Duck Itch

The weather was a bit iffy, but we wanted to get out and explore some of the other areas around us. We decided to drive down past Ocean Beach to Waimārama and explore that area. As Americans, we totally mangle the pronunciations of the place names. They have a totally different cadence, and the accent on the syllables isn’t where an American would guess they are (despite the accent).

For example: Waimārama

  • An American would say “Why ma RA ma”
  • The Kiwi pronunciation is “Why MAR ama”

The drive there was on a beautiful small (and windy) road through quintessential North Island terrain (see cover photo). We decided to stop at a small little nature preserve called the “Mohi Bush Scenic Reserve.” It wasn’t huge, about 4 km to do the long circuit around it, but it was a nice example of what the native bush looked like—very dense and dark. Muddy too.

Sadly we didn’t see any Kiwis….the birds that is.

After a pleasant hike around the nature preserve, we drove down the road to Waimārama beach. The town was quite a bit more substantial than Ocean Beach, with some very nice houses that were way more than baches. The beach itself wasn’t quite as long and wide as Ocean beach was, but it was nice—sandy, swimmable, and walkable. We were both think “hmmmm, this is nice—wonder how far of a drive it is to the New World Market in Havelock North.”

Beautiful Waimārama Beach

On the way back, we stopped by the Craggy Range winery which is quite famous and super fancy schmancy. They have lodging there that starts at $450/night. We aren’t staying there, but we are going for a special dinner as part of the FAWC (Food and Wine Classic) celebration on June 19th. That will be fun.

Getting a dog fix

We sat inside because it was a bit too chilly to sit outside and they served us some wines. We really do need to “harden up!” The wine was quite good, if not a bit expensive. Their Riesling was lovely and they had a very nice Rosé as well. The Pinot from Martinborough grapes was excellent. As we were sitting there, I noticed a book over on the shelf at their gift shop. “Wine Dogs New Zealand.” I had to go grab it and take a look. Lots of border collies, labs, and other scruffy pooches. Awe. Made me really miss my girlie-girl. I am sure she is happy as a clam running around the beaches of Santa Barbara barking at Tuuka and Hankie.

They served one wine from their “expensive” list that was a 2013 Cab/Merlot blend. The were asking $135 for it. I didn’t like it. Neither did Susanne. No need to spend big coin on that one. We bought some cheaper wine and headed home. It wasn’t an adrenaline-inducing day, but pleasant and relaxing.

The next day we decided we would drive north and do a tramp out that way. We also wanted to get a sense for towns like Eskdale, and what the beach was like in the northern part of Hawkes Bay. We had a read about a nice tramp at Lake Tutira that looked promising, so we headed out. I almost screwed up and nearly got us into a prang in a roundabout, and that freaked me out. You don’t realize how much of your driving gets put into auto-pilot when you are familiar with the roads, the driving style, and traffic patterns. It was a reminder that, even though I feel pretty comfortable driving here, it is not automatic yet!

We got to the lake, parked, gathered up our stuff, and checked out the map of the route we wanted to take. A big part of the area was closed due to timber operations, so that was out.

Ummmm, no thank you

The map was a bit confusing, but I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to navigate. There was a big notice around the lake saying how the lake was now open for swimming again as long as you doused yourself in deet for fear of getting Duck Itch. Neither of us knew what duck itch was, but agreed that we had no desire to get it. Thus, we were not going to go swimming in the lake.

We walked along the dirt road to the campground. It was a beautiful fall morning, if not a bit chilly. The lake was mirror-like and beautiful despite the threat of duck itch. We got to the campground and looked for the trail. We found one, but it wasn’t clear it was the right one. We started up the hill and it was very muddy and wet. Susanne was less than thrilled about the prospect of possibly losing her footing and doing a head plant into the mud. Sheesh, she really does need to harden up.

We got to a fork on what was called the “Valley Trail.” Excuse me, this was not on the map. We took the Valley Trail, since it seemed to go in the right direction based on what we’d seen on the map. After a few ups and downs through leafy, muddy slopes, it eventually popped out into a paddock that didn’t go anywhere. Hmmm, we headed down the farm road and back to the Ridge trail. We just weren’t sure and our gps wasn’t showing any trails so we decided to just head back down and do the short loop around lake Waikopiro.

On our way back, we stopped in at the MacPac store (like the NZ version of REI) in Napier to get a propane canister for the camping stove and some hut passes. We are hoping to do an overnight up to Sunrise Hut later in the week if the weather cooperates.

Then we stopped at the Countdown in Napier for some groceries. It was a sad comparison to the New World Market in Havelock North. Kind of Ralphs vs. Gelsons if you are familiar with those stores in the US. Oh well. They had enough of what we needed.

We decided to make our lives easy and get a pizza from Te Awanga Estates Winery for dinner. We drove the 1/2 kilometer up to the winery. The parking lot was empty. We went inside and the woman who served us wine the other day—Sham—was there. We ordered the pizza, she poured us a couple of tastings of the wines that were open, and we chatted while we waited. They didn’t have a takeaway box, so they put the pizza into one of their smaller wine boxes. A bit big, but functional.

The pizza was very tasty and we accompanied it with the remainder of the Tukituki wine and laughed about that whole hobbit thing again.

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