I was still on my summer vacation and was worried I would get stagnant and stay at home all day every day. What a waste! So I decided I would have an adventure. I picked a spot on the map that was easy enough to get to, that I had never been to before and that would give me somewhere else to write about. I settled on Ohakune. Only a three and a half hour drive from New Plymouth where I live and apparently the home of some fantastic mountain bike trails. I packed up the car, loaded my bike and I was off.
Ohakune was originally a Maori Pa (fortified village or hill fort) set up by the remaining survivors of a local village raid in the mid 17th Century. Later in 1883 as the rail lines were being expanded for the North Island Main Trunk Ohakune was set up as a construction base which became a permanent camp for the workers. As happens with the influx of people, the settlement of Ohakune commenced early 1890’s, and finally in 1908 the railway line had arrived.
Today Ohakune is a tourist spot mainly for the access to Turoa Ski-field on Mt Ruapehu. During the winter months the town fills to bursting for those that want to ski for more than just a day. During the summer months the town is a little quieter, but still has frequent visitors, like myself, looking for hiking and mountain biking. The most well-known trek in the area is the Tongariro Crossing (which as yet I have not done), but the area offers many smaller tracks to walk where you can see waterfalls, lakes and the volcanic formations. Just the view from the ski field in the summer is stunning.
I had done a little research before leaving and I decided that, unlike previous ideas of staying in the car, I would stay at a backpackers. I chose LKNZ Backpackers and booked a bed in a 6-bed dorm room. I deliberately chose a 6-bed dorm, even though I could have afforded a room to myself. The whole reason I chose a backpackers was to be social and to meet new people with new experiences. I had noticed the times I slept in the car that getting to know people was difficult, as you had to find a way into the groups when they were out and about. Staying in a backpackers meant I was around like-minded people from the start and making conversation was easy. I was hoping this would be the case for this adventure.
On arrival I unpacked my car, got changed and decided to take a small ride around the town to orient myself. I find that playing Ingress when I do this means I get a good tour of the place and it takes me to some interesting places that I may not find by aimlessly walking. So I opened the app and rode to portals around Ohakune. It didn’t take long, Ohakune isn’t large, but with Mt Ruapehu looking over you all the time it is a pretty town with a lot of stained wood buildings. An hour later I had a good idea of what to do next. I was hungry.
A more detailed walk into town looking at menu’s and I settled on The Cyprus Tree for spiced lamb rump. It was beautifully done and I enjoyed every mouthful. I’m not a huge foodie, but I do appreciate a well designed meal. Even more spectacular was the apple, rhubarb crumble sundae. The name didn’t do it justice. It has apple crumble ice-cream with stewed rhubarb, whipped cream and home-made crumble bits all served in a pint glass. I highly recommend going here just for this. I planned on going back the next day for the banoffee pie sundae too.
Back at my room other guests had started to arrive. I met Sarah first and quickly had a chat about where we were from and what our plans were. Sarah was from England, but living and working in Denmark; she was travelling during her winter to get away from the cold. Later I met the 3 other girls from my room Mallika, Jaesica and Udantika. They were from India (although Mallika lives and studies in Perth, Australia at the moment). It was a brief “Hi,I’m Dan” and then I excused myself to set up ready for my first photography course online.
I set up shop on the outdoor table, it was a beautiful evening and I only put long pants and shoes on to stop the odd insect bite. My brother had lent me a few cameras to do the course with, as I didn’t know what I would need on this ‘Intro to Photography’. It was as I was setting up I realized this was a really good way of meeting people. Other backpackers were looking at me with interest and then asking to look at the cameras and they were willing to talk about them. It was a real conversation starter and a great way to get to know my fellow guests. As it happens the course went well, it was very basic but still useful. Afterwards I was free to mingle a little and get to know the people around me and I sat in the lounge doing just that. Choosing a backpackers really was a good idea. That night I slept ok. I didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to be active in the morning.
In the morning I was able to get to know Mallika, Jaesica and Udantika a bit better. We talked about our homes and they enthusiastically told me I have to go and see the festivals in India, Their story was awesome. They were related and in Auckland for a family business trip. The family was just relaxing around a pool and these three girls wanted to do more. So they gathered their things and arranged to meet the family in Queenstown in a week or so. They only had a few days left. Their budget was non-existent and some of their meals consisted of cream crackers and dip. They laughed about it as they were enjoying the adventure more than worrying about the comforts. I admired their attitude, as I am a true believer that life is about experiences not possessions.
Check out Ohakune Road Trip: Part 2 to read about mountain biking