Chasing Pukekos to Arriving in the Carrot Capital

Today we head back into the North Island inland to explore another volcanic region of Ruapehu. We’ve been up, down and around Mt Taranaki, cruised the coast to Wanganui, and now we are heading towards the North Island ski region.

Market musings

On our way out of Wanganui, we stop by at a couple more place our hosts at the 42b College House hostel told us we have to visit, the Saturday Market and Virginia Lake. First stop, the market. It’s a common thing in New Zealand to find a group of stalls in most towns on a weekend – Wanganui is no exception. The city’s market is set up along the Wanganui River. The smell of spit roast, hangi, sweets and coffee fill the air. We are drooling at the sight of homemade cakes! Locals are also selling their crafts, such as carved greenstone and bones in a Maori design or, very commonly here, handmade wooden toys, bird feeders, and all sorts of random things. This is a great place for souvenir shopping.

Although our budget doesn’t allow us to buy anything today, we still enjoy the vibes of the market and having a look at the sculptures by the riverside.

Wanganui Saturday Market Wanganui Saturday Market
Wanganui riverside sculpture selfie! Wanganui riverside sculpture selfie!
Sneaky pukeko shot Sneaky pukeko shot

Stalking pukekos at Virginia Lake

We can’t leave town without visiting this lake that so many people in our hostel have told us about. We like a lake, don’t get us wrong, but why are people going nuts for this body of water?!

Ducks, geese, chickens, pukeko, water chickens (Ok, we don’t know the real name for this bird), white swans, black swans, tui, fantails… Did we just step into an open air aviary right here? Virginia Lake in Wanganui is densely populated by birds which makes walking around the many tracks along the lake pretty entertaining. We love pukekos! These native New Zealand birds are bizarre with their extremely long legs and feet, blue feathers and red faces. We get a bit obsessed stalking them around the park.

The park and lake itself are pretty stunning. There’s a mix of native and exotic trees, pretty foot bridges, streams, rivers, small ponds… Laura even announces that this is her favourite city park in New Zealand that she has visited so far!! A strong statement, Laura, a strong statement…

Awesome road trip views! Awesome road trip views!
Epic lunchtime at Raukawa Falls Epic lunchtime at Raukawa Falls

A road trip down Washout Highway 4

We are now leaving the city, the lake and the pukekos and exchanging it for an adventure town in the heart of the North Island, Ohakune. But, we have a 2-hour drive to get there first.

We’ve driven on some gnarly “state highways” in New Zealand so far, the craziest of all being the pothole-riddled Forgotten World Highway. State Highway 4 is another hilarious example of a New Zealand highway. We are even considering requesting the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council to rename it the Washout Highway 4. It feels like every kilometre has warning signs and traffic lights for “washouts”, where one side of the road has compete vanished into the mighty river below. Gulp.

We can forgive the Washout Highway 4 between Wanganui and Ohakune though. It is freakin’ stunning. (Do we use that word enough in these blog posts? We feel like we don’t say “stunning” enough). The further inland we go, the more dramatic the hills get – hills that are borderline mountains. They are covered in sheep and in the distance are pine forests. As you may have guessed from the washouts, there’s a winding river below the road. We stop plenty of times for photos, including at Raukawa Falls for a picnic spot. You can always rely on a riverside waterfall in New Zealand.

OMG! A carrot!

All great adventures begin with carrots

How do you know you have hit Ohakune? Because you’ll see a big sign saying: “Where Adventures Begin” stood right in front of an even bigger sculpture of a carrot. What?

Not only is Ohakune the Carrot Capital of New Zealand, but it is also a skiing and mountain biking town based at the bottom of the North Island’s largest volcano and largest ski fields, Mt Ruapehu. This mountain is the sh*t. We love it. We’re excited to be here. (Even if we cannot see the mountain because it is raining sideways). Neverthless, we get our photo with the giant carrot and move onto our residence for our stay in Ohakune, daKune Lodge. This is a ski-chalet-inspired lodge with all wooden interior and exterior. Plus, we are digging the free breakfast.

We are thankful to be staying in the stability of daKune Lodge while the storm is going mental outside. No doubt it is whipping our campervan into shape. Tomorrow, we are seeing what all the fuss is about by mountain biking in Ohakune! (If it looks like we won’t get blown off our bikes). See you then!

Laura and Robin

Snacking in SYMMETRY
Snacking in SYMMETRY Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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