Back in the bush again. Kahanui stream in the Urewera. Photo: Tania McKerrow.
Misty mountains, sunlit solitudes, beaches curving to infinity, meandering rivers, towering podocarp forests, Maori on horses and living in isolated communities, a small gas station at the entrance to the valley where the owner sells fuel, repairs cars, sells food, cooks fish and chips and repairs shoes, seemingly at the same time. The red-tipped dawns, the frosty mornings, singing streams, river crossings and scrambling up hills are just some of the meories I am taking away from the Waiotahi valley, river and beach where I have been exploring for the last six days. What made it so warm and was having my daughter and seven week old daughter Aliyah with me most of the time.
Early morning on the Waiotahi River. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Just over 8 months ago I had total knee replacements in both legs and since then I have been building up to walking 7 km and later 10 km a day. My trip in the Urewera region was an opportunity to see if my new knees would be able to take me up hills, along bush tracks and cross rivers again. I should have never doubted Ed Newman's skills. They carried me where ever I wished to go.
The Waiotahi valley is a remote Maori region inhabited by Tuhoe and Whakatoea, On Saturday afternoon when I was cycling from the road end down to where I am staying I saw at least ten children walking between farms. All were Maori. Two of guys who work at the centre, Barlow, Whakatoea and Richie, Tuhoe, run the farm and are storehouses of Maoritanga. Their main marae is at the entrance to the Waiotaha valley.
Tania told me how she stopped at a gas station near Opotiki a week ago and watched 10 Maori teenagers ride up on horses. Horse riding is in the blood here and most oi the hunting is done from horses as the dogs flush the pigs and deer from the ridges down in to the vallies where they are shot.
On Sunday I watched Ritchie and his relatives catching a runaway horse. Horses are their main form of transportation in the eastern foothills of the Urerewa.
During my six days in the hills and forests we went down tro Waiotahi Beach and neighbouring beaches and bays.
Ohiwa Harbour. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Bread, parcels or mail. Take your pick. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Ohiwa Harbour. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Whale island from Waiotahi beach. Photo: Bob McKerrow
That broad arc of the Bay of Plenty. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Tania pushing 7 week old Aliyah along Waiotahi beach
Monday 27 July
It is right in front of you, raw elemental landscapes. Welcome home.
I am leaving today for Christchurch via Whakatane and Auckland. We drove down the Waiotahi valley to the sea shore then past Ohiwa harbour, Ohope Beach, Ohope and to Whakatane for breakfast. Scrambled eggs and ham in a croissant. That coastline is superb. Flew from Whakatane, saw White Island, near Tauranga and saw Waiheke Island as we prepared for a landing in Auckland. “This is my land and I am firmly rooted in it,” wrote Albert Wendt. Today as we flew down the North Island, I felt I owned this country. Sprawling Auckland, Port Waikato and the Waikato river, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngarahoe were plastered white and stood out proudly. Over a teal coloured Taranaki Bight, and then beneath Mount Taranaki.
All the ranges and ridges of the lower north island were covered with fresh snow. the Tararua. Ruahine, Orongaronga. The islands of Kapiti and Mana were visible.
Then it was home across the Cook Strait to Malborough and Canterbury. The Southern Alps were gleaming white.
From Godley Head looking across to Christchurch. Photo: Bob McKerrow
As soon as I unpacked my bags, my daughter Ruia took me to the hills and we walked down tg Godley Head.