Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

Posts Tagged ‘ national park ’

I used to go camping a lot when I was in my twenties. I belonged to an outdoor club which had a calendar packed with weekend camping trips, multi-day backpacking walks, canyoning and lots more. I was one of the only members under 50 years old, but that was great as the members had heaps of gear and were very generous to share with those without. I couldn’t afford much so I used to be gratefully kitted out by the community. When I moved to Sydney I no longer had such an active group to go on adventures with and I lacked so much gear so my weekend adventures became more city-based.

Then a couple of birthdays ago a good group of friends bought me a tent. I’ve been wanting to go camping with it for ages but planning a weekend trip always seemed ever-elusive. Why does our heart’s desire often end up on the back burner of a busy life?

Well no longer! My friend Oceana and I decided one day to pick a far-away date in the calendar and scheduled a trip. Of course we got busy, so it was only a couple of days ahead that we started a flurry of messages to plan where, when, and survival needs. We decided a 3-hour-drive would be far enough for a one night trip, and somehow, based on that flimsiest of parameters, we settled on Barrington Tops National Park, more specifically, the private campground Ferndale Park nestled beside the Chichester River.

We left early-ish on Saturday morning and arrived in the mid-afternoon after three prolonged stops on-route (1. Three Trees Cafe at North Gosford for much-needed Pablo & Rusty coffee; 2. Anaconda to fill in the gaps of our camping gear; 3. Woolies to purchase enough food for a week’s survival in the outback. Side note – while I think of myself as being very down-to-earth and au naturel, I sometimes read back on things I write and wonder….).

When we arrived at Ferndale we stopped at the entrance where a friendly guy came out to greet us. Oceana had already emailed to let them know we were coming (they only take bookings on public holidays), but he was surprised to see us arrive so late for a one-night-only visit. We explained our mini-adventure and he good-naturedly took our camp fees and then hopped on top of his wood pile to fill a bag for us for $15.

The great first-in-first-served policy meant we were able to choose our own campsite across the 150 hectare property. There are more rustic spots on the other side of the river, but as the park was pretty quiet that weekend we opted to stay in the main campsite area which is situated along the river within sight of the amenities block.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There were about 8 or so other groups in the main campsite area too with a mix of tents and caravans, but we had plenty of space to pick our location looking right at the river and with a feeling of privacy.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the park, waded in the cold river, sat on the pebbly-bank and read our books. It was so tranquil and relaxed, the sounds of the Aussie bush at sunset was just magic.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

There are stone-rimmed fire circles scattered around the sites so even with our newbie abilities, and armed with fire-lighters and newspaper, we were able to get our fire roaring shortly after setting up camp.

Our fire kept us cosy warm as we cooked up a fabulous veggie tofu stirfy on our borrowed gas stove. Then the marshmallows came out, which we toasted on sticks and stuck between digestive biscuits, all gooey and crunchy. We sipped peppermint tea and chatted, falling silent to listen to the cackle of the fire and the cicadas humming in the background.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

After a cosy night in our tent, I woke to the sound of the bell birds. I quietly slipped out of the tent and sat by the river to enjoy the morning energy wash over me, the cool crisp air and running water of the river was absolute bliss. I stoked up a fire and had our kettle boiling by the time Oceania joined me.

After our tea we went for a walk from the property up to Chichester Dam which was an impressive sight. We meandered along a path and took some forks in the road to explore the area, we had no map but probably covered about 6 kilometres by the time we walked back to camp.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We made banana pancakes for brekkie under the watchful eye of some hungry Kookaburras.

Camping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State ForestCamping at Ferndale Park Chichester State Forest

We leisurely packed up, ate our lunch sitting on the river bed and then got back in the car for the drive back to Sydney.

Yes it was short and sweet for a weekend escape, but we had a great time and enjoyed our planning and preparation just as much as our time spent in the forest – though next time I will stay longer for sure!

Along the Away NZ Trip Map Tongariro

New Zealand is home to an epic series of ‘Great Walks’ which I have read about and hope to tick some off of my bucket list sometime in my lifetime. I was really excited to go to the World Heritage Listed Tongariro National Park where the only Great Walk you can do in one day, the Tongariro Crossing, is located. The Crossing is 19.4km long and is incredibly steep in parts (there is a part called The Devils Staircase. Enough said.)

There are three mountains in the national park – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, which are important landmarks to the Maori people for spiritual and cultural reasons.

We stayed two nights in an alpine lodge in Whakapapa Village, which was cosy but rustic – it reminded me a bit a school camp to be honest, lots of pine furniture, bunk beds, shared common rooms with board games and fireplaces. There is a kitchen and bar there, the food was good and the staff were friendly and helpful – especially in regards to giving me a cup of uncooked rice – more on that later.

I love bushwalking and hiking outdoors, I try to walk everyday but even still I wouldn’t say my fitness is at a high level because I don’t train or intentionally challenge myself to tackle steeper terrain or anything – I mostly stick to coastal tracks. So I was a bit nervous about doing the Tongariro Crossing but I knew enough of its beauty to sign up immediately anyway. When our bus arrived in the national park the night before it was raining pretty heavily but the forecast was looking good for the next day. We were getting picked up by a guided hiking company called Adventure Outdoors at a very early hour, so I prepped all my hiking gear at the end of my bunk bed ready for a quick and quiet rise in the morning (lesson number one in being a considerate room-mate). When the morning came I woke to the sound of rain pattering down but I jumped up, got ready and assembled optimistically with the rest of the group ready for the pick-up. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans for us. Sarah and Perrin, from Adventure Outdoors arrived with the sad news that the wind higher up on the crossing was too fierce to make the trek – the Tongariro Crossing was closed. For those that haven’t heard of it before, here is what I missed out on:

Emerald Lakes

So sad, I felt really disappointed as I had psyched myself up to take on the challenge. Hiking through snow and navigating ice on the track was going to be a new experience for me, I was really mentally preparing myself for the challenge of using crampons and ice picks to earn that incredible view. But as travel always (always) teaches us, when something doesn’t work out, just roll with it onto the next amazing experience. Sarah and Perrin were revved up with enthusiasm and wouldn’t let our spirits stay down for long – they proposed we head out and do some hiking along the base of the mountains, some of which was part of the Tongariro Crossing anyway. So we did!

Tongariro National Park Hike

It rained. The entire 6 hours.

But look, I’m smiling! With rain drops on my nose.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Coz it was fun! Seriously, we’ve developed into such precious souls when it comes to getting a bit uncomfortable. I would never normally go hiking in the rain. Even if it’s forecast to rain later during the day I’ll cancel an intended hike. I’d get wet! And cold! And uncomfortable!

Well, so what. I did get a bit of all of those things, but I didn’t stop smiling! Neither did anyone in our small group of 8 or so. We laughed at ourselves and each other. We stumbled and bounced back up. We stopped for photos, to listen to stories from the girls, to try and picture the scenes in Lord of the Rings which were filmed here.

Tongariro National Park Hike

We started at Mangatepopo Car Park and walked as far as Soda Springs, stopping before ascending the Devil’s Staircase.

Tongariro National Park Hike

The track was beautiful in the rain. The fog hung low and heavy, the silence of the land except the rain hitting the ground and our feet crunching on the rocks.

Sarah and Perrin were wonderful guides, they acted as if it was a perfect blue sky, sunny day and we were out for a leisurely stroll. Sarah was actually 7 months pregnant at the time! Which none of us even realised til about two hours in – we were all so bundled up in fleeces and rain jackets that her bump was hidden and her unbelievable energy would never have given it away. Once realised that, it put us all in our place – if she can keep going then we can!

I learnt from the walk that Lake Taupo was once a volcano that blew up in about 1180. It threw lava and rock over a third of the north island. All the trees were flattened creating the lava fields we walked through on our walk. Lake Taupo is hours away – so that gives you an idea of the how powerful the volcano eruption was.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

I might have missed out on hiking with crampons on the ice, but I got to step over some. It was this cold. 

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

I can only wonder at how the walk looks and feels on a gloriously sunny day. Our experience was oh so different, but appreciated.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

Soda Springs popped up in view, our walk’s target.

Tongariro National Park Hike

On we trooped, letting the rain soak in and roll off.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Tongariro National Park Hike

Finally we reached Soda Springs. A quick photo op and we turned around and trudged back to the Mangatepopo carpark.

Tongariro National Park Hike

Once we got back in the van and had the heaters pumping we all laughed and kidded around, trying a hopeless battle to keep seats dry when everything about us was soaked. We had the giddy high you get after doing something you probably wouldn’t have thought you would do, relief mixed with achievement. Then Sarah turned from the front seat and proposed we head to a lake walk – only about 2 hours and mostly under a rainforest canopy so we wouldn’t get much wetter (can you get wetter than 100% soaked?) The van got quiet. We all made non-committal noises sliding side-long glances at each other. Was anyone going to object? Was the seven months pregnant woman going to be shut down? Non-committal noises turned into non-committal head bobs as we all waited for someone to say the words that would send us all home to a shower and dry towel, food and a heater. The words never came and Sarah and Perrin clapped their hands and took off toward the walk. We all rallied as we realised ‘OK, we’re doing this!’ Later we all laughed when we realised not one of us thought we had it in us to do another rain walk, surely 4 hours had been enough. But we were all so glad that we’d followed the crowd – we had another fabulous walk!

Rotopounamu Lake is located at the foot of Mt Pihanga in the Pihanga Scenic Reserve, believed to have formed about 10,000 years ago by a landslide. The walk is 6km around, and took us about 90 minutes.

Tongariro National Park Hike

The name translates to ‘greenstone’ which apparently reflects the colour of the water on a clear day – I will have to trust our guides on this one seeing as my view was rather grey…

Tongariro National Park Hike

Dreary, but strangely still beautiful and rather invigorating to be there!

2014 New Zealand (2374)

I mentioned at the start of this post a cup of rice which was given to me without question from the kitchen at our accommodation. Along the walk I couldn’t help but keep getting my iPhone out to snap photos. Of course I hadn’t brought my camera along due to the rain, but with my phone slipping into the inside pocket of my trusty Kathmandu Gortex raincoat I figured I could chance it.

I took lots of photos – amidst lots of rain drops.

Tongariro National Park Hike

I made sure to wipe it dry every time I put it back in my pocket, but by the end of the day the combination of constant downpour and the humidity inside my jacket due to my body heat, my iPhone was NOT happy. As in the front screen was completely streaked with water marks and condensation under the screen. I could barely read a thing. I did a Google and read that I should turn it off and sit it in a cup of rice. I gave it a go as I LOVE my iPhone and would have been devastated to have it die, mid-trip no less. I kept it in the cup of rice overnight to no avail. I moved both rice and the iPhone into a clip-lock bag and kept it in there for another 48 hours with still no luck – it looked just as bad. I felt sad and decided to turn it on and use it as much as I could til I could get home and replace it. Well, gradually, over the next three weeks my iPhone healed itself. I suppose it dried out over time in my pocket next to my body heat. I was stoked! So for anyone looking  for a solution to a water damaged phone – time, heat and a little TLC should see it right :-)