Kiwi Family Mission Take 2: Adventures in the Egmont National Park

All good days in New Zealand start and continue with coffee

It’s the end of an era in New Plymouth, celebrated at the Ducks and Drakes Backpackers with barista-style coffee. We are saying goodbye to our super welcoming hosts, Brett and Paula, as well as some of the backpackers we have been sharing the hostel with over the last week, like Waiji and Trevor. That’s the essence of meeting people when you travel – fleeting friendships with a lot of goodbyes. But today, we are going to see some familiar faces on a Stratford farm.

As we pull up into a drive with a huge trampoline, we know this must be the place. Vanessa, Hamish, Euan and dogs of all shapes and sizes are waving from the window. This is the family that filled the trailer on that epic Fossil Canyon mission we did in Tangarakau a couple of weeks ago. We catch up with Vanessa over (more) coffee and tea while we wait for Andrew to finish work. Because we love the adventures Kiwi families seem to have, we are keen to go for a hike in the Egmont National Park with him and the boys who are on school holidays.

Unfortunately, Vanessa won’t be joining our hike because she has to work, but in truly motherly style, she sends us all off with a packed lunch for the hike!

car games and stormy weather

On the road to the Egmont National Park, Robin starts up a car game with the kids. (Finally, someone else who is just as enthusiastic about playing games as him)! Once we reach the bushline where the national park starts, we are driving on a single-file road engulfed in towering forest. This is just a taste of what’s to come in the wild forests of Mt Taranaki.

There are lists and lists of hikes we can do from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre: short walks to the falls, short loop tracks, day hikes and the start of multi-day adventures. (You can check some of them out on 6 Hikes You Have to do in Egmont National Park!) The wind is pushing us hard though, and a moist white haze is creeping down the mountain. It looks like we could be caught in some stormy weather. With that and the kids in mind, we opt for a hike to Wilkies Pools and back, taking about an hour.

The Egmont National Park forests will blow your mind!

After a quick look in the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, which is like a mini museum of Mt Taranaki’s geology and social history, we are delving into the forest. Wow. This forest looks like the thing of fairy tales, (no wonder they call it the “Goblin Forest”). Trees thick with moss are dramatically winding up to the canopy above. Trees use other trees to wind around, all using each other to fight for the light up high. We are well sheltered from the elements here.

Does that taste nice, Robin? Does that taste nice, Robin?
Epic Egmont National Park forests! Epic Egmont National Park forests!
Braving the ice at Wilkies Pools Braving the ice at Wilkies Pools
The face of pure joy The face of pure joy

Eating plants

Andrew and even the kids are teaching us all about the vegetation in the forest, particularly what you can and cannot eat. There’s a leaf that tastes extremely spicy, and we are on the hunt for a leaf used as an anesthetic to make our lips go numb. We are seriously impressed by the knowledge of Euan and Hamish! They could certainly survive in the bush alone, unlike us. We would die in a heartbeat, probably from eating poison berries. In fact, the boys are so at one with nature that they keep hiding in the bush further up the path in their matching camouflage coats. Even Andrew is puzzled as we walk straight past the boys on several occasions. Man, they are good!

The icy Wilkies Pools

Now, there’s nowhere to hide, as we emerge at a stony riverside with the famous Wilkies Pools! Tiny waterfalls cascade from pool to pool in some insanely clear water! In summer, this would be a great place to cool off, (or even have a bath)! But the wintery conditions have literally turned some of the smaller streams to ice. We spend a good amount of time taking photos of this amazing place, before the return journey on the same forest path.

It’s lunchtime! The best of all the times! Vanessa has packed us a boiled egg, venison sausage, sandwich and a packet of chips each. Good times! (See, good times are still not as good as lunchtime).

Dawson Falls

Our final Egmont National Park marvel of the day is the Dawson Falls, which is only a 5-minute walk from the roadside near the visitor centre. Down, down, down the steps we go to the base of an 18m waterfall, leading to lots of mini falls into a boulder-filled river. Again, it’s picture perfect here. Just check out the 360 image below!

The cold of the wind is going right through us, so that’s our cue to leave and head back to the farm. Speaking of farm, Robin is going with Andrew to shovel some sh*t!

Farm chores and cow poo

How do Kiwi farmers get around? With 4×4 buggies! Also known as Gators or Rangers. The guys are bombing around the farm until they reach a near-vertical hill. Robin is so stoked by the steep drop that he wants to have a go driving the Ranger down then try catch some air on the way back up. He fails, but hell, it’s fun. Next, they need to fertalise the land with some cow dung, which involves hauling a pipe full of crap into an irrigation machine then ducking for cover when the sh*t hits the fan. Robin is thankful that Andrew could lend him some overalls and gumboots.

Next on the farm chores list is feeding the animals: feeding the horses, dogs and chickens (or chucks as Kiwis call them). Then it’s back to the house to experience the feeling of warmth again… Even just a couple of hours farm work is pretty demanding for Robin. You have to be pretty tough for this farm life!

Homemade food, wine, beer and chatting in a warm house on a cold New Zealand winter’s evening is a good way to end a day. However, the wind and rain is going nuts outside. It looks like we are going to literally be rocked to sleep in the campervan tonight.

That should give us plenty of rest for some dairy farming tomorrow. Those cows aren’t going to milk themselves! See you tomorrow!

Laura and Robin

Check out that mean waterfall and those freezing people
Check out that mean waterfall and those freezing people Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow, travel tramps!

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