea there were a number of kayakers out fishing. The South Island was hidden behind a bank of cloud but Kapiti Island was a strong, familiar presence. Every kilometre of the track was marked with an iron signpost, we seemingly quickly covered the first 2 kilometres but then the steps started.

Landscape

Landscape

2 kms done

2kms done

Looking down to the shore

Looking down to the shore

Views north

Views north

When we didn’t have steep stairs to walk up the trail was often quite narrow, winding around the hillside. I’m normally not too bad on this kind of track but with Alayna in the backpack on my back I was very concious of the drop to our left and I concentrated on just one foot in front of the other at times rather than looking out at the view. It was also good that we didn’t meet many other people for most of the first half as the steps and track didn’t have a lot of rooms for passing. There were a few small bridges but the highlights were two swing bridges that spanned valleys that rose steeply above the train tracks below. It was disconcerting approaching the first swing bridge with a dark tunnel entrance seemingly filling the view ahead just above the stairs.

Sihlouette

Sihlouette

Steps and the first bridge

Steps and the first bridge

Over we go

Over we go

Brendon and Alayna

Brendon and Alayna on the second swing bridge

There were a few steps

There were a few steps

After the second swing bridge there was a series of steps leading up a steep slope. We slowed right down, taking one flight at a time and resting before moving on up. At the top of this section we had a break and talked to some other people coming the other way who let us know that this was only a taster for what was to come. Thankfully the next step climb was a while away and first we got to walk through some nice stands of trees, the forest a quiet and easy stage to recharge and ready ourselves.

Some were very keen

Some were very keen

A gap in the canopy

A gap in the canopy

The longest stretch of stairs is called the stairway to heaven and it was quite tough to ascend. We were passed by a very fit older man who was counting steps as he walked, reaching 200 when he passed me. He got to the top of the steps and then turned around to come back. We kept going.

The stairway to heaven

The stairway to heaven

More steps

More steps

At the top and just past the halfway mark was a lookout with some good seating and a glorious view out to sea. We had some snacks and got Alayna out of the pack to stretch her legs. There were more and more people reaching the top, almost all coming from the north, and there was plenty of friendly banter and laughs at the top. I got a few comments on how keen I was to have carried Alayna all the way so far on my back, further on we would come across a few others also carrying children in similar fashion.

Feet at the top

Feet at the top

The lookout

The lookout

Brendon and Alayna at the top

Brendon and Alayna at the top

Watered, fed and a little rested we got our gear together, helped Alayna into the pack again and walked on. The way down seemed easier, though tougher on the knees. There were plenty more stairs but a lot of the downward path was sloped across switchbacks. Time passed more quickly it seemed and by the time we neared the end of the track we were in good spirits while still ready for a proper meal. Alayna slept for the final 20 minutes or so, waking up as we approached Paekakariki.

Starting to head down

Starting to head down

More downward steps

More downward steps

8kms completed

8kms completed

It took us around 3 1/2 hours in the end which we thought was pretty good considering we had stopped a few times. We had lunch as planned in Paekakariki and didn’t have to hurry which was nice. Then it was back to the car via the train station and Alayna was full of beans, revelling in walking herself. She was exploring, running around, playing with her shadow and the writing on the ground. So all in all we enjoyed ourselves, completed a challenging walk with no issues and in very good time. We’ll have to return once Alayna is a little older and ready for a longer walk under her own steam.

Ready for lunch

Ready for lunch

Happy times

Happy times

There's my shadow

There’s my shadow

A for Alayna

A for Alayna

Crossing the tracks

Crossing the tracks

Arquitectura de Feria

It’s been another NZ Festival year and included as part of the events this year was a travelling playground named Arquitectura de Feria (the Architecture Fair). Originally from the Catalonia region of Spain and created by performance group Antigua i Barbuda the fair consists of traditional fairground rides and entertainment but created out of scraps and spare parts. So there is a small ferris wheel with seats made out of toilets, a roundabout with seats made out of children sized vehicles like a small tractor, a plane and a rocket and a swing set where the seats are re-purposed sleds. And all of the rides are people powered and in most cases the people come from the audience. Alayna loved it.

We’ve visited a couple of times and Alayna never wants to leave. If it wasn’t for the popularity and the queues to ride she’d stay on each one going around and around (or up and down or forwards and back) indefinitely I’m sure. Everything is simply but fantastically made with wonderful detailing. For the ferris wheel a simple crank is hooked up to a tyre and a rubber belt connects to another tyre that pushes the wheel around through friction. There is a person sitting behind the seats at the bottom of the wheel and they provide instructions to the volunteer cranker via a tube and traffic cone. It’s also their job to add weights to each seat to balance out the wheel. Each child is weighted and gets a chalkboard hung around their neck with their name and weight so there is a bit of maths to help decide who sits where. Generally it was larger children on the toilets and smaller on the alternate metal seats.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

Brendon powered

Brendon powered

Alayna also had a run around the existing playground at Frank Kitts Park and enjoyed climbing to the top of the lighthouse to then take the slide. This was fine until one particularly fast decent which got a little out of control at the bend in the slide and Alayna bumped her head. An ice cream was offered as a distraction from the head bump so we wandered along the waterfront for Kaffee Eis.

Ice cream time!

Ice cream time!

We wandered around a bit and checked out the flags that made up the Fly Me Up to Where You Are New Zealand project by Tiffany Singh. We also spent time on the city to sea bridge where Alayna got to climb over the various wooden seats and booths before heading back to the playground for more rides.

Under the flags

Under the flags

On the bridge

On the bridge

Back for more

Back for more

Arquitectura de Feria has now ended in Wellington and will continue to travel the world. If it pops up near where you are I thoroughly recommend a visit.

The roundabout

The roundabout

Boxing Day at Queen Elizabeth Park

The extended Christmas weekend has been a period of stunning weather in Wellington. I’ve been forgetting what wind is like, no doubt I’ll be reminded soon enough. We took advantage on Boxing Day and took a walk up the coast at the Mackays Crossing end of Queen Elizabeth Park, specifically the Wetland Walk and the Bush Loop (not the most imaginative names). I can’t find a decent website link for the walk but you can view a PDF map here.

We parked at the park rangers office and got ourselves ready. I took Alayna to have a look at some horses across the road and we stood and watched as one of the park trams passed by. As we started our walk two horses were led by by their riders and Alayna had a good look without getting too close. Horse inspection complete we were off into the meadows.

Walking the meadow

Walking the meadow

Pukeko signage

Pukeko signage

Blowing dandelions

Blowing dandelions

The track circumnavigated a large paddock populated with cattle and a couple of wetland areas. Being quite dry recently there wasn’t a lot of water to be seen near the southern end of the track but we still saw a few pukeko and a heron. Alayna got to check out various wildflowers and blow dandelions with Keryn and also inspected a couple of rabbit holes. The track interseccted with an equestrian course and there were lots of different jumps dotted around. Outside of the Bush Loop there were a few stands of manuka and young cabbage trees popping out of the grass.

Horse course

Horse course

The lollipop cabbage tree

The lollipop cabbage tree

Vibrant ponds

Vibrant pond

The wetland area at the northern end had a decent sized pond and as we approached we could hear a chorus of frogs which quietened by the time we were at the waters edge. We did see a couple of frogs resting in the water along with the ducks and a couple of dabchick. The walk ended back at the park road and passed by a US Marines Memorial. Information on the history of the US Marine camps on the Kapiti Coast can be found at the Kapiti US Marine Trust website.

US Marines Memorial

US Marines Memorial

Reading the boards at the US Marines Memorial

Reading the boards at the US Marines Memorial

We drove down to the end of the road and had a brief look. There were plenty of people around enjoying the good weather.

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island

Mum’s birthday and driving north

Our final day in Timaru and the main reason we’d come down, Mum’s birthday. The morning was spent preparing food and getting everything ready for brunch as a bevy of family arrived. There were copious pancakes and croissants, fruit and Christmas mince pies. And then it was time for a birthday cake to be presented.

Time for cake

Time for cake

Blow out the candles

Blow out the candles

As is traditional there were a number of family photos taken. Frances and Helen were excellent photographers standing in my Richard and myself.

Uncle Richard

Uncle Richard

Siblings

Siblings (Alayna standing in for Patricia )

Family photo

Family photo

Alayna and the birthday girl

Alayna and the birthday girl

Early afternoon saw as saying our goodbyes and taking to the road once more. We were splitting up our journey with our Ferry not sailing until the following evening and we would be spending the night in Cheviot. Getting there we somehow managed to avoid most of the thunderstorms and hail that was threatening, only getting hailed on just north of Christchurch for a few minutes though it was loud enough to wake Alayna and concern her a little.

Stormy skies

Stormy skies south of Christchurch

We arrived in Cheviot and our accommodation at the Cheviot Motels and Holiday Park in good time. There was a trampoline, guinea fowl, rabbits, chickens, geese, horses, a donkey and a friendly cat so Alayna was set. I could see the heavy weather coming our way so dashed up to the next door Church as the front same in and got some photos of moody clouds before the wind kicked in, shortly followed by heavy rain. It blew through quickly thankfully, much to the relief of the cyclist who had just set up his little pup-tent.

The storm comes over

The storm comes over St. Johns at Cheviot

Here comes the rain

Here comes the rain

Morning rainbow

Morning rainbow

Strawberry Fare

Our trip down south coincided with the Waimate Strawberry Fare, a celebration of the local crop that has become a well known event. We parked at the home of Waimate legendary teacher Mary Firth (also fantastic Aunty) and headed inside for a chat. Mary produced a suitcase full of interesting things for Alayna to play with including a small tea set that got some good use in the time before we headed out. Bridget was also there having stayed overnight after a drip down to Dunedin to wow the audiences with talks on the importance of transport and design in keeping people connected (amongst other things).

Ready to walk to Strawberry Fare

Ready to walk to Strawberry Fare (Bridget explaining to Alayna the importance of transport and design in keeping people & teddy bears connected)

House from the garden

Looking to Mary’s house from the lovely garden

Rose in bloom

Rose in bloom

It was a pleasant walk to the Fare and we took a path through the nearby Victoria Park and checked out the birds. We were all impressed by a peacock in full display mode as it tried to get the attention of a frankly disinterested female. We caught up with Mary and Bridget just past the old Empress Flour Mill and then crossed the road to enter the Fare which was spread over Boland Park and Seddon Square.

Old silo

Old silo

There were many many stalls selling everything from handmade crafts to radio controlled helicopters, a variety of food and drink including plenty of strawberries and live entertainment. The raffle reminded me of those that took place (and probably still take place) at the Rangitata Huts every new years, the board rattling around as tickets were sold. Alayna wanted to look at and touch everything and loved some of the toys on display. She climbed into a comfy seat (also for sale) and would have been quite content to stay put if we’d given her food and a hand-knitted doll to play with. We watched a pipe band walk by and I considered talking to some extravagantly dressed steampunk aficionados about a photo but in the end didn’t manage to make up my mind in time.

Raffle

Raffle

Comfy

Comfy

Playing a tune

Playing a tune

We bought lunch and some more shoes for Alayna and then it was time to head back to Timaru and for Alayna to have a sleep. In the afternoon Keryn made a cake for the following days birthday celebration and Alayna got to have more cousin time. As well as Mum’s birthday the next day we’d also be driving north on the first part of our journey home so some preparation for that was also required.

Time for a story

Time for a story

Steampunk Oamaru

Oamaru was on the list of places to visit while we were down south so one morning we drove south to check out the steampunk capital of New Zealand. Our first stop, naturally enough, was at Steampunk HQ. It was simple enough to recognise where we were going, there aren’t many buildings with a strange smoke and flame emitting steam engine seeming to launch into the air sitting out front. The bearded and tattooed proprietor was friendly and a good salesperson. For $2 inserted the train would come to life with a huff and puff and screech of its steam powered engine and Alayna got to see it a couple of times due to the proprietor dipping into his pocket for a coin. Inside there was a array of displays and outlandish items to be seen. Flashing lights, angular sculptures constructed out of spare parts, a magical pipe organ that played unexpected and odd noises and various other strange and wonderful pieces.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Steampunk crab

Steampunk crab

All the stars

All the stars

In the yard out the back were more sights, here mostly of the mechanical and slowly rusting variety. I don’t think Alayna knew quite what to make of it all, everything outside her experience or normality. That said there was still time for some playful portraits.

Rusty train portrait

Rusty train portrait

Riding the tractor

Riding the tractor

Huia

Huia

We wanted to head to playground so Alayna could have some play time and through some random zen navigation managed to drive straight to the steampunk themed playground. Sliding, swinging, climbing and running around were the order of the day for a while.

Steampunk playground

Steampunk playground

Sliding

Sliding

Going for a walk

Going for a walk

Moody Oamaru beach

Moody Oamaru beach

For lunch we took a recommendation and drove a short way out of Oamaru to the Riverstone Kitchen, home of good food and a wonderful sprawling playground (not to mention the bonkers castle being built in the middle of a moat next to the kitchen grounds). After some initial issues with service we were soon very impressed by the speed of our food arriving, the quality of the food and general atmosphere. Once we’d eaten there was plenty of time to wander the grounds checking out the shops, gardens and peacocks and also following Alayna as she spent time in the playground and running around the large wooden fort. I don’t think we’d be able to visit Oamaru again without stopping here again.

Lunch

Lunch

Hanging around

Hanging around

Fort time

Fort time

Peacock

Peacock

Timaru for a few days

From Hanmer Springs we continued on towards Timaru with a couple of stops in Christchurch, one to pick up some duplo we’d bid for on TradeMe and a second stop at Riccarton Mall to stretch the legs. We were looking for some new shoes for Alayna and found a pair on big discount at Rebel Sport that did the trick, even if they were a bit more bling than we’d normally buy. Alayna loved for sparkle shoes so that’s the main thing I guess (and they were a good fit and were made well of course).

We arrived in Timaru in the evening and it was good to see Mum and Dad. Not so good was Dad being hospitalised later that evening with what turned out to be food poisoning. This meant in the end that Dad missed being at home fro Mum’s birthday but there was a silver lining of sorts with some planned tests for other complaints being brought forward because of being in hospital already but it was a long week for Dad to be in an isolation room. Thankfully there was plenty of family around so we were all visiting every day, dutifully putting on out gloves and plastic aprons each time before sitting down for a chat. Dad’s much better now which is good.

Alayna loves new places and toys which are different to those we have at home so she was kept interested by the things available at my parents place. Exploring was also on the agenda and Alayna liked looking around and finding things to look at, touch and feel.

Alayna at play

Alayna at play

Checking out cobwebs

Checking out cobwebs

We had a look around the Timaru shops and spend a morning down at the Caroline Bay playground and then playing around at the Timaru aquatic centre where we managed to get the childrens areas mostly to ourselves.

Around and around

Around and around

Horse riding

Horse riding

Drive time

Drive time

My brother’s family is down the road from my parents place and we had a few afternoons there as well and Alayna loved to play with her cousins. Again there was an array of new-to-Alayna toys to check out and play with. There was also a trampoline so it was perfect really.

Keira and Alayna

Keira and Alayna

One night there was a chance of Aurora activity so I ended up picking up my brother and he showed me a good local spot for photography out on Adair Road. While we didn’t get to see or photograph an Aurora it was a beautiful night with plenty of stars which reflected nicely in the hood of the car. We did attract the attention of one curious local who drove past us at least three times, turning around and coming back slower each time while presumably trying to figure out what we were doing.

Star reflections

Star reflections

The kiwifruit incident

We left St Arnaud in the morning with a plan to do a morning walk before lunch. This worked out quite well other than a couple of incidents, one during the walk and one afterwards. Lake Rotoroa was the first stop and we had lovely views from the pier and got to watch a swan family on the grassy area next to the carpark. The fluffy grey signets were very cute. We also came across Fergus again with his pax. Alayna obliged with some cuddles for her doll while I took a few photos and then it was a short drive to the start of the Braeburn Walk, followed closely by Fergus and his passengers. We parked off the road and I thought it odd that the ground was hissing underneath one of the rear tyres but I figured it was just air from the wet ground, I made a mental note to check it on our return.

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

The Braeburn Walk started with a wide path, once an access road, that wended its way through groves of tree fuscia before heading uphill through more beech forest. It was again very attractive in the dappled light, moss and ferns covering the ground between decaying fallen trucks and tall trees. The ground was covered in leaves which came in useful later on.

There was an optional branch in the track which took us up to a tall waterfall and we stopped for a snack while I clambered down the steep slope to try and get a decent photograph. Fergus and his two passengers turned up as well and Fergus adroitly navigated his way to the stream bed, something I didn’t manage with my tripod in hand and camera gear weighing me down. Keryn and Alayna were eating while seated on a convenient tree root and when Keryn got up she knocked over the lunchbox tipping out a couple of kiwifruit. One did a cartoon bounce and tumble done the slope, narrowly avoiding being caught by Fergus before landing in the stream and floating away. All thoughts of the previous days alarm were temporarily forgotten as Alayna contemplated the new disaster and as we walked out of the forest there were constant queries about the missing kiwifruit; would it be coming back? where was it now? could we find it? Sad to say we never say that kiwifruit again.

Playing with leaves

Playing with leaves

We stopped for a while and played with the fallen leaves on the track, piling them up and then throwing them into the air over Alayna. This was great fun and I’m sure Alayna would have happily played the game all day.

Walking the forest

Walking the forest

Glen and grove

Glen and grove

Once back at the car I had a look at the tyre again and it looked a little soft but the wet ground made it look OK. Once we were driving I quickly realised it wasn’t OK and we had an unscheduled stop for lunch back at the lake carpark while I changed the tyre. Other than the attendant sandflies taking a few bites this happened without fuss.

Fixing the flat

Fixing the flat

With a good tyre in place we were back on the road and heading towards Hanmer Springs through the Lewis Pass. We stopped a few times, once so I could photograph an interesting sign and another at Maruia Falls.

No Shooting

No Shooting

Maruia Falls

Maruia Falls

As we climbed Lewis Pass the temperature dropped and snow was visible on the taller peaks, rain falling and threatening to become sleet. Perfect timing for a walk. We stopped at the St James Carpark and had a look at the small tarn and walked a short way along the Alpine Nature Walk. The rain stopped and we got some sunshine but it was still very cold with a stiff breeze ripping along.

Top of the pass

Top of the pass

Family photo time

Family photo time

Cute as a button

Cute as a button

From the top of the pass it was plain sailing down the other side and on to Hanmer. We were staying at the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park and Alayna was once again entertained by a set of bunk beds. They also had a good playground and Alayna got to enjoy a trampoline all to herself. In the future travel accommodation may be booked on the availability of a trampoline I think (if Alayna was deciding).

Out the other side

Out the other side

St Arnaud, Lake Rotoiti, Mount Robert and a fire alarm

Day two of our holiday and more walking in store. We again took the Black Valley walk and had a look around the lake shore. This morning’s destination was the Brunner Peninsula Nature Walk and as we neared the start point we could see a group of people congregated at the lake side taking in the view. They were setting up for a group photo and I was quickly identified as someone who looked like they could take a photo so was chosen to take theirs. I ended up with three or four cameras and took lots of photos. The group was on tour and they were all from Israel and having a great time seeing the sights. We let them start the walk before us and they were soon just the odd voices in the distance ahead.

Flying korimako

Flying korimako

Lake Rotoiti pier

Lake Rotoiti pier

Alayna was again singing songs, things like “Where have all the people gone? I can’t see them!” with verses made up by us all. Alayna seemed less inclined to walk today but still managed to spend some time touching moss and leaves. We sat at a bench in a secluded little bay and had some snacks while we watched a swimmer stroke past, a couple of boats heading back and forth on the lake and the changing cloud covering the distant ridges. Alayna also got some more throwing-rocks-into-the-lake practice.

Touching the moss

Touching the moss

The track we were following eventually branched away from the lake and headed uphill in the direction of the town. We came to a road and followed it back towards the DOC info centre, stopping to watch korimako and tui flying around. At the info centre Alayna enjoyed watching a brief video of some eels in the lake and playing with the toys for sale in the shop.

Tui on a wire

Tui on a wire

In the afternoon we drove up to the Mount Robert carpark where Alayna decided to (finally) fall asleep so Keryn kept an eye on sleeping beauty while I hoped out and took a few photos of the wonderful view. We also stopped on the way back and I had a short walk along Angler’s Walk from the mouth of the Buller River downstream. The forest floor track-side was a thick bed of moss, the water a rich green and it was like walking through a fairytale at times and very easy to imagine a hobbit or two walking by.

Lake Rotoiti from the Mount Robert carpark

Lake Rotoiti from the Mount Robert carpark

Anglers Walk

Anglers Walk

The Buller River

The Buller River

Alayna woke up as we got back to St Arnaud so we made our way to the lakeside again so Alayna could play on the little playground. Before that we watched a duck family wander around and as we sat on a bench the ducklings were happy to wander beneath the seat and around our feet, jumping up to snatch at sandflies. There was a tour guide named Fergus who we’d seen the day before and he was showing his pax the ducks, getting down to greet the duck family. We would bump into him again the next day as well (we must have been heading to all the popular spots).

There was more stone throwing from Alayna and badly attempted skimming from Mum and Dad. Alayna also checked out the kayaks lined up on the shore, once she’s older I think we’ll need to do some paddling somewhere.

Throwing stones

Throwing stones

Trying out a kayak

Trying out a kayak

That evening back at the hostel we were reading stories to Alayna in bed when a fire alarm went off. It was very loud in the room so we wrapped up Alayna and evacuated. It was odd to see everyone else in the hostel staying where there were (their rooms, the kitchen and dining room) rather than head outside. There was a cold wind and the odd spit of rain so we found shelter while the alarm was dealt with. Once the alarm was off a search was done by the staff and a helpful neighbour checking the sensors in each room. It seemed that the girls in the room opposite us may have been cooking something or smoking in their room. Alayna would talk about the loud noise for days to come, always with a very serious expression.

A big boat, driving and a forest walk

Our December family holiday saw us take an early morning ferry from Wellington heading to the South Island. Earlier in the year I had won a return sailing with Bluebridge and our first journey across Cook Strait was taken on the Strait Feronia. We spent a lot of time in the family room which we had nearly to ourselves and Alayna enjoyed climbing over the ride on toys and the furniture.

Climbing into a window

Climbing into a window

Once we entered the Marlborough Sounds it was outside to soak up some sun and wander the many decks. On the top deck there was a large open area that was perfect for running around and jumping. We also had a look around at the different sights and sounds both on the ship and in the Sounds.

Jump!

Jump!

Run around

Run around

Trucks

Trucks

No Entry

No Entry

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Marlborough Sounds skyline

Arriving at Picton we were going to stop to get some supplies but Alayna quickly fell asleep so we just drive onward to Blenheim and did our shopping there instead, Alayna continuing to snooze. Then we were back on the road and heading inland towards the Nelson Lakes region and our destination for the next few nights St Arnaud.

We stayed at Travers-Sabine Lodge which is a tidy hostel. There were not many other people staying which helped keep the place quiet as well. This also meant we could take up a decent amount of shared fridge space without upsetting anyone. We had a private room containing three bunk beds and Alayna had a great time climbing ladders and mucking around on the top bunks. SO while Alayna played we unpacked the car and got ready for a walk.

Heading out the back of the lodge we had direct access to the Black Valley walkway which ran alongside the Black Valley stream towards its source at Lake Rotoiti. Our first wildlife encounter happened soon after we started walking upstream and watched an adult weka walk across the stream closely followed by three juveniles. All four weka seemed none too concerned by us as we watched them wander by.

Lake Rotoiti views

Lake Rotoiti views

After taking in the view down the lake we chose to walk the Honeydew Walk which took us from the lake shore into Rotoiti Nature Recovery Area. A pleasant time was had slowly walking through verdant beech forest listening to the constant chime of bellbirds and marveling at Alayna’s singing from her perch in the backpack.

Lancewood

Lancewood

Out for a walk

Out for a walk

Inspecting the path

Inspecting the path

Trees and sky

Trees and sky

Alayna was walking a lot of the time and enjoying her cruskits and other snacks. We’ve been encouraging her to listen to the sounds of the forest, touch the trees and plants and look at any wildlife we find. One insect that made its presence felt, especially near the lake, was the sandfly. We soon remembered that insect repellent is a must in this area.

Alayna portrait

Alayna portrait

Looking down the path

Looking down the path

Ridgeline

Ridgeline

The rusty gate

The rusty gate

As the evening came one we were on our way back to the lodge, stopping a few times for photos and to check out interesting things like the wee orchids growing next to the track or the lovely old gate that guarded a path leading into a dark grove of trees. Then it was the normal routine of dinner and the “put Alayna to bed” game (I’m sure Alayna thinks its a game anyway).