We had time for a bit of a sleep in today, though I didn’t really take advantage of it. I’m not one to sleep in anymore; even when hung over it just doesn’t happen. I was up at about 7am and decided to take a stroll down the road and maybe get a few pictures of mt doom! It was a beautiful day, sun was shinning and skies were blue. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far on this tour. They forecasted shit weather and we’ve had the opposite – lucky us!
Everyone started to show their faces in the dinning room around 9:30. We had to be out of the park lodge by 10 am, so a lot of the guys were waiting until the last moment to pull there asses out of bed. After everyone had a feed, we loaded back into the Spaceships and headed to Tangeriro National Park to check out Tawhai Falls, which was Golums pool in the Lord of the Rings. Pretty nice little spot; waterfalls, big rock, blue water… seems like NZ is filled with these kind of ‘nice’ spots! You could actually jump off the top of the water fall, but it was too cold for that.. well that was my excuse at least.
After exploring and taking photos we hit the road to Blue Duck Lodge. Blue Duck Lodge is in the Ruapehu District on the banks of the Whanganui and Retaruke Rivers, and surrounded by Whanganui National park. It is an outdoor enthusiasts dream! You take this long winding road country gravel road, with steep drops on your right hand side for about a ½ hour. There is no real signage and there were a couple of times when we all stopped and wonder ‘where the hell are we?’ We finally came up on the lodge and we all poured out of the spaceships, taking in the fresh air, blue skies and amazing scenery. Blue Duck Lodge is a group that is involved in several conservation projects. They are trying to save the blue duck; there are only 600 hundred in existence, restore historical homes, preserve the natural forests and have a million other things on the go!
We all met Dan, the owner and operator of the lodge. The man is passionate about conservation and what he is doing. At first he’s seems like your typical NZ country bloke; quiet, reserved, tough exterior, hard working and speaks his mind but chooses his words carefully, but if you get him talking about his projects, there is no shutting him up! He told us all to unload in the bunk house, grab some food and then he would be back in about a ½ hour to pick us up and take us for a tour of the property.
When Dan returned the group loaded into these 4×4 off-road vehicles that he uses to take people out in the bush. We headed up the road and came to a stop at the entrance to one of his pastures where he has sheep. He then had his dogs round up the sheep and put them through the gate at the top of the ridge line with a series of whistles. This was impressive! He had one dog chase the sheep from the corner, while the other one headed up the road and sat at a gate entrance barking, while the other 2 dogs had to wait at his side. I’ve seen videos of farmers working with their dogs but seeing it in person was pretty amazing. He had total control over each of those dogs! After the dogs moved all the sheep we headed into the field and made our way up the track to the top of the ridgeline. Once at the top we all got out and took pictures and asked Dan questions about his goals and conservations efforts. It seems that wild pig aka boar are a real problem here. One boar killed a matter of 16 sheep in 2 days, so the farmer can really take a financial hit when this happens. The boar will pin down the sheep and then use it’s tusks and hooves to gut the animal. It will eat everything leaving sheep skins to rot. Pretty crazy! Dan and his farm hand Simon hunt boar at least twice a week. The nice thing about it is they always have some fresh wild meat to eat. Another problem with the boars is the way they dig up the earth and kill all the vegetation – they are not native to NZ and are considered a pest. They also have problems with cats (you get $25/cat you kill), rabbits and goats. All of these animals endanger the native wildlife and fauna.
After taking in the view Dan pointed to the trail and said from here we would walk down. It was steep, rocky and muddy! I wish I had my mountain bike! We crept down the hill, Im pretty confident on my feet so I didn’t really pose a problem for myself. There were a couple of close calls, but I remained on my feet and off my ass. That can’t be said for most of the group. All of the girls took a spill somewhere a long the line and one of them twisted their ankle. The funniest thing though had to be Anto, from Ski and Snow hostel, he had his boots on and he strolled down the center of this steep muddy track with no problem, almost like it was a walk in the park – hilarious! Anton was quite the character, fresh off the boat from Korea he had never had yogurt and musseli, goat, met a gay person, kayaked… pretty much everything was new – which was pretty cool! Dan caught up with us after we walked for about a ½ hour and offered to take us for a short kayak where we maybe able to see some blue ducks if we were lucky. Only about ½ of the group wanted to take a stab at kayaking, so we split up. The one half stayed up top checking out historical homes that Dan has rebuilt while the other half trudged down a steep hill side to a waterfall. At the waterfall there was an opening facing the opposite side, there you kayak under this fallen log and you will find yourself in between to flat steep rock walls, and very calm water. It’s green and luscious! Nobody saw a blue duck, but the small kayak ride was well worth the effort.
After climbing back up the hill, we checked out a historical building that was the home a depot spot for everyone that lived in the area. Back in the day after the war the government gave land plots to all of the returning soldiers. I’m not sure what they were thinking as this land is not really good for farming – steep, bush filled, rocky ect. Many soldiers came to the Ruapehu district to start a farm but once they saw what they were getting many turned around and headed home. Those who stuck around would meet at this depot to pick up supplies. Maybe you’ve the bridge to no where. It was built 1936 by the nz government so the soldiers could get to the farm land they were offering to them. It is a, an isolated 40 m road bridge over the Mangapurua Stream in Whanganui National Park. It was never used and does go to no where. If you wanted to see it, it will be a two day hike into the park. I am now thinking about doing the trek in the spring or summer.
The sun was now falling quickly so we all loaded back in to the 4×4 vehicles and headed back to the lodge. Once back at the lodge everyone headed for the showers. Thing is there were only 2 and we had 12 people. I opted not to take a shower, hell we are in the middle of the bush – fuck it. So I instead drank beer, tossed the axe, played with a bull whip and then drank some more beer – hells ya! I felt so at home here – made me feel like I at the cottage with my family. Once everyone was cleaned up it was time for dinner. The staff at blue duck, made up of an Irish couple and the Dan’s partners made Goat Curry and Goat Chow Maine – both were amazing. I’ve heard plenty of people complaining about goat, but I’ve never had a bad experience. At dinner Dan sat with our group and talked about his conservation plans and the lodge. The man is really passionate about saving the wildlife and ecosystems – it was actually kind of inspiring. The wine was flowing like water and as soon as you finished your glass Dan was pouring more – definitely a great host.
With dinner done half the group decided to head back up to the lodge to get a fire going. Now the fire was already going it just needed to be stoked. This is where you could really tell who has built a fire and who hasn’t. More wood does not make a better fire. Some of the guys just kept piling log after log on top, while the wood on the bottom hadn’t burnt. It was driving me nuts to be honest. Back home we always have a camp fire at the cottage and my bro usually takes care of this, I just kept thinking how pissed he would be if he saw this fire ahah. I let the boys add as much wood as they like and then when they weren’t looking I took it out and fixed it up – thanks bro! The rest of the group started to trickle back to the lodge and everyone was partying having a great time. They had a speaker and Ipod hook-up so we could have our music. Dan’s farmhand Simon and the Irish couple were gearing to go and wanted to party! Simon was pretty much already in the bag and the Irish couple wanted to dance, so we started busting moves on the outdoor dance floor they built – good times. By this time most of the group had gone off to bed so it was me and employees of the lodge. Simon then asked me ‘Led Zeppelin, Metallica or Sabbath’. I responded Zeppelin and he said ‘you loose’ and then the metallica started blaring. I don’t think they get to cut loose too often so I pretty much sat back and watched them go crazy. By 2am I was done, having to get up the next day at 6am it was time I shuffled off to bed, to the disappointment of Simon who still wanted to party!
Oh yah.. you may be wondering why Ive called this trip the “Good As Wood Tour”, well it was a term that Dan used all the time. After eating.. good as wood. After showing/telling us something… good as wood. Have a beer.. good as wood.