Bella Travel


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Kaituna River Kraziness

When I agreed to go whitewater rafting with a group of friends from work I didn’t sign up for torrential rain, and a swollen Kaituna River that was almost bursting its banks.

Still if you’re going to do something adventurous, it’s best to do it at nature’s extreme.  It sounds a lot better to say you went over a 7 metre waterfall in a raging torrent than a mere trickle.

Besides the company we did it with, River Rats, were all seasoned professionals. At one point, while we were waiting to get wetsuited up, there was a pounding deluge of rain on the hut which had us all worried.  But the guides didn’t bat their eyelids ”Yeah all the rain means the river’s running higher than normal out there, should be good” drawled one. 

Another ran through the saftey routine with a sardonic jauntiness that belied the seriousness of the endeavour.  “Don’t put get your foot stuck on the rocks at the bottom of the river, that would be very bad”, “Don’t wind the safety rope around your neck if we throw it to you”, “Try to swim to the boat before we go over the waterfall.  If you do go over make sure you smile for the camera”.

Naturally hearing the worst case scenarios always makes a nervous group of girls even more nervous.  Once we were in the raft and heading downstream we were fine, and front paddling and back paddling like seasoned professionals.  

At one point I wished the river was higher, the boat smaller and there was no guide to tell me to front paddle and back paddle.  Heck I wished I was the guy shooting out in front in his kayak into the foaming froth.

Sky jump next anyone?


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The Life of a Backpacker

Knitting skills are essential for the backpacker

A recent trip to Raglan (2 hours south of Auckland) found me sitting round a table one afternoon with a group of French, Belgian, German and Canadian backpackers.   The main topic of discussion, while  drinking some unnamed NZ beer, was travel and waxing lyrical about our philosophies of backpacker life.

Well, they were waxing lyrical.  My sister, her boyfriend and I were just in Raglan over the New Years break.  We had to be back to work on the Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, their stories flowed along with the beer.  We listened and imagined what it would be like to spend six months or longer backpacking round the world without a care except for, what the hell am I going to do when I get to Fiji?

This was the dilemma of one German girl who had been backpacking for so long that the thought of travelling to Fiji and sitting on another beach was quite horrific.  To while away the long hours of downtime and brain inaction (an occupational hazard while backpacking) she had started to knit hats for tourists. She was looking forward to starting her WOOFing job, cleaning the toilets.

A Slovakian girl who was backpacking for two years (source of funding unknown) was incredibly confident and opinionated on everything from internet reception, to how difficult it was to stay fashionable when you’re on a tight budget.  She was also incredibly trusting; she left her lap-top and cellphone in the midst of us strangers and was gone for over an hour.

Being with this random group of travellers on a hot summer afternoon, which turned into early evening and then rather latish at night, reminded me that another facet of life does exist.

It’s easy to forget when you’re in full time employment that there’s actually people out there travelling around and having all sorts of wonderful experiences.  But, being someone who craves routine, it does make me wonder how I would cope with the lack of structure when travelling for such a long time.

One day perhaps I’ll find out.  At least I know I can always fall back on my knitting skills if needs be.


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A Quaking Good Time in Christchurch

I’m sure Christchurch residents are wondering why they’ve been stricken by a 7.1 earthquake when Auckland, in the midst of 50 dormant volcanoes, remains unscathed. Some kind of divine irony perhaps? 

We’re not acting smug and unsympathetic up here. How can we be?  We’ve been warned by the media (oh for about 20 years now) that a big one will hit Auckland at some point, whether it be earthquake, volcano or tsunami, so it’s kind of a given.  But, like they say, a watched pot never boils. 

In case anyone wonders, we Jaffas are doing our bit to help tourism to the Garden City.  No one has removed the billboard over the Stanley Street overpass, though I’m sure it has caused a few wry grimaces over the last week. 

Christchurch frocks up

Should we stay or should they go?

In fact a rocking great quake might help things in the adventure tourism area.  From what I’ve seen online people are making the best of a bad situation and there’s quite a few hotels cutting room rates.  Tourists are being encouraged to visit quick smart before word gets out Christchurch is a no go for the next 10 years.

Although most tourist operators are back to business as usual, of course people are going to be put off.  This has been the biggest quake in New Zealand since 1931.  

And for the people of Christchurch who have had to endure the whole thing, there’s always the free ‘Break from the quake‘ package to Greymouth or Hokitika sponsored by Tourism West Coast along with Solid Energy, KiwiRail and Lyttleton Port of Christchurch.   Just two nights mind you, they have to go back to the wreckage after that.

So frock up for an eventful weekend in Christchurch, you might get more of an adventure than you bargained for.


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Renting a Birthday Bach at Wenderholm

Wenderholm / Photo by Tania Pearse

My sister has a dolphin display for her birthday.  Just off the Mahurangi headland, one after another, dolphins flip into the sky and then dive into the frothing sea.  We gather it’s feeding time out there, from what we can see through Ingrid’s SLR zoom lens.

Dolphin watching and camping grounds at Wenderholm

The six of us who have gathered for the mid-week day birthday celebration at Wenderholm bach are on the beach soaking up the autumn sun.

Wenderholm was Auckland’s first regional park and its camping grounds are in close proximity to Auckland city, so it’s a popular place for swimming, picnics, walks and, as we’ve discovered, dolphin watching.

One of the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rangers makes his way over to us to give an update on the bach’s hot water situation which ran out earlier than expected; apparently there isn’t a leak in the tank, I have just used it all.  The ranger is surprised to see the dolphin aerobatics.

“I’ve seen Orca whales close to shore,” he says “But not dolphins jumping around like that”.

Maori history of Mahurangi District

The feeding frenzy reminds me of what I have read about the area and the infamous Mahurangi shark fishing grounds ‘tauranga ika’, which were sorely fought over by various Maori tribal groups in the late 1770’s.  The muri shark gathered in their thousands in the summer season and were caught and dried for the winter months.  Many Maori died defending this valuable food source.

Queen Elizabeth II’s royal visit to Wenderholm

Perhaps the Queen and Prince Philip saw dolphins too when they picnicked at Wenderholm in 1953.

I try to imagine them staying in our three bedroom bach but can’t quite picture the Queen snuggling down under a mustard yellow bedspread or doing the dishes with Prince Philip in the cute pink kitchen.  They actually stayed further up the park in a specially built ‘Queens Cottage’ next to the property known then as Wenderholm or ‘Winter Home’.

That night after a birthday meal fit for a king and queen, we walk one of my sister’s friends to her car with our bobbing torches lighting the boughs of the giant pohutakawas.

On the way back we switch off our torches and look up into the pitch darkness.  The milky way cuts a shimmering swathe across the night sky.

I half expect the ARC ranger to pop out from behind a tree and state firmly that he has seen stars at Wenderholm, but never like this.