62. New Year in The Waikato

After a lovely restful Christmas and an uneventful ferry trip back to Halfmoon Bay we returned to T5 at Ardmore, staying there one more day in order to enjoy a long catch-up with Asti who I’ve known since sailing days in Bowen Queensland. I resolved to hunt up several other friends from those days, it is much easier now thanks to Facebook and the on-line white pages.IMG_7376

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Then it was off to Arapuni in the Waikato, SE of Cambridge, to spend New Years’ Eve with caravanning friends Graeme and Barbara and his daughter Jackie, who must have found her front yard a little cramped with two large caravans parked there! From the house there are wonderful views of the valley with the river just out of sight.

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Arapuni power station is close nearby so on NYE we all went for a walk to the swing bridge which straddles the gorge with the power station almost directly underneath. it was an unusual experience standing on the pitch dark bridge with the floodlit power station and roaring water directly underneath us, and some unnoticed gentle rain to add a finishing touch. Dave’s photos:

Arapuni03Arapuni02We explored the power station area in more detail in daytime. Near the entrance there are 4 large trees with small plaques underneath bearing the names of employees who fought in the second world war.

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IMG_7385Later we went back to the swing bridge and took some day time photos. This is the widest swing bridge we’ve encountered on our travels, Penny had no trouble tripping over the wooden surface. She certainly does not seem to fear heights!

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It seems the powerhousewas camouflaged during WW2….

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The Waikato area is a fitness addict’s playground, offering many newly-developed cycle and walking trails, rowing and water-skiing, horse riding etc. The Waikato River Trails is a fairly new project. The sign below is typical of each section. Safety is given special consideration.

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Here are some parts of the trail visible from the road, other parts however are well away from the road amongst bush.

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Dave: Graeme and Barbara are keen cyclists so Graeme borrowed one of Jacqui’s bikes for me to ride and and took me off onto the cycle trail beside Lake Karapiro. Having not ridden for at least two years my fitness level was not high so when Graeme took off down some steep hills I was hoping that he would find alternative (i.e. flatter!!) tracks to return on. No such luck so after an interesting cycle of 6 km each way I ended up pushing the bike up the last 100 metres or so of the track.

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Lake Karapiro, now a world champion rowing venue, is a man-made lake used for many other water sports too including water skiing, boating and canoeing. The Waikato river was first dammed in 1910 to create the Horahora Power Station to supply power to the Martha Gold mine at Waihi. It was for a time the largest generating plant in the country. By 1919 it was supplying power to Cambridge, Hamilton and surrounds; by 1916 with an upgrade it was supplying the Bay of Plenty and Auckland.

In 1940 work began on the Karapiro Dam and power station, which was finally completed in 1947, development being delayed by WW2. The old Horahora Power Station and Horahora village were flooded to create Lake Karapiro. When the station was flooded it was more or less in perfect working order, and one of the generators was unable to be shut down which rise to the legend that Horahora refused to die.

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There is a one-way lane twisting along the top of Karapiro Dam, controlled by traffic lights. The main rowing venue is close by.

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Nearby Cambridge – that’s Cambridge in NZ not UK – is a breeding ground for Olympian equestrians, rowers and cycllists. And horses – it has its own Equine Stars Walk of Fame. There must be something in the water.

  • For example:
  • Equestrian – Mark Todd (2 Olympic golds); Katie McVean.
  • Equine – 2 champion sires Sir Tristram and Zabeel, Sir Patrick Hogan; 3 Melbourne Cup winners; Sheila Laxon the first woman to train a Melbourne cup winner in 2001 (Ethereal – who also won the Caulfield Cup). Show jumper Charisma.
  • Rowing – the Evers-Swindell twins; Matt Drysdale and many others.
  • Cycling – Sarah Ulmer.

When mentioned this on Facebook my Macloskey third cousin Brenda W chipped in with “There are some really awesome people that come from Cambridge LOL. Need to go back and get some more of that water.” I did not know at the time that her father was once a NZ rowing champion and Brenda herself was a cox occasionally, one of the very few girls to do so in the early days on Karapiro. (Photo reproduced with permission). 

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There are so many thoroughbred studs that organised tours are available. A beautiful equine statue graces the square in front of the original town library.

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We also visited another Macloskey third cousin in nearby Putaruru and admired their beautiful roses and lawn, which we saw just being developed last winter. Since becoming addicted to genealogy I have certainly discovered a great many third and fourth cousins all over the world!

The Waikato is beautiful country. Wildflowers were everywhere, and vistas of rolling green hills or water at every bend in the road.

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One prominent mountain in the distance is an extinct volcano called Maungatautari, dating back 1.5 million years.

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IMG_7390It has been fenced around its 47 kilometre perimeter to keep out mammalian pests such as rats, possums and stoats and thus been turned into an inland ‘island’ which is virtually pest free. Many rare species that have been eradicated by pests and predators over the past few humdred years have been introduced into this island and are thriving. In particular the kakapo “an enormous parrot with a voice that makes your hair s tand on end” and is critically endangered, is to be introduced very soon.IMG_7482

We visited the information centre but as dogs were not permitted and it was a very hot day which meant we could not leave Penny in the ute, decided to leave it for another time. We could however see parts of the fence, plus a row of cows on the skyline heading off to the milking shed.

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IMG_7475We discovered the site of the Battle of Orakau Battle where in 1864 in an unfinished pa about 300 maoris kept at bay 1500 British and colonial troops. Little is to be seen now apart from a monument and some inquisitive cows.

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Not too far away in Kihikihi is the Rewi Maniapoto monument. Quite a contrast to the battle site both visually and in content, and what’s more two months prior to the battle Kihikihi was occupied by the British forces.

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We decided we needed some coffee sustenance but as it was a pubic holiday all the little towns we passed through seemed to be dead. Then we spotted a sign with the magic word Cafe and also Blueberries and followed it for a long way, almost giving up twice, before discovering “Irresistiblue” set in acres of blueberry fields. Everything on the cafe menu featured blueberries and Dave had demolished his blueberry tart before i could even take a sip of my coffee. A sign nearby asked people not to smoke even on the outside decks…. 7 metres of peat! Much of the Waikato was originally a swamp.

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After several days enjoying Jackie’s hospitality and especially some really great showers, it was time to move on. Next stop Rotorua where Dave once lived and hopes to catch up with some old friends.

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