A Local’s Tour: From Swing Bridge to Blue Spring

Our hosts, Steve and Lorraine from Arapuni Backpackers, are keen as a bean to show us around their little Waikato town today. What better way to find the secret spots than for a local to show you? We’re going to massive swing bridges, peering over dams and spillways, and then making our way to the Blue Spring at Putaruru.

After a morning of playing with the sheep again, we have a quick coffee with one of the locals, Bob, who just shows up to say hi to Steve and Lorraine. (That’s the charm of being in a small New Zealand town!) He’s lived in Arapuni for many years so is going to show us the town where he has grown up. Sweet!

A swing bridge to rule all swing bridges!

We set off on a quiet stroll through town on the way through Arapuni to the pride of the local area, the swing bridge! Swing bridges aren’t exactly a unique thing in New Zealand (Just take a look at 8 Picture Perfect Bridges in New Zealand), but this swing bridge is huge! 152 metres! Robin, who’s afraid of heights, is tentatively shuffling along, while Bob is making the bridge bounce as he “bobs” along a bridge he has no doubt crossed a thousand times. Although the Arapuni swing bridge was constructed for dam workers in the area, it is now partly used as part of the Waikato River Trails, a 100km cycle journey through the lush Waikato region, (and partly used by visitors like us!)

Across the bridge is a neglected staircase which Bob leads us up. We are then faced with a fence around an old outdoors power station and signs everywhere saying “no entry”. No matter, we are following the perimeter to a 4×4 gravel track where Bob used to take the dogs for a walk. The track leads to many different aspects of the dam, with spillways and extra constructed river channels. It’s a behind the scenes tour right here!

We come to a dead end, where Bob is threatening to jump into the spillway to take a shortcut back the gravel track. Erm… We’re not too keen on the idea. We walk back the way we came and back along the swingbridge. It’s a long drop below, with a power station on one side of the roaring river and dense native bush on the other side.

Laura doesn't want to leave this fairy tale place! Laura doesn't want to leave this fairy tale place!
Ripples in the clear water Ripples in the clear water
A sassy pukeko A sassy pukeko
Sunset and moonrise in Waikato Sunset and moonrise in Waikato

Saying goodbye to Arapuni Backpackers

Back at Aranpuni Backpackers, Lorraine switches on the barbie and cooks up some bacon, beans and eggs for us all.

“We are told we barbecue more than Kiwis!” says Lorraine, who is originally from the UK. Well, a barbecue always sounds like a great idea, even in the third week of winter. Plus, we are super grateful that she is even cooking lunch for us at all!

We’ve had a great time at Arapuni Backpackers, which has felt like staying round at a friend’s house. Steve and Lorraine really go the extra mile in their hospitality. It makes a welcome change being in this homely environment when backpacking. It’s also one of the only budget accommodation options so close to some awesome attractions like Mt Maungatautari, the swingbridge, the Waikato River Trails, several kayaking glowworm tours (we will check out later in the year), and the Putaruru Blue Spring, which is our next port of call today!

Discovering the Blue Spring

On the road again! We are heading for the Blue Spring along the Te Waihou Walkway just outside Putaruru. It’s only a 15-20 minute drive from Arapuni. There are two car parks: the easy one, which is just off the highway so you can enjoy the whole Te Waihou Walkway, or the tiny car park down to Leslie Road, which becomes increasingly winding and narrow. Because we are losing daylight and we have our compact Jucy Condo, we take the Leslie Road option to save on time.

Did we just walk into a fairy tale? The contrasting clear blue water with the green river weed does not look real! And when we say river weed, we don’t mean that dirty slimy stuff. It’s like the spring water has cleaned the river of any mud. In summer, we know the Blue Spring is a super popular swimming spot, despite the water being ice cold, but coming in winter is a whole different story! Aside from a family who have come to take some photos, we are the only ones here to watch the spring slowly trickle by. We also see perhaps five different bird species, from the grazing pukeko on land to the fantail dancing over the water, that would no way be as abundant in the busy summertime.

Like all jam-packed days in New Zealand’s winter, the daylight disappears pretty quickly. We are left with a view of a sunset and a bright moon behind Waikato’s rolling hills for the drive to Waitomo, where we have a super rare and amazing opportunity to spend some nights in the glowworms caves! Stay tuned with us. It’s going to be epic, we tell you, epic!

Laura and Robin

The never ending Arapuni swing bridge
The never ending Arapuni swing bridge Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

If you liked this blog post, you’ll probably enjoy these articles:

To get you dreaming, how about checking out our Instagram to get all the visuals of New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year? Or plan your own trip in the Waikato region by checking out our recommendations on HerePin!

See you later, backpacker buddies!

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