It had been an exhausting couple of weeks.
Dave, Dustin and I had been road tripping around the North Island of New Zealand for just over two weeks now. We’d driven from Auckland to Lake Waikaremoana, taking a roundabout route that took us up through Paihia to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island, and then back down through Hamilton, Raglan, Waitomo, Mount Maunganui, Rotorua, Taupo, the Tongariro Crossing and finally, Lake Waikaremoana.
Yep, I’d seen and done this much and was still only exploring the top half of the North Island!
I was also only a quarter of the way through my time in New Zealand.
As well as feeling drained from all the fast-paced travel, I was also dealing with the stress of falling and injuring my ankle in Mount Maunganui, which had then been immediately followed up with some hardcore hiking across the Tongariro Crossing.
It was time for me to arrange some not-moving time.
Lake Waikaremoana, located in Te Urewera National Park is home to one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” — the nine walks in New Zealand that are said to pass through some of the best scenery in the country. The Lake Waikaremoana Track is a four day, 41 kilometre hike that passes alongside the lake, snaking through rainforests, wetlands and something with the particularly wonderful name of “the magical goblin forest”.
However, let’s just say that given my current physical condition, I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of any more hiking.
Fortunately, while we had plans to explore the area, we weren’t going to be hiking the actual track on this visit. HostelBookers had arranged for us to stay at Big Bush Holiday Park for two nights and we’d be using this as our base.
We were staying in the self-contained backpackers unit and there’s no doubt that the highlight was being surrounded by some pretty spectacular views of the New Zealand countryside. It was one of the nicest “backpackers” accommodation options I came across in the country and it actually felt more like we had our own private cabin as we had the whole place to ourselves for most of the time. The cabin had a large, clean bathroom, a well-equipped kitchen, a huge balcony and a cosy living room with plenty of sofas to relax in. I liked it a lot.
Did I mention the amazing views?
Like our previous two weeks in the country, the weather had been glorious for our drive in to the National Park. Despite being heavily drugged on travel sickness pills, I had still managed to force my eyelids open every now and then to top up my awe-levels. Our journey took us through tiny villages and thick rainforest, the lack of traffic on the winding narrow roads showing how remote and peaceful the park is.
Side note: Te Urewera National Park’s name comes from the Maori words ure (penis) and wera (burnt) giving the literal translation of “burnt penis National Park”! It was named after a Maori chief leaned in too close to a campfire during the night and burnt his penis. No, I am not making this up.
As we neared Te Urewera, the road narrowed even further, eventually turning into loose gravel for our final hour drive in. Needless to say, Dustin was more than a little nervous about driving our fancy new rental car across the loose rocks while I was obviously fast asleep.
After a lazy lunch spent sunbathing on the balcony, I found myself begrudgingly agreeing to accompany Dave and Dustin on a short hike through some of the nearby rainforest. Deliberately lingering over lunch, I immediately crossed my fingers under the table as soon as I noticed the ominous-looking storm clouds start to roll in over the quickly darkening hills.
My protestations that heading out for a hike now seemed like a pointless activity were swiftly ignored, as I was dragged through the spitting rain and into the car. Our rainforest hike was now off the cards, the light sprinkle from earlier now rapidly turning into a torrential downpour.
In an attempt to outdrive the rain, we turned around and drove off in the opposite direction and soon found ourselves shivering but dry on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana.
I began to wonder why on earth anyone had thought this to be a good idea.
It was so, so cold.
It wasn’t all bad, however. Just as we turned to leave, we were greeted by this gorgeous rainbow.
Maybe the rain wasn’t so terrible after all?
The next day, however?
The following morning we woke up to a view of, well, not all that much.
As the boys groaned at the weather and spoke of the missed opportunity to hike the surrounding area, I cheerfully hopped into the living room with my laptop and blanket, rested my ankle up on the sofa and settled down for a day of recovery.
I had never been so grateful that it was raining.
The weather gods had answered my prayers and presented me with a miserable day that would prevent me going outside and so I spent the entire day cuddled up under my blanket, getting some writing done and eating Vegemite sandwiches.
I’d love to say that I felt guilty about spending all day inside, that I was really disappointed I didn’t get a chance to explore the National Park but, well, I genuinely enjoyed spending a day off from travelling. From the little I saw of Lake Waikaremoana it looked like a beautiful part of an already beautiful country and I’d love to return one day to hike the full track.
This time around though, with my injured ankle and weary body, I was glad for the opportunity to do nothing at all.