'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Come for a paddle.

(Note: All the following images should enlarge when you click on them)

It has been quite hot the last week or so, reaching 30ºC (86ºF  ) in the early afternoon and not dropping below about 16ºC (60ºF) at night.  Days like these it's nice to get somewhere watery.  Cool showers are an option, but I love to get out on the river or lake in my kayak.   Want to come?  You'll need shorts and a teeshirt, a hat, sunblock, and I'll bring a cold drink, some plums and a hefty wedge of the last of the Christmas cake.  We'll tie down the kayaks onto the trailer, give the thrush babies a last-minute feed, and we're off.

15 minutes up the main highway and we turn off to the left.  As soon as we enter the narrow fern-fringed lane, the busy-ness and heat of the day start to fall away...

Lots of cars down at the bridge, but there's a park for us.   

Another day we could bring our togs and swim in the big pools above the falls.  But today we'll give it a miss - there are too many people.  We'll just go down the path for a look.

Today is a summer Sunday, and so it's one of the 26 days of the year when water is being allowed over the falls and down the Wairoa River (instead of being diverted through the big Ruahihi Hydo Power Station canal).  So we could white water raft down over this grade 5 stretch of river and give ourselves a powerful adrenalin rush as we scream over the drops and churn around sharp massive boulders and rapids.

Perhaps another day?

Instead let's go a little further up the road to the big lake behind the dam.  We go through the park gates and take the winding unsealed road.  It opens out to grassy flat areas and cuts around the sides of hills, wiggling around the lake edge.  We could spend the day here and have a picnic lunch, or even camp for a few weeks.  We could take one of the walks through the trees and native forest or feed the ducks and swans.  We could trout fish if we had a licence... and if we were very lucky we might even hear a kiwi calling in the middle of the night or spot a long-tailed cuckoo or a North Island robin.

But we haven't the tents, and only jandals on our feet, no fishing rods nor licence, so let's go kayaking!  

You grab one end and I'll get the other and hoist it out of the trailer. Now,  I'll just strap these handy-dandy wheels underneath.  Much easier than lugging it down the hill.  Just down there is a great place to launch it, and you won't even get your feet wet.  We'll slide it in the water and the aerial roots of this big old swamp cypress will keep it upright.  Do you want the red kayak or the greeny one?

Ah, as soon as we are on the water time seems to slow down, the cool air wafts, and serene vistas open up.  Relax.  Paddle gently, no rush.  We have all day if you want.  The trees slip by and the patches of sunshine on the short grass gleam through the trees, and the ducks sun themselves while they wait for the next lot of visitors with bread. 

  We go around a corner and there's two black swans right there.  They look so surprised that we have appeared, they forget to swim away, and we can get really close.


Paddle over there where the buttresses of the kahikatea (car-hick-cat-tee-a) stand in the water:

There are others enjoying the park today.   (And no, that's not a four-legged girl!)

This young lad's Mum was standing on the top of the bank giving him what-o for letting his ball go in the water a second time. I got it for him the first time.  I'm sure he could swim for it this time, it's only shallow there.

We are paddling past some farmland now.  The sheep take no notice of us.


And now a little pine plantation.  

And finally some good New Zealand 'bush' - the indigenous forest cover.  Keep a lookout for a branch of the river off to the left, because that's where we're going today...

Here's where the river branches, can you spot something through the trees? 

Ah.  A small hydro-electric plant.  Quite old, but still working.
Now we have a little challenge, but I'm sure you are up to it.  See that pale, agitated water in front of the building?  It's the discharge from the turbines and we have to get past it.  Just stick to the right, and follow me.  If you find you are being swept towards the bank, don't panic.  Nothing will happen, but you'll need to paddle into the turbulence a little, to go straight.  Just beyond, the water is quite calm.  And there is a special place, which, I promise you, will make it all worthwhile.

Here we go.

You can do it!

Paddle hard!

There!  Phew!  You made it!

Now, you go first; around to the right... and....

We are in The Grotto.

Perfect peace and calm.  Cool, and nothing but the sound of....

.... a million tiny drops of water.
The ferns and mosses are perpetually damp here.  

An erie and magical place on a hot summer's day.

At the end there is a tumble of rocks, and you can't go any further with the kayaks.

Look up to the sky through the leaves of the trees growing on the sides of this tiny canyon:

Lie back in your kayak and let it rock gently and support you....

Or look down through the crystal water at the sunshine on the rocks....

You will take the memory of this place back; past the foamy upwellings of the turbines, past the green-clad walls of the river, past the people camping on the sunny banks, down the busy highway and back to the hot asphalted city.


  1. Thank you for bringing us along on this wonderful paddle! I loved the grotto, especially. And the guitar accompaniment. A lovely diversion from our chilly winter California weather.

  2. Donno about you but I'm worn out now. That was way too much exercise on a hot day. Can 'we' get a two seater next time and you just paddle me about ?

    Certainly looks like a lovely part of the country. Thanks for showing it to us.

  3. Katherine! that was absolutely wonderful!!! I loved it!! thank you so much for taking us on this incredible paddle,i did feel like i'd come along with you!! you are lovely!!!
    xx lori

  4. Gorgeous pictures! Thanks so much for sharing. I almost feel like I was really there with you. :-)

  5. Dan - hope it warmed you up!

    Ian - You must be unfit! That was very easy paddling except getting past the turbulence. But Ok, next time I'll paddle you. But you'll have to share the space with the dog.

    Lori ann - I hope you believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, because I copied the 'come with me' format from you, I enjoyed your run so much! I'm glad you liked it.

    Juliet - Oh good, I hoped I wrote it well enough to take people along.

  6. Katherine, i do believe this, and I thank you for the lovely compliment!

    xx lori

  7. Measured from top to bottom, that must be literally the longest blogpost I have ever seen! But it was also a very nice post. The NZ tourist industry ought to employ you... This continues to whet my appetite for the visit I hope to make to your land.... one day.

  8. Yes - it took a while to write too YP! It takes soooooo long to download (upload?) the images! And it's fiddly to make them all clickable...
    But thank you for the comment. I'm so looking forward to hosting all my overseas visitors in time. :-)
    This house needs people.

  9. Oh how magical! Thanks very much for bringing me along. It is nearing midwinter here and all around people are complaining of the cold and the snow and the wet. Such a delight to imagine even for a few moments. The bliss of a summer's afternoon. Thanks!! A very beautiful place indeed.

  10. Guitar.....what guitar ? There is a black bar at the top saying 'no video'. Should I be hearing music ?

  11. Welcome to my place, and sending warm thoughts to you C-ing spots!
    Ian - well, the music play bar comes up fine with safari and firefox... What are you using?

  12. Google Chrome. I used Firefox and got the audio.

  13. Thanks Katherine for another enjoyable adventure. I had to get out the map and find your river...near Tauranga??? as you had me intrigued.

  14. Every time I see these sort of photos it makes me realise how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful country such as New Zealand.

  15. Katherine, what beautiful photos and words. Incredible that there ARE such places - now - when outside MY window i see fog and my thermometer says -1° C, and I am sniffing and coughing. Wish I could have 30° now and sunshine and you as a kayak guide. Thank you so much for this excursion! But it took me a looong time to get there, as I am on the exact other side of the world from you, in North Germany...

  16. ...the beauty of nature. All of these pictures are amazing and I am sure each one is saved memory or awesome tale. I have been busy. I did get your email. I am slowly working on catching up the pregnancy blog to include baby.

  17. Delwyn. You are welcome! Yes, near Tauranga, just off the hill road to the Waikato district.

    Yep, we are in a lovely country Pal

    Angela - welcome to the LVD! Thank you for your kind words. I have a lovely North Germany-residing friend who has been saving up for years and has just booked to fly here to stay with me for some months later this year. So you see! It can be done!

    Pam - Thank you! YOUR pics of you and Sebastien in the sunset are wonderful too! I'm sure you have been busy. I'm glad you are well. It is a very busy time!
    I'm waiting patiently but very much looking forward to the new pics and post!

  18. Katherine. That is one of my all-time favourite posts. What more can I say? I have saved it to my computer so that I can just go back to it when I am in Scotland and feeling homesick for New Zealand.

    I've never done any serious kayaking. You make it look very tempting indeed. It's on the list!

  19. Geeb - Thank you thank you. 'Tis an honour indeed to be saved! My kayaking is never serious. That's why it's so wonderful.