Kaitoke Regional Park & Rivendell: Mother Earth Meets “Middle-earth”

So, sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago during an endurance race in Mōhaka (*East Coast, North Island, exceptionally rural New Zealand).

Quite literally, one moment my trusty racing sidekick and I were negotiating a ridiculously narrow goat-track of a route around the side of a hill, and ‘nek minnit’ she was gorilla-gripping my hydration pack with her oversize/d girl-hands (they’re a “thing”, and thank goodness for ’em) to stop me from rolling into something of an abyss.

This was not the first time she’s saved my neck (*there are solid reasons why I trust this girl with my life), and s’fair to say some kinaesthetic limitations were realized in my efforts to “smoke” the side of said slope.

In my defence, I don’t tend to make a habit of injury.  The last time either one of my ankles caused me any suffering whatsoever was pre-’00, and I was in the ‘peak’ (aka, “nearing last hurrah”) period of my taekwondo career.

Back in the day, this same tedious bone dislocated at the completion of a move we did all the time.  I simply landed awkwardly mid-sequence, one day, and that was that really.

Whilst they’re hardly the same kind of ‘hurt’, what this has meant this time ’round is a deliberate choosing on my part to return to some leaner hikes – you know, the ones you seek when you’re starting-out and sussing this whole nature “buzz”, to see exactly how spending quality time with our earth mother Papatūānuku makes you feel.

Kaitoke Regional Park is one of those hikes.

Well signposted from SH2, Kaitoke’s easy to access from the Waterworks Road turn-off just past Te Marua.  In terms of this particular walk (as-in, the one I tend to take), all signs point to ‘Rivendell’ (an historic filming location for Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy), when in fact the real star of this show is the ‘Swingbridge Track’, IMO.

The car-park to either scene is the same – so heading towards Rivendell (*there are road signs, follow those) will see you right, in any case.

Of course, no decent swing-bridge track would be complete without its character feature, and Kaitoke’s is just epic.  I find that these bridges are either deal-breakers or journey-makers, depending on which metaphorical “line” you cross en-route from end-to-end – especially if heights aren’t really your thing, and certainly if the bloody thing’s pinging-around in the wind, or not particularly well-maintained (*this one’s in good nick, and seriously fun).

What I love most about this place though, is the majesty.

The one thing that’s glaringly obvious from first-step is that some of this rainforest is really really old – like, centuries old.

Height, light, width, and texture are all on-offer, here.

Despite not being a particularly steep or “hilly” route, there are a couple of minor side-ways along said Swingbridge Track that take you on some neat little detours (*down to the river, and up and along the wheelchair-friendly ‘Terrace Walk’).

Hutt River – thoroughly swollen after all the autumn rain we’ve had this May.
Calmer, stiller, and with less water – March ’15.
So much fabulous colour in this rātā-rich landscape – even now, as winter seemingly sets-in.

As for Mr. Jackson’s ‘Rivendell’, well, that’s a pretty sweet exit point (assuming you’re up-for starting at the swing-bridge, looping back through the rainforest and over the river (^), and then stopping-by on your way back to the car-park).

More-or-less a fairly fancy-pants garden, I reckon the best thing about this space is the “carved” gateway (*a half-size replica inspired by the trilogy movies, and created specifically for Kaitoke).

Just quickly, as a “nerd-alert” side-point: can you see the little pink blotch on the inside of the left-hand arch of this shot?  That’s actually where some cheeky bugger’s picked-at this prop, and exposed the foamy texture underneath.

So now we all know – and unequivocally, too – that this is by no means some rock-porn-reminiscent land feature.  No-no, this is merely good mise en scène and make-up, and it’s there for all to see, now (*ugh*).

Still, as far as strolls go, Kaitoke’s ‘up there’ despite any potential sogginess- and/or saturation-factor this winter.

She’s safe, scenic, and totally suss-worthy;


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