Another tramp, another story: climbing up Wairere Falls

Gentle Readers, I’m home in Nebraska now, slogging through unpacking and catching-up chores and contemplating (yes!) spring planting and trying to figure out how to sleep at night again, but I’ve still got lots of photos from our trip to New Zealand to share, and plenty of stories, too. I mean, lots. Turns out when I’m not cooking and cleaning and planting and watching after chickens and such, I have more time to take pictures.

Here’s one of the stories. If these get boring, just let me know, ‘k? I’ll probably keep churning them out, but at least I’ll know your feelings on the matter. 😉

Wairere Falls New Zealand

This is what you feel like when you make the tramp up to the base of Wairere Falls. And don’t believe the sign. It’s not exactly a “walk,” it’s more of a “vicious, man-eating climb.”

There is no shortage, in New Zealand, of great tramps (as hikes are called in New Zealand) to indulge in. On our way home from Hobbiton, located near Matamata we still had a few hours of daylight left, so we decided to stop and climb the track near the tallest waterfall on the North island. Since we were just in the neighborhood, anyway. We could see this glorious waterfall–in the distance, mind you, through the trees and the alluring woods!–from the highway, so of course we wanted to see it closer up.

We drove to the parking lot. We parked, and found this sign. Please read it carefully. 🙂


We figured we still had a couple of hours before the sun would start its inexorable descent to the horizon. The guidebook and the signage said that it was a pleasant “walk” up to the base of the falls, of about 45 minutes, and another 45 minutes to the top of the falls. After a quick glance at our watches–and armed with the knowledge that the sun was setting earlier and earlier in the mountains–we opted for the “pleasant walk” to the base of the falls. We didn’t want to get trapped up at the top of that waterfall in the dark–or anywhere along the path on the way down either, although it would have made a pretty great story: “Our night on the mountain in New Zealand . . . ”

Okay. In retrospect, a spoiler: Just a teensy quibble with the New Zealand signage: “walk” here is a bit misleading. A “walk” in NZ parlance simply means: a climb, of a mild or vigorous nature, that doesn’t require grappling equipment. But if you go out for a “walk” in NZ, you ought to wear suitable shoes, clothing, and carry snackage and water, as if you were embarking on a serious hike. You ought to have strong legs and non-gimpy knees, for example. And a decently healthy heart, natch’.

Furthermore, you ought not to be surprised by many opportunities to scrabble over rocks and slip on muddy paths and wet moss-covered boulders. Just a tip. We–naively–being soft Americans and unaware–didn’t realize this crucial fact at the beginning of this “walk.” But no matter. We made it up there and back, with no injury or loss of body parts.

It was absolutely breathtaking. It was well worth the effort. But it certainly was no mere “walk.”

To support my position: a word to the wise: here’s what the website says about this tramp:

“It is an attractive walk along a well maintained track. Small wooden bridges take you across the stream at several points, affording lovely views of little cascades and providing opportunities to cool tired feet in the refreshing water.”

If I were King of the World (or, more aptly, Queen) and I supervised the writing of all the websites, I would definitely add a bit about 8 stories-worth of stairs at the end of this “walk.” Yep, I’d do this especially for those with a gimpy knee or two, so they can bring crutches or a stretcher or something for the way down.

But now to the pictures, which are definitely the best part of this rambling and knee-deprecating and sign-aspersions post. Bring on the pictures, Amy!!

To wit:


“It is an attractive walk along a well-maintained path . . .” Yes, yes, so far, so good. And check out those shadows, gentle reader. You know how I go so gaga over shadows. I stopped again and again to take portraits of the shadows. My poor husband kept looking at his watch, assessing, I’m sure, at what point in the “walk” that we would be trapped in the darkness, groping our way back down to our car . . . (I pretended like I didn’t see him, but I was going as quickly as I could–-honest!--)


Delicate flora and fauna of unearthly beauty is everywhere in New Zealand. Everywhere!


Even a dead tree is wrapped in beauty. This question kept nagging at me: Does God love New Zealand best, to give it so many beautiful things?


Trees grow faster in New Zealand, did you know this? The growing climate is so ideal, and the volcanic soil is rich and soft and deep.


Everything is verdant and lush. It’s a boy’s dream playground. A gardener’s, too.


“Small wooden bridges take you across the stream at several points, affording lovely views of little cascades and providing opportunities to cool tired feet in the refreshing water.”

The “tired feet” bit? Definitely a gentle hint of what was to come, that I didn’t pick up on.

Mack certainly didn’t need any encouragement to cool his feet in the refreshing water. He slipped off his sandals (“jandals” in NZ parlance) right away and clambered about like a monkey most of the time. He was wishing his big brother, the expert climber, was along on this trip many times, I know. Timothy is well-known for his climbing abilities. Also in his ability to cause mild cardiac episodes in those oldies like me who watch him with their hearts in their collective throats. But never mind that. I didn’t have to worry about him this go-around, bless him.


My cute daught Amalia lifts up this fern to show the underside, which is silverish. The Kiwis are very proud of this silver fern, even to the point of possibly changing their flag to include it in the design. But that’s another story entirely. 🙂


We’ve been going just ten minutes or less, and this is what the walk looks like so far. Nice. Mild. Shaded. Pleasant.


Another few minutes and the path kind of disappears for a few minutes. We clamber over rocks. I laugh nervously. Where did the path go? It’s a bit slippery here. The rocks are so beautiful to look at, though. I snap pictures. I watch my feet carefully.

I am not afraid.


Sure enough, just like the website said: “Small wooden bridges take you across the stream at several points, affording lovely views of little cascades . . .”

Another ten minutes of walking, and the path disappears again. There’s kind of a slick muddy hillside that we must inch along. I begin to think dark thoughts about the authors of websites and brochures and signage. As if to mock us, a runner (obviously a Kiwi) clad only in a pair of shorts, breezes past us. I watch him, darkly.

I’m a prairie woman. I’m not afraid of a vigorous hike. But I’m not dressed for one–I’m wearing my “jandals” and a white blouse.

And then.

The muddy hillside levels out across another stream–you must hop over rocks here–and then you see, much to your astonishment, this:


Not to mention this:


And actually, though you are getting a bit winded so you don’t take pictures of all of them, there are—-(get this) SIX MORE of these flights of stairs. You admit to your thumping heart that neat flights of stairs are much easier to climb than just a steep hillside with cascading rocks or mud or picturesque rivulets, or whatnot. But still you are a bit surprised.

You gird your loins and up you climb. And the top is worth it. It’s beautiful. There is not a single bench on that lookout, can you believe it? You’ve made it but your hubby is already on the way down, looking at his watch, of course.


You don’t show it, much to your discredit, but you are grateful that he is watching out for all of you. If it was up to you, of course, you’d be snapping pictures and resting at the top and you’d end up there in the pitch black, groping along paths and over boulders on the way down. You’d probably take a 30-minute nap and wake up in the dark.

So you face eight flights of these on the way down, too:


You look down and are amazed.


“Are you girls coming?”

You decide that if you ever come to New Zealand again (and you hope that you can) that you will be prepared with much stronger legs!


Mack cannot pass by all these climbing opportunities without, at least, getting dangerously close to roaring rapids. Timothy is not with us. Amalia is taking pictures. Bryan is looking at his watch and assessing the sky for signs of an early sunset. It’s up to me to accompany my son. I don’t regret it. I have some monkey tendencies, too.

Check out my long toes.



Mack and I stopped for just the briefest break (“Bryan, I need to rest my knee for five minutes—hurry, Mack, hurry!”) to add a cairn* to the others that we stumble upon in this beautiful hidden spot.


The sun is descending, and you quicken your steps over the last ten minutes of the path—the easy, “pleasant walk” part of the path.



You make it back into the sunshine and the bright parking lot, and cast a baleful glance at that misleading signage.


“Enjoy your ‘walk'”: hmmmph.

You all made it but next time, you’ll be better equipped. You make this resolution here and now. Also, to allow more time so you can go all the way to the top. And to bring a snack. And water. And possibly a small couch, for that nap at the top.

Next time, New Zealand. Next time.


*More on cairns:


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