Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

Home / Essays / 2011 / November / Ngaherenga Campground (DOC)

Ngaherenga Campground (DOC)

After packing up our gear at Blackberry Flats, I made a quick stop at the loo. I noticed there was a wild turkey who was particularly fond of a spot near the fence by the toilets. Upon further investigation, I discovered it was protecting a newborn baby chick and an egg. I tried to get a picture but they were too fast for me. Well, except the egg. It just sort of wobbled feebly but didn't get far. You've all seen eggs before so I figured a picture would not be too necessary.

I am much like an infant when I go on road trips. Put me in my seat and I am instantly asleep. It's a good thing Shannon likes to drive since it could spell disaster for us if I were stuck driving most of the time. Shannon assures me the scenery was "awesome" during our two plus hour drive south. I'll take her word for it. I think I've become jaded after two years living here. The first day of our first road trip in New Zealand had me oohing and aahing for the entire period of daylight. The dramatic beauty of the landscape was breathtaking. After a few days, however, I found myself saying, "Oh yeah that's nice" in an almost bored tone. By the end of our ten day trip, I was more like, "Yeah, pretty, whatever." Luckily my sense of wonder returned after having to stare at the four walls of work for several months again.

We stopped for lunch in The Shire at Hobbiton aka Matamata. This little town served as home base for Peter Jackson's crews when they filmed all the Shire scenes for the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the upcoming prequel The Hobbit. After the first three movies were completed, the elaborate set they created for Bilbo and Frodo's village was destroyed. There has since been regret for this due to the huge tourist draw the movies have generated for New Zealand. Consequently, after The Hobbit is completed the set will be left intact and included in the many guided tours offered.

The campground was a relatively short drive from Hobbi...Matamata and before long we were scouting out campsites. After Shannon read that previous sentence, she laughed. She said it was actually a couple of hours to the campground and I had slept through the whole ride. See, just like a baby. Ngaherenga Campground is located just off the road on a hill overlooking the valley below. It's actually split into two sections. The top part is pretty small with only six segregated spots. Five of these have big picnic tables and cement block BBQ pits. Two of those spots have fantastic views of the valley below while the others are secluded amongst the trees and foliage. There is only one toilet in this section and it's of the plop variety. However, it appears to have been freshly built since it still has that new timber bathroom smell. It was quite a nice toilet. Although, if this campground becomes crowded during the summer months, I imagine it won't be terribly sufficient. Since there were only a few other campers this time, though, it was fine.

The other section of the campground is a hundred meters or so down the road. It's a big wide open area with one BBQ pit. The bathroom appears to be bigger but it was under construction so I don't know any more details. This spot seems more suited for campervans and RVs unless you like to camp with no cover or privacy.

As we like some cover and privacy, we decided on one of the secluded spots. It looked like rain so we unpacked our rain gear. We had recently invested in a few of those blue tarps because it invariably rains when we camp. We purchased all our camping gear with backpacking in mind so it's all small and lightweight. Our tent is just big enough for the two of us to duck in to so there's no rain cover at all. We are tired of getting drenched when we have to get out of the tent in the rain so we got some tarps to build ourselves a shelter. We had just managed to tie everything up when, sure enough, it began to rain.

On our first camping trip back in 2008, we had mostly good weather until about day seven or so when it came a nasty rain. We were on South Island and wanted to go see one of the two glaciers, Fox Glacier. Shannon had full rain gear but all I had was my fleece pullover, a cheap as too tight pocket poncho, and my jeans. I decided to brave the rain since I really wanted to see the glacier but I paid for it afterwards by having to stay in soaking wet jeans for hours. After that experience, I decided investing in rain gear was a good idea. So, now I have a nice raincoat and rain pants that fit over my hiking pants as well as waterproof boots. I am set in the rain now.

One thing I've learned from living in another country is you need to improvise sometimes. New Zealand doesn't have the same products as are sold in the States and they have different traditions. Growing up in the US, two things were part of every camping trip: campfires and s'mores.

In NZ, campfires are not allowed at the great majority of campgrounds. Of all the places we've been, and we've been to quite a lot, only twice have we been allowed to have campfires. This really does make for a different camping experience. I'm used to staying up half the night poking the fire and telling stories. Here, once it gets dark there's not much to do but go to sleep.

At Ngaherenga we were allowed a campfire and we took full advantage of it. We brought a box of kindling plus about six logs of macrocarpa from our firewood stack at home. There were also a few logs left behind by other campers but they were pretty wet from the recent rains.

Let me back up here to the day before when we were shopping for the weekend. Knowing we were going to have a campfire, we needed to stock up on the requisite s'more supplies. At first we were unable to find the marshmallows. We scoured the aisles but the only ones we found were of the mini variety. The thought of trying to roast those tiny suckers over a fire on kebab skewers was funny but not exactly practical. Finally, with the help of a stock clerk, we found the big roast-worthy ones. Next we went in search of graham crackers. Turns out there aren't any graham crackers in NZ. The clerk didn't even know what we were talking about. So, what to use as an alternative? We searched the cracker aisle and finally decided to go with McVitie's milk chocolate coated digestive biscuits. A biscuit is what they call a cookie here and the digestive part means they are high in fiber...I think. Shannon says the Brits dunk digestive biscuits in their tea. Blech that is so gross!! Thankfully, the Americans only dunk Oreos.

Burn, baby, burn!

So, now we had our roaring fire, and believe me when I say Shannon is a primo fire maker and that fire was roaring. She even managed to burn all the wet wood! We forgot to bring the skewers so we used a branch to toast our marshmallows to yummy perfection, which we then placed on our digestive biscuits and prepared to eat. One bite and it was apparent that these weren't quite the real thing. The digestive biscuits weren't bad, just odd, but the real difference was the marshmallows. Half of them were pink colored and berry flavored. What we ended up with was an odd tasting digestive biscuit with a layer of milk chocolate and a blend of normal and berry marshmallows squished in the middle. Hey, beggars can't be choosers and they weren't really too bad. When in Rome right? Our S'mores became S'McVitie's digestive campfire cookies and that's what we'll take with us from now on. Heck, with all that fiber they might even help us stay regular. 

McVitie's
SmicVitties