New Zealand Day 4: Awaroa Lodge

We awoke slowly and gently, to find the day bright but not sunny, and the cicadas going full-force. Sibyl and I had chosen one of the four(!) beds in the upper loft area, while my parents had chosen the bed in the lower section of our room. We chose the bed next to the one upstairs window, correctly surmising that we would otherwise sleep well into the morning.

We broke our fast at the Lodge dining room. I can safely say that Awaroa Lodge makes a mean Muesli, if you're into that kind of thing.

What Shall We Do Today?

[Map of Awaroa Lodge and environs] The day was overcast, but there didn't seem to be any rain threatening. We had studied the "What to do at Awaroa Lodge" brochure, and there were a number of promising-looking hikes, as well as the ever-present allure of just hanging out on the beach.

I had noticed on the little map that there was an airfield near the lodge, so I requested that that be one of our stops for the day. I'm afraid there's no way for me to escape my geekish nature. My parents liked the looks of the hike beyond the airfield, so we made that our first destination.

Now That's a Grass Strip

[Abel Tasman Air Cessna] The airfield at Awaroa Lodge is a grass strip that's perhaps 1700-2000 feet long, and around 50 feet wide. That's certainly not the smallest runway I've ever seen (I landed once at a strip that was around that length, but only 20 feet wide -- it was asphalt, at least), but it's not large. Definitely an excellent time to be using the "Short Field Takeoff/Landing" section of the checklist. It's also bounded on both ends by large hills, making for a challenging field to fly from.

[The runway, from the west end] The airfield was actually quite a short distance from the Lodge, probably only 500m through a strip of forest. The trail running from the Lodge past the airstrip is also the trail to the barge landing, which is how the Lodge gets most of its supplies.

There's an inlet just west of the lodge, just past the airstrip, that floods at high tide, but is dry at low tide. This means that (unless you like wading through hip-deep water) it's impassable except during the four hours surrounding the low tide point. It also means the barge has to time its arrival to coincide with high tide.

We arrived at the inlet within half an hour of high tide. There wasn't even a little strip of beach that we could traverse to see further down, just gently swirling plantlife suspended in seawater.

[The airstrip, looking northeast] Thwarted in our attempt to take a hike (as opposed to a very brief walk), we turned around to find some other direction we could walk. I noticed as we passed by the airstrip again that on the ridge facing the field were some houses. Apparently, these were private residences, unaffiliated with the Lodge. Leading up to one of the houses (and with a very tiny "Private Property" sign) was the largest, most immaculate lawn I've seen in quite a while. The picture on the left shows it in the foreground (and you can see the sad little windsock that's gone from orange to white from the sun).

Oh, it's Just a 40 Minute Hike

[The Awaroa Lodge vegetable garden] Upon returning to the Lodge, past the garden, we decided to take a hike described in the brochure as an "easy, 40 minute loop." It was also supposed to have a good scenic lookout, and I was excited to take some pictures of the area from higher up.

[Mugging for the camera] We started up the trail, but were immediately confused by a sign that seemed to indicate the trail we wanted traversed private property, and to stay out. So, we went the other way, hoping the sign was really saying, "you're on the right path." It seemed to be right according to our recollection of the map.

As we continued along the trail, it kept getting steeper, and more interesting. It also got more and more full of mosquitos. Nothing big or scary, just an ever-increasing number of very persistent mosquitos. I was trailing in the line, so I was getting the most attention from the bugs.

Unfortunately, the number one thing that keeps me from doing more outdoor activities is our insect friends. I can take insects around me, it's just when they start attacking me in their various forms (ie, mosquitos sucking blood, bees stinging, gnats divebombing eyeballs or the back of the throat) that I get unhappy. Here I was, getting the brunt of it.

[Awaroa Lodge from the trail] I told Sibyl and my parents that I would return to the lodge to avoid the bugs (which they were noticing too, now that we had stopped at a vantage point), and returned down the trail. They were planning on continuing along the trail and completing the loop.

Of course, after 3 minutes of tromping back down the trail, I realized that I wanted to hand one of them the radio I was carrying, so we could be in contact when I got back to the lodge. I had been going downhill, and now had to catch up to them by going uphill. By the time I caught them, about 5 minutes later, I was definitely feeling the burn.

I handed Sibyl my radio and headed back to the lodge, comfortable in the knowledge that there was a nice cool shower awaiting me there. When I turned on the radio at the room, they reported that they were actually turning around as well. My mom had turned her ankle shortly after I parted company with them, and after half an hour of hiking, they had only covered about 1/4 the distance of the trail.

Who times these things? Did they get some Olympic hiking champion to walk the trail, and write down his time?

More Reading

With everyone back at the lodge, it was time for leisure. I don't know about anyone else but one of the things I want to do on a vacation is "nothing." I'm quite fond of just sitting still and reading, or pondering reality, or whatever. Not for extended periods of time, but for moderate stretches.

This is, needless to say, what happened next.

Dinner and Laundry

We dined at the Lodge again that night, since, well, there aren't any other choices. The meal was universally praised again, and our waiter this time was a different attractive 20-something man. I think New Zealand must have some kind of program that grooms its youth to be as beautiful as possible.

Before dinner, I had gone on a quest to do some laundry. I don't recall what I was running out of, but it was something important like socks. (Well, ok, important to me, anyway.) There was one washing machine, and one dryer at the lodge for guest use. I had put our assembled laundry in the washer without incident, but when I went back to dry it, the dryer was full. I ended up going back three times before the dryer was available, and even then I had to move someone else's clothes out of the way. Ah well, it all got done in the end.

That night, we amused ourselves with a game of Trivial Pursuit, which was available from the "library" in the Lodge. I had never considered this, but Trivial Pursuit is very culturally centered -- we ended up instituting a rule that New Zealand questions should just be skipped. How should I know the Maori word for a particularly tasty yellow fish? It made for an interesting, if somewhat extended, game.

Return to the Introduction - Go on to Day 5

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