© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

A Coastal Horse Trek Through Sacred Maori Lands

© NZPocketGuide.com

265 Days on the Road

A short drive “over the hill” reveals a great view of the little town of Wairoa that we explored yesterday, as well as takes us towards Iwitea. The Out on a Lim base is easy enough to spot off the roadside with a paddock of horses… This must be the place!

We park up and approach the paddock, meeting the family behind Out on a Lim: Richie, Pita, Amber, Kristy, Tim and Dason. The family of Maori descent are super welcoming, inviting us straight into their pimped-out fully-furnished woolshed for a cool little arrangement of hot drinks and biscuits. We chit chat for a wee while until we see that the weather is forecasted to rain at 1pm. Let’s get out there while the sun is shining!

Suited up in an adjustable sized riding helmet, we choose our horses, Gallon and Rocky, who are a quieter pair ideal for beginner-level riders such as ourselves. Being fairly small horses, we manage to jump on them (more metaphorically than physically) from the ground. Our saddles are checked then we’re on our way!

Joining an authentic Maori family experience

It feels like we’re joining a family outing, with Richie, Tim and Dason on the horses – and a pretty adventurous one at that. And that’s exactly what Out on a Lim grew out of, showing travellers an authentic slice of life in New Zealand, as the team also offer hunting, hangi (traditional Maori meal) and fishing. We are literally joining the family on what they would be normally doing on a Sunday morning anyway!

Getting to know our horses

Our horses plod along in unison giving us plenty of time to get used to how our horses behave. Gallon, the beautiful brown and white-patched steed that he is, tries to keep on point and follow the herd, but is easily distracted with his ears pointing in the direction of any small sound, turning his head often to look at things, and grunting when we stop for too long to take photos. (We don’t blame him really). Rocky, on the other hand, is independent and full of energy. If it was up to him, he would have cantered the whole way. Nevertheless, we felt that they really responded to our commands.

Riding in the flax

Our horse trek takes us on a loop of varying terrains today, keeping the trek constantly fresh. To begin with, we walk through the grassy fields to the remains of an old mill that used to make rope using the flax that once covered the wetlands before us. Some of that flax still remains along one side of the wetlands, and with that, we get a much, much, MUCH closer look as we start walking on a single track right through the flax bushes. It’s heaven for the horses who have so much greenery to try and munch on!

The wetland horse parade

We are well and truly into the wetlands now as our horses squelch with every step they take. Heaps of wading birds do their thing in the water, while a gaggle of geese (yep, that really is the collective noun for geese – you don’t know how long we have waited to write those words!) can be seen flying out of the wetlands to be further and further away from us… This is explained when Richie tells us that the pest species of geese are what they hunt.

Feeling on top of the world!

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Trekking across the driftwood beach

With a couple of stream crossings to splash into along the way, we finally get to a stunning black sand beach covered in driftwood. It’s a real “wow” moment when we see entire tree trunks stripped bare to reveal a bright white interior contrasting the black sand that it lies on. This display of driftwood really explains all the sculptures that we saw in the Long River Gallery yesterday.

We have a mix of walking in the sand, which is too soft and hard work for the horses, and walking on the harder stuff just behind the mounds of driftwood. After walking along the beach, we come back inland with a huge grass-covered hill before us. To our delight (and slight nervousness to Laura who pathetically screams every time Gallon even thinks about speeding up), we charge up that very hill. Holy shit, these horses can climb!

Big views from a big hill

The view from the top is epic, even more so when we have taken the most epic-looking method of transport to get up here. We get views of the beach stretching out below us, while the entire wetland and surrounding hills make up the inland backdrop.

We ride along the ridgeline of this hill for about five minutes before making our way back down, leaning back as far as we can on the saddle as to make it easier for the horses. Kudos to their efforts!

Eels and cows

Back in the wetland, we make a pit stop along a stream for Richie to get off his horse and start checking something in the water… He pulls out a net full of wriggling eels! How about that for a food source! He says that this is only from one night of having the trap out, but the net is too heavy for us to bring back now. He releases a few eels to give them more space to wiggle and says he’ll be back later to get the huge catch.

The final journey on the wetlands has us joining some more four-legged, oversized friends: a herd of cows. The cows seem to just stare at us a judge us as we closely pass by, while confused but cute-as-hell calves trot along in front of us, leading the way to the end of the paddock.

Back to the stables

From there, we have completed our loop of wetlands, meets flax bush stretch, meets driftwood beach, meets hilltop, meets cattle paddock. It’s now a short ride back to the stables.

Once we and the saddles are off, we watch these huge animals roll around in the grass like a dog – hilarious to see on a larger scale. Then, unfortunately, we have to rush off in a hurry as to arrive too late to check into our next accommodation in the Te Urewera Rainforest, although, Pita doesn’t let us leave without giving us some grapes straight off the vine!

The start of a Te Urewera Adventure

We munch on the grapes on the way to the Byre B&B and Backpackers, a wilderness accommodation surrounded by lakes and rainforest. Join us tomorrow for more on that, as well as a boat trip out onto the famous Lake Waikaremoana!

From wetlands to beach: A stunning scenic horse trek in Hawkes Bay

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