Waikaremoana and COVID-19 Lockdown

In mid-March, Mum and I took a trip to Waikaremoana. She'd wanted to go for a while - bit of a "last hurrah" maybe, bit of a birthday present from her 80th when she was in the UK, bit of a "lets throw the last bit of Dad's ashes off the bluff".

Sadly, she's not confident enough to drive down there anymore, which is fair enough given the road and the remoteness, so we both went down for the week.

Last time I went down was to do the walk with Leonie in 2017. We had a lovely time, even with a day of heavy rain. This trip was a bit different. More day walks. More seeing places that Mum had ties to and memories of. Less just walking the track. It's still home tho.

It just feels like.... home. It always has. I keep coming back to this place for some reason that I can't quite explain, to walk the track, visit the lakes, or just get away from everything and reset. I always keep coming back. I hope I always will.

We started out going up to Waikareiti, and out on the boat for a few hours, followed by a swim.

Waikareiti. Nice for a swim. It looks a lot colder than it was.

The following the day, the weather shut down a bit, but we still went over to the Wanganui Hut in the water taxi, and had a walk some of the way to the next hut. The trip back, however, was intense, with 1.5-2m swells and a small boat. It was like being slammed in a roller coaster for 40 mins, and I'm quite grateful to the skipper.

This does not even come close to showing how rough the lake was.

We also went up the Panekire Bluff - the first hour to the first bluff - and threw that last bits of Dad over the edge. He liked it here - the view, the walk and the trout fishing in the lake and rivers around here. Not sure he loved driving our old camper van on the roads tho.

Panekire looking quite ominous
Kind of foggy up the top

On the last day, we did the Ruapani Swamps walk, which is one I'd not done. You walk up to Waikareiti, then come back via a 15km / 4-5 hour track, back to the car park. It's amazingly quiet there, tho the track is pretty overgrown and unkept. I'd go back tho. I think it pushed Mum to about her limit tho - that said, we did around 40km of walking over 4 days, so for an 80 year old - for anyone, really - she did a pretty impressive job.

Waikareiti looking nice again before we left it
Lots and lots of rain forest

At one point, we had a Ruru (Morepork, native owl, "Night-time Murder Bird") fly overhead, and land in a tree in front of us. It was hard to get a good photo, sadly, but I'm so glad we got to see it. When they fly, they are totally silent, even when you can see them.


We'd had little or no phone coverage at the lake - the nearest cell signal is about a 20km drive down the road near Tuai. So getting back to Rotorua to find that the country was preparing to lock down and that the Sars-CoV-2 virus was taking hold, was quite a shock. I can only imagine what it was like for people who were away for a month or more.

Some of the people at the Tūhoe visitors centre were asking if the virus was as bad as the press were pushing. Given the remoteness of that area, and the general lack of resources (medical, hospital, communications), I'm glad to see they have closed the area to the public / tourists until we are out of Level 3. I think thats a very sensible move on the part of their tribal leadership. Kia Kaha.

(We did manage to get some more Taco's in tho!)

Being somewhere remote and isolated was quite a good way to prepare for the lockdown tho. I was already used to feeling disconnected, which make it a bit easier.

The first 2 weeks were kind of odd - Leonie and I went in on the Monday to get work gear (laptops, monitors etc), and it was surreal to be emptying my desk out, after 4 years, not expecting to ever be back in the building for work. The last 2 weeks at Pushpay were a bit of a blur of trying to work out how to work at home, while also making sure I handed off as much as I could to the rest of the team. I hope I did at least an ok job.

After 2 weeks, I started at Tend, which has been a pretty awesome three weeks so far. Very different focus, very different pace, fewer people in total than we had in engineering by about 5x, but I'm loving it so far.

Lots of new things to learn, and new ways to apply existing skills. And some wonderful people in very different areas from what I'm used to dealing with. I'm very much looking forward to making a positive impact in the medical space - its too late in my life to become a doctor, even if I wanted to - so if I can help influence better medical outcomes for New Zealanders using skills I have, thats a good thing.

I'm still working out how to work at home, but Scott Hanselman has it right, we are not "working at home" we are "at home working in a unique and strange situation. At home."

Take care of yourself - and the people you care about. Kia Kaha.

From https://www.industria.co.nz/outdoor-art/products/kia-kaha-steel-wall-art
Nic Wise

Nic Wise

Auckland, NZ