Beautiful lakes, breath-taking skies and a flat tyre – Waikato off the beaten path

"Nah, we’re not very likely to get a puncture"

Chris said this to me as we were on the way from our secluded campground at lake Arapuni to Mangakino, where we wanted to ride a section of the Waikato River Trail. Arohena is a campground of the Department of Conservation. The picturesque DOC campsite lies directly on the lake, there is no phone reception and to get there, we had to drive a section on gravel. And that’s where it must have happened. A mean little stone slashed Stanley’s (my car) tyre. Ok, maybe not slashed, but it went flat, and we were stuck. 30 seconds after saying this wasn’t likely to happen. Talk about jinxing it 😊 On the other hand, it’s not like it came as a complete surprise to us, as the tyres did need replacing. So did the spare wheel, which is why we didn’t have one, either. Oops!

Driving down to Arohena Campground

Pump, pump, pump your tyre

Anyway, there we were, on a little gravel path away from everything, looking at our flat in disbelieve. I tried to remember if I saw a house along the way, where we could go and ask for help, when Chris came up with the great idea that we could just inflate the tyre with the bike pump we happened to have with us (since we were on our way to go biking) and see how long the air stays in while we try to drive as far as possible. So Chris pumped, jumped in the car and we drove. After about 8 minutes we had to do the same routine all over again. And again 8 minutes later. And so on, for what felt like 1000 kilometers. After about 1.5 hours, we found a petrol station south of Mangakino. Luckily, they had tyre fixing spray in their shop which would give us time to find a workshop to replace the front tyres.


Some bike riding at last

After driving back to Mangakino, we were sure that the spray was doing its job and as long as there wouldn’t be any more vicious little stones we would be save for the day. It was quite late already, so we decided to only ride a very short part of the Waikato River Trails. We started on Mangakino’s waterfront and made it to the first hanging bridge along the way, before we had to turn back and drive to our campsite, which was about an hour away. We kept an eye on the wheels, but luckily, there were no further problems.

Weather spectacle on the campsite

When we got back, the weather gods had put on a spectacle on for us. The other side of the lake was drenched in gold. The birds sang incredibly loudly to farewell the day. Some tried to catch the mosquitoes that flew inches above the waters’ surface and the mirroring of lake Arapuni made it look like the birds were about to collide. We sat in our camping chairs and watched as the world around us changed from liquid gold into pink and purple and slowly faded into darkness.
But being in the Southern Hemisphere, dark isn’t really dark. As the last light of the day slowly disappeared, the stars started glowing one after the other until we sat underneath a canopy of billions of stars and the Milky Way shone as bright as a cloud that’s lit up up by the moon. I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky, it was so beautiful!

At some point I had to though, since I wanted to be up in time for sunrise again. And since we are in summer, this would be painfully early (especially because the hour before the actual sunrise is just as great).
As I got woken up by the singing birds at 5am and looked outside the tent, it was obvious that there wouldn’t be a classical sunrise. The night’s humidity accumulated a lot of fog, the world was grey. But it was quite warm already, so I was pretty sure that the sun would be able to break through the fog soon enough and just waited and watched some cute yellow birds that almost looked like canaries, singing. Early mornings are lovely and feel so much purer than sunsets, but I just don’t usually make it out of bed in time. That’s why I enjoy it even more when I eventually do get up. I cooked some tea, grabbed my camping chair and sat right on the waters’ edge and waited. The sun eventually showed up behind the fog and it was magic.

After breakfast we had the first swim of the summer season! It took as ages to get into the water, being chicken and all, but we made it and once in, it was heaven! Later, we packed down our tent and drove north. Along the way, we finally replaced Stanley’s front tyres and finally didn’t have to worry anymore if there would be more damage happening. Wheew!

The kayak is a time-machine!

One lake up, at lake Karapiro, we stopped for a little kayaking adventure. At first it looked like we’d just be kayaking on the lake for a while, but they guy from Lake District Adventure told us to discover one of the streams that flow into the lake. They ususally go there with their evening glow worm tour. And even though it was the middle of the afternoon and we couldn’t see glow worms, we kayaked upstream through a landscape that can only be described as wonderland! It’s a little canyon with moss on its walls, water dripping into the stream from somewhere. A green canopy of ferntrees and other ancient looking trees above us and all quiet except from the water that dripped into the stream and our paddle streaks. It felt like we kayaked through a time-space-portal underneath the car bridge and got transported thousands of years back in time! Just amazing!
Unfortunately, after a couple of hours, it was time bring back the kayaks. We have been paddling upstream so far, so now we could just sit back and relax as the stream slowly brought us back through the portal into reality.

On the way back to Auckland, the weather god just came up with one more stunning sunset, probably just to round up those amazing days!