Starry Horizons is doing very well at Norsand, and a big thank you to Kyle and Shelley from Blowin’ Bubbles for checking on her every once and a while. We left on Wednesday the 18th, after staying two nights on the hard (ah, boat yard life…). Fornaxia is stuffed full of gear for us to spend the next 30 days traveling around New Zealand.
Day 1: Owharoa Falls
We powered through the long drive back through Auckland and then down to our first stop, Owharoa Falls in Waikino. The falls are just a 2-minute walk from the roadside where you park the car. The rocks of the falls remind me of a tiered cake!
we camped for the night at Dickey Flats Campground. We set up our tent next to the Waitawheta River among the trees, with a glorious view.
Day 2: Karangahake Gorge and Kayaking with Glow Worms
The next morning we took off on the Crown Track walk, a one hour each way hike that started for us at the campground and ended at the Crown Mines. The track started by crossing the river with a suspension bridge. Next we passed through a 180 m tunnel leftover from the mining industry. Inside the tunnel, we got our first glow worm experience! Just past the tunnel is a swimming hole, with some small waterfalls. The majority of the path follows along the Karangahake Gorge until you reach the Crown Mining site, built in the 1800s.
After the hike we packed up for our next destination, Tauranga. We booked a private tour with Waimarino Glow Worm Kayak Tours, which departed from McLaren Falls Park. The park allows camping, so we went early and set up our campsite. With some time to kill, I walked around the lake’s edge, enjoying the wildlife.
We met our guide, Jared, at 7 pm at the falls. We followed him into the park where he set up a lake side happy hour for us – cheese and crackers, chips and hummus, local fresh fruit, and local wines. While we enjoyed the view of the sun setting, Jared got our kayaks out and talked us through the tour.
We took off through the lake, kayaking past black swans and Canadian geese. The lake is extremely shallow, and very little current, so we paddled along slowly enjoying the view.
The lake forks, and we took the left, paddling past a power plant and into what is called the canyon. The walls are steep, large boulders, covered in moss and ferns. The air is moist, and water trickles or cascades over most of the rocks. Our private tour gave us the time to go in with Jared during daylight and discuss a set up for our camera to try to photograph the glow worms.
We went back out, up the other arm of the lake, and then paddled around the main section until it got dark. We arrived back at the canyons and waited for the group tour to come out. We were surrounded by forest, but you can still see glow worms here and there, winking at you through the leaves.
Once the group left, we entered in ourselves, with Jared towing us along. OH MY GOD. It was as if we’d stepped into a glow worm city. The glow worms clustered together in some spots, or stretched out in lines along the rock ledges. Shapes, like constellations, emerged from the walls in these glowing, slightly blue pin-pricks of light.
I am so glad we did the glow worm tour, it is definitely one of the Top 5 things I’ve ever done to date. Unfortunately for you guys, it’s incredibly hard to capture in photos, and nearly impossible to capture on video. The large clusters of glow worms were in the middle of the canyon, where the walls were steep and there’s no place to set up a tripod. But, at the end of the canyon, we used a rock in the middle to set up our camera and get a few shots.
Day 3: McLaren Falls Park and Tauranga Proper
The next morning hiked the short waterfall loop in McLaren Falls Park.
We packed up and took off for Tauranga, the 5th largest city in New Zealand with a population of just over 100,000. We stayed at a fantastic Airbnb – one where the second B really stood for breakfast! – and met up with our friends Carolyn and Rob. We met Carolyn and Rob last month, when they were being launched from Norsand and we were being hauled. They own a Lipari named Shenanigans that they’ve been using to cruise around the Pacific. Friday night they invited us over to their house for drinks and to meet their friends visiting from the Czech Republic. These friends, Peter and Christina, live outside of Prague but travel the world by working for Tauck Tours. The six of us headed out to dinner to meet with 4 more of Rob & Carolyn’s friends. It was quite the night out for us!
Day 4: Mount Maunganui and a Kiwi Farm
We were sad to leave Dee’s wonderful place, but excited to hike up Mount Maunganui. We parked along the beach and walked along enjoying the sights and sounds on a gorgeous day. Surprisingly it wasn’t too crowded for a sunny Saturday at 11 am. The hike up the top was pretty brutal, but the views were oh-so-worth it.
Our next stop in the Tauranga region was Kiwi Country Tours. We’d seen kiwi orchards (or vineyards?) all along our drive. The plots are often surrounded by barrier trees that have been trained to be tall and thin. The barrier trees block noise and wind to protect the trees.
The kiwi farm had a small store where we got to do a tasting. We tasted fresh kiwis, jams, chutney, juice, and dried fruit – but not just one of each. We got to taste all of those items in two different varieties – green and gold. I didn’t know that gold kiwis existed but they are delicious, sweeter and less tangy than their green counterparts.
We learned so much about the process of growing kiwis. About 65% of the kiwis grown in New Zealand are shipped to Europe. A majority of the gold kiwis go to Asia, where people pay a premium for the sweeter flavor. The kiwis are harvested over several months, in which entire rows are stripped at once. The unripened fruit is put in cold storage for up to 9 months before it gets shipped out. The kiwis are ripened via ethylene while underway.
We bought some dried green kiwis and fresh gold kiwis to enjoy while road tripping!
Sunday was forecasted to be rainy all day and very windy and it was! We found this cheap and remote Airbnb to hide out in for two nights to let the weather pass. We are glad we did. Our poor little tent might not have made it through this wind and rain.
Up next we drive through the center of the north island into the Taupo Volcanic Zone.
Disclaimer: Some of the activities mentioned in this post were received free of charge or at a discounted rate. We were psyched to have their support, but this post reflects our honest opinion on the activity.