Rejoining the “rat race”
So I was AWOL last week, and for good reason I say.  The place we were staying has little stable mobile reception; that and I needed a proper break away from the hustle and bustle of constant phone calls, emails, blogs etc etc etc.  In all honesty it was a good break away and the trip we took, although hectic and energy consuming was exactly what I needed.

Just about at the end of the 1st part of the journey, 9th Feb
This blog is going to be a brief summary of the trip we took, and in the following weeks there will be a more detailed series of blogs and vlogs of what we did. There is 16GB of pictures of footage and pictures to sift through; so writing, processing pictures and editing the video is going to take some time.  I had bought a lens kit for my phone so I played around a little with the lenses, we had my fathers camera as well so i guess we went a little “camera” happy. This is good because I have a lot of content to use, but the down side of this is there is a LOT of content to go though! The pics used in this blog are all taken from my phone and I am still to sift through the multitude of pictures we took off my dad’s camera.
Our trip started on the 9th of February when we traveled from Palmerston North to the family hide-away on the western side of Lake Taupo for a few days “down time” before heading a little further north to take a couple of trips we have been wanting to do for awhile.  While there the weather was wet, very wet; which meant we stayed inside and actually rested instead of getting out and about doing a few things that I would like to do around the area. The tui and bellbird made good use of the nectar feeder on the deck and we had a visit from a kereru at one stage.
Sunet 12th Feb
On the 14th of Feb we traveled from Western Lake Taupo towards Pureora Forest Park, despite the current weather. The forecast was looking good for the next few days so we wanted the best weather we could while out camping and for the Maungatautari Wetland Tour we had booked for the 17th.
We knew the weather for travel wasn’t great but we certainly weren’t expecting it to be quite as bad as it was, at Taumaranui there was a little surface flooding and the Whanganui River was absolutely charging under the bridge. We took a detour after Taumaranui to see if we could find a disused mill that we discovered about 10 years ago to take some pictures. Unsure if the mill would still be there and hoping we would get a break in the weather to actually be able to take some pics we took the risk and made the 60km round trip. To our surprise Endeans Mill was still there and we caught a lucky break in the weather and managed to get some shots of this mill from a by-gone era.
Endeans Mill, 14th Feb
Driving to Te Kuiti we found a lot of surface flooding over the road, all the creeks in farmland had spilled over onto flood plains and at one stage one of these creeks had completely flooded the road and it was almost to the sills of our doors in the car. By the time we got to Te Kuiti we were unsure that the campsite we had picked in Pureora Forest Park was still going to be above water. We decided to go and check it out and turn back to Te Kuiti if the campsite was under water.
Just south of Te Kuiti, 14th Feb
Travel had taken a lot longer than we anticipated and by the time we got to the campsite at Pureora Forest our stomachs were growling, it was still occasionally raining but the campsite was above water. We selected our site and as I cooked up some dinner, MJ put up the tent and got our bedding ready.  We crawled into the tent early to stay dry, and read, chatted and turned in for an early night.  On a quick trip to the long drop before I turned in the weather was starting to lift and I was treated to a spectacular sunset.

We woke to a spectacular day, and we were thankful we traveled during the bad weather the day before as it meant we had more time to explore the forest. We did a couple of the short walks in the morning, despite them being difficult to find; a vandal had been through a couple of weeks prior and smashed most of the DOC signs and the replacement signs had not arrived yet. When we went back to our campsite for lunch we discovered that our site had been deemed a “hazardous tree-fall area”, despite me considering this the night before when doing my campsite selection. One of the trees had been tested recently and it was found to be rotting from the inside out, we had wondered what a big “crash” during the night had been; so we moved our site had our lunch and wandered off for another short walk. The area we were in had been forested until the 1920s and it was amazing to see how the forest had regenerated in such a “short time”.

Looking into the canopy of regenerated forest.

We woke to another beautiful morning on the 16th, and had booked a cabin in Te Awamutu for the next couple of nights. We thought the staff at Maungatautari may appreciate showered clients on the 18th. We didn’t realize that the travel time would be so short and we had a bit of time to kill so we called into the Otorohanga Kiwi House. The staff here were great and it was awesome to see such a range of our native birds and lizards.  The highlight was wandering past the Kea and Kaka enclosures as a keeper was out feeding and interacting with the birds. The Kaka are as cheeky and smart as the Kea and a Kaka attempted an escape and it was great to chat to Sally and learn more about these large parrots. It was also interesting to see how the birds interacted with ADNZ Ben. No photos of the Kiwi, as being in nocturnal controlled enclosures photos are prohibited.

Karearea staring down ADNZ Ben
Sally who spent time with us at the Kea and Kaka feeding

We booked into the campground at Te Awamutu and got a few groceries and some dinner and spent the evening just chilling out on a real bed.  We were both really looking forward to our Wetlands Tour at Maungatautari the next day.

As we drove to Maungatautari I was struck by the very clear definition between the farmland and the forest behind the predator proof fence. I had made several phone calls and emails to ensure that ADNZ Ben had reasonable accommodation for access, and that I could indeed take pictures and footage for the blogs and vlogs. Being a predator proof sanctuary I totally understand the need to control the animals that come in and out of the sanctuary and the need for using a muzzle and short leash on ADNZ Ben, even still there were a couple of surprised looks as we walked into the visitors center. This was resolved pretty quickly by saying that it had been prearranged, but it also led to a lot of questions by these staff about his role and Disability Assist Dogs in general.

The contrast between the farm and sanctuary
At the main gate before entry

We were met by our guide Tali and we donned ADNZ Ben’s muzzle and headed towards the wetland. Tali was a great guide, she had an easy informative manner without seeming like she was bored and done the trip 10 000 times. We had a great time, saw the family of Takahe out and about and went down to the Tuatara enclosure. In the previous few trips the guides had only logged one or two Tuatara but we were fortunate enough to see eight. Taking pics of them was harder than I anticipated on my phone with the light/shade combinations and having to zoom in to see the Tuatara meant I lost some quality. I will be uploading pictures taken off the bigger camera later in this trip series of blogs and vlogs.

4 month old Takahe
Takahe family
Hiding under stairs
Tuatara #1
Takahe chick (foreground) & parent (background)
Our group happened to be the last tour of the day for Tali so it was awesome that afterwards she was able to sit down at the visitors center and have a bit more of a chat with her about Tuatara and the sanctuary in general. It was amazing to see how our native and flora and fauna can thrive given the right conditions with the predators removed and controlled.
After another night in Te Awamutu it was time to head back to Lake Taupo on the 18th of Feb. Although being a Sunday and not a “work” day we had arranged to call into Assistance Dogs NZ base to see Julie and Rick. ADNZ Ben had spent a bit of time there when he was younger and he definitely felt home there and remembered the place. He ran around the farm like an idiot teenager and not the “mature” 8 year old that he is, but he had fun tearing around the paddocks and into the waterfall which he had swum in many times before. It was really good to catch up with Julie and Rick. We have seen Julie every now and again for ADNZ Ben’s re-testing (to make sure we’re keeping up on his training) but we haven’t seen Rick in the almost 5 years we’ve had ADNZ Ben.
He ran and ran, and swum.
Into the pool below the waterfall he goes
The bonus of arriving when we did is that the latest litter of puppies are still there! So cute and I am sure these young pups are definitely going to make the lives of families a lot better off, even if they want to eat and chew on everything they can get to now! A couple of them could definitely smell the treats I keep in my pocket for ADNZ Ben and were making a single minded effort to get to them, damn Labrador/Retriever crosses!
4 out of 6 of the “W” litter
We spent the next few days resting at the Lake Taupo place before returning home to Palmerston North on the 22nd of Feb, although not completely rested I am definately re-charged to take on the challenges of the next few months with the System Transformation work leading up to the prototype in Mid-Central.
Remember people, take the time to do the things that you love in order to thrive.
Take care, stay safe and thrive, not survive!

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