Manawatu Gorge Kiwi Ranger
Several months ago I heard that the Royal New Zealand Air Force was having its 80th birthday was going to invite its friends down to join in the celebrations with an air show – the 2017 Air Tattoo. And what’s really exciting is that visiting New Zealand are going to be F15’s, F16’s and F18’s fighter jets. Something you just don’t get to see in New Zealand as we no longer have any strike aircraft after the fighter wing was disbanded a few years ago. So with a number of fighter jet’s up and flying, I just had to go to this air show.
So I purchased tickets a couple of months ago, and they were not even that expensive, only $35 each, the only challenge is that the show is down in Ohekea, near the bottom of the North Island. So it’s at least a day’s travel to get there. So since I am heading all the way down south I figured it’s worth staying for several days and making it a small holiday which of course involved taking Robin out of school for 2 days. And funnily enough the school does not seem to mind at all which is great.
When we were on Tiritiri Matangi over Christmas, Robin completed the DOC kiwi ranger programme for the island which is a range of activities designed to help children learn about New Zealand’s wildlife, and they receive a badge at the end of it – and Robin was so excited when he did so, he now wants to do other kiwi ranger programmes throughout NZ, and luckily there is one in the Manawatu Gorge only 15 minutes from where we are staying.
My plan was to see if we could arrive in Palmerston North around 1-30pm to give us time to visit the Manawatu Gorge. So it was an early start before 7am and a long non-stop drive with Julianne and I swapping driving along the way with lunch being eaten while driving with the boys stuck in the back the whole time.
And it worked with us pulling into the centre of Palmerston North around 1-30pm and we headed off to the Information Centre to pick up the Kiwi Ranger booklet, but unfortunately the staff didn’t know anything about it! They kept talking about a new kiwi guardian thing which is a lot more simple and was not what we were after. Eventually they found the kiwi ranger website which stated the booklets could be found at the Palmerston North Information Centre and they printed them out for us, which I then had to pay for as it was colour printing but was only $5.
So it was a bit of a performance but by 2-30pm we had stopped at the car park to the Manawatu Gorge and headed off of on foot. The walk starts beside the motorway alongside the steep side of the gorge and I was like ‘where is the walk through the bush?’ but after several 100 meters the path goes under the road and up a small crack in the gorge and leads into the wider bush along the side and along the top of one side of Manawatu Gorge – very sneaky.
The next several hours were spent walking through the bush which was great for everyone after being stuck in the car for around 7 hours. A number of kiwi ranger activities were completed including finding fantails, finding kereru, exploring an old hollow totara for insects & bugs, exploring a nikau grove and talking about and getting an understanding of wind turbines (which was an interesting and challenging conversation about electricity and power generation with a 7 year old).
A great time was had by all and 3 year old Luke did the 4 kilometre walk without too much trouble (just a bit of complaining at the end), plus he kept running and falling over. Luckily the big fall where he badly grazed his knee was near the end of the walk.
So the big rush down in the car was worth Robin’s excitement combined with a nice walk through some great NZ bush, which appeared like a real old forest with lots of undergrowth and not the common regrowth you see in most places like the Waitakere’s etc.
It was a 10 minute drive back to Palmerston North to find our hotel, a nice old tavern but very basic inside with warning about noise from the bar – but it served OK. We walked around a bit trying to find someone to eat and ended up at the nice Indian restaurant right across the road from where we are staying.
The food was really nice, I have not eaten at an Indian restaurant for years as I have got used to eating out in other restaurants after living in Europe, but boy what have I been missing – the flavours are very different and so reasonability priced. The only problem was that we had to wait almost an hour to get our adult meals, which didn’t get served until 7-30, and we were so hungry and tired by then.
They apologised for this and gave us free deserts which was nice so all good in the long run.