Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pohatu Package - Scenic 4WD Tour and Hike

We were on the "package" with the Pohatu Penguin people, which meant we got to do a bit of everything that they offer. Pohatu Penguins is a eco-tourism company started by a farmer who was close to losing her farm. She had already been working on conservation efforts with the penguins that favored her land for breeding grounds. Add to that, beautiful lands for hiking, a calm bay for kayaking and a working sheep and cattle farm and you have a great combination for people to be drawn in. We certainly were!
The first part of the package was a 4WD tour of the Banks Peninsula. We were driven to a variety of interesting spots to take in the views and learn about the history of the area from our guide. Pohatu collaborates with other farmers to offer these eco-tourism activities, which means we went through farm gates onto private land to access many of the beautiful spots on the bank. The same option works in reverse, with other farmers offering packages that trek through Pohatu's land.

There used to be a human-operated lighthouse on the Bank, but it was replaced with this one. It made me appreciate the picturesque lighthouses on the East Coast of the US. This one was a little lacking in charm, but it was still poised in a gorgeous spot.

After the driving tour, we were let out at a trail head to complete a 2.5 hour hike into the farm.

Since this track is privately owned and used only by those who have arranged access through one of the local farmers, it was so peaceful! The owners of the trail have worked hard to re-establish areas of natural bush.

We hiked over a large variety of terrain, with plenty of opportunity to rock hop (or crouch, in my case).
When we came upon a livestock fence, we had a pre-made easy crossing with these special steps. I'll have to admit, fence jumping added to the sense that we were somewhere pretty special.

When we were let out at the trailhead, we were given these directions: "Take this trail past 5 waterfalls. You can walk behind the last one if you 'd like. You'll end up at the beach. Take a left and look for the house." The waterfalls were a great spot to take a quick break and absorb the sights and sounds of a forest full of different creatures.

The views along the way occasionally opened up and took our breath away.

Far too soon, the hike was over, but not before Paul walked behind the waterfall!

And, not before we got close to the farm and started seeing flocks of sheep hanging out by the trail.
This one was particularly smitten and seemed to want to follow us on the rest of our hike. But, not too closely, since we were strangers, afterall.

We were cautioned not to fall in the bog.

And, then we saw the biggest bull we've ever seen. Of course, this photo does not do him justice. When we later inquired about her impressive dude, Shireen, who owns the farm and the Pohatu business, quoted his weight in terms of tons. Everything about him was giant!

We then met Shireen's pets. They only cared about us so long as it took to determine that we were not carrying treats for them.
Then, Shireen showed us to our accommodation. We hiked farther up into a pasture to a colonial style cottage. The cottage was recently built true to the original colonial style cabins. It had hay and clay walls, no electricity, a propane tank for cooking, an outhouse, solar heated water for the outdoor shower and it was AMAZING! Paul took a video to share with you:

We made some dinner, put our feet up and drank some wine. But, we didn't rest for long, because there were penguins to see!

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