266 Days on the Road
A fiery red hue lights up the clouds, reflecting off a landscape of a lake surrounded by mountains to which we are on the side of one of them at the Byre B&B and Backpackers. We sit at the very same kitchen table as last night where we shared an awesome homemade pizza meal with our hosts, Tegwyn and David and another guest, Kevin. A huge window gives us an outstanding view to go with our meal, and again this morning as David makes us our choice of breakfast.
We’re going to be spending more time with David today, where he knows best: Lake Waikaremoana. This huge sacred lake in the middle of the largest tract of native forest in the North Island is home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and is surely a place to experience true wilderness in the North Island of New Zealand. After being handed over heaps of veggies to take away from David’s huge garden, we follow David in the car to the launch point where we will be taking his NZ Trout Fishing boat, which also acts as a tour boat and water taxi, into Lake Waikaremoana.
The fascinating geological history behind Lake Waikaremoana
At various spots along the 10-20 minute drive, David stops to tell us more about how the lake was formed using perspectives we are getting of the Ngamoko and Panekiri mountain ranges which play a part in the story. Lake Waikaremoana is pretty new in geological terms. David tells the story of a huge earthquake some 2,200 years ago that that caused a tremendous landslide causing a dam to forming the shape of the Lake Waikaremoana that we will see today. Parts of the forests were engulfed by the lake and David says we can still see the remains of them today…
We arrive at the wharf and jump onboard David’s motor boat. As we set off, David shows us that landslip caused by the earthquake all those years ago from this new perspective, where you can really see how the slip has earned its title as the longest landslip in the Southern Hemisphere!
Wild weather, waterfalls and rainbows
As we start catching some speed on the lake, we start to see the weather acting all kinds of crazy. One moment, it’s a dry and cloudy day, then the next moment David is shouting: The Children of the Mist are being naughty! We’re to find out who the Children of the Mist are later, but whoever they are, they’re creating a white haze of rain between the mountains in front of us – straight where we are heading. Nevertheless, we are not made of sugar so this doesn’t stop us in our path, especially considering we have a majestic waterfall tumbling in the lake straight ahead of us. David takes us in for a much closer look! We sit on the front of the boat and feel the refreshing spray of the waterfall on our faces. Distinct diagonal layers of rock create a stunning canvas for the waterfall. If this place didn’t already seem like a fairy tale land, a full rainbow is forming right behind us creating an archway right over one arm of the lake. Magic!
A land before time
David gets a call over the radio to pick up some hikers at a nearby hut, so our next destination is decided for us. As we ride into an inlet of the lake, the engine of the motor quieting down for a slow approach, our ears are filled with the sound of birds in the native forest. The water is so still, yet the forest looks so wild that we feel like we have been transported back to a land before time. If a dinosaur jumped out of the forest, we would not be surprised.
Getting a closer look at this awesome waterfall
Visiting the underwater forest
After picking up our hikers, David is taking us a new spot now, handing over some polarised sunglasses. Apart from looking cool as hell, polarised lenses allow us to see objects under the water’s surface more clearly. The boat slowly circles around an area of the lake, sending the water away from the centre of the circle as to calm the water in the centre. Then we see them: tree stumps under the water! Three or four of them seem super close to the surface, yet David informs us that they are actually 25 feet under!
We head onto the next petrified forest, this time seeing the last remaining tree stump sticking out of the lake. This sturdy tree is thousands of years old and new life hangs onto it with a few small plants using it as a base. We circle around it trying to get the best photos of it.
Maori legends told by a pro
Next stop, the Waiharuru Hut! Although we are not picking any hikers up here, it’s worth the stop to check out the scenic swingbridge and meet the hut warden, Bill. Indeed, the swingbridge crossing a tiny arm of the lake surrounded by lush rainforest makes for some awesome photo opportunities, but it has to be said that listening to Bill tell the Maori legend of how Lake Waikaremoana was formed is a highlight of this stop. The Maori really have a special skill for telling stories, and Bill is no different. He starts the tale with a powerful chant in the Maori language, te reo Maori, then mixes the tale with both te reo Maori and English so we can understand it. He puts his heart and soul into the story, and if you ever want to hear it for yourself, and find out more about the Children of the Mist come meet the locals around Lake Waikaremoana!
Swanning around at the Whanganui Hut
David gives us a choice of where we would rather spend 30 minutes while he has more hikers to pick up and drop off. We opt for being dropped off at the Whanganui Hut which usually features quite a lot of wildlife. Because there are workers doing some maintenance on the hut, we don’t think the likelihood of seeing native birds is very high, however we do see heaps of black swans swanning about the lake. Plus, the water is so clear that we can easily photograph small fish going about their business.
Walking around the hut, we get a taste of the thick rainforest and even discover a waterfall that would make a mean waterslide!
David comes to pick us up and takes us back to wharf. We can’t believe how much we have seen in such a short space of time. This boat trip sure is a great way to experience this majestic lake.
Checking into the Waikaremoana Holiday Park
We say our goodbyes to our host and check into our next accommodation, the Waikaremoana Holiday Park – a Department of Conservation-run campsite with cabins, bunks, tent and powered sites so it’s pretty Goddamn snazzy compared to your basic campsite. Plus, with a view of the lake and rainforest every in sight, who can complain?!
Join us tomorrow where we are going to be doing a couple of hikes in the area, as well as making our way to Morere Hot Pools!
A swingbridge leading to all sorts of rainforest wonders
Have you read yesterday’s post? How about these articles?
- Te Urewera – Guide for Backpackers
- The 9 Great Walks of New Zealand
- 11 Mind Blowing Lakes in New Zealand
See you tomorrow!