As the heat of summer fades, Peter and I are reflecting on a great summer – where we have met wonderful people, shared our home, and introduced our area to visitors from far and wide
May and June are traditionally a quiet time for us in Ohakune – opportunities to maintain and upgrade properties and also rest and relax before the winter season starts. We are excited to let you know that we have just completed the installation of a cedar wood hot tub which seats eight – this is not only a piece of art in itself, but environmentally friendly being both wood and gas fired. We feel it’s the perfect addition for not only our summer guests to relax in after hiking the Tongariro Crossing or cycling the Old Coach Road but will also warm our winter guests after a day on the ski slopes.
We had a family friend, Joelle, from Constance in Germany stay with us for several weeks this summer, so while we didn’t have much of a chance to get out and about, we did a couple of short walks with her to introduce her to the area. One of our favourite short walks is the Mangawhero Forest walk. This walk is great because it has all of the elements of the longer hikes in the area: it is in the Tongariro National Park, walkers are surrounded by New Zealand native bush, and it is on Mt Ruapehu. The sign says one hour but although we’re just walkers of an average pace, it really only takes around 45 minutes. One of the benefits of this walk is that it encompasses a 15 minute loop that is suitable for those that are less able bodied and is also wheelchair accessible. So as we walked, we were able to talk to her about the area and have her practice her English at the same time. We hope the lessons were successful!!
The walk is situated right at the base of the mountain road – just a quick 10 minute drive from Ruapehu Country Lodge so it’s perfect for those guests who are unlucky enough to be here for just one night. It’s also nice and handy to return to town for dinner at The Cyprus Tree or one of the other nice restaurants close by.
We’re sad that we have probably seen Joelle for the last time this year but hopefully, we will visit her in her hometown sometime soon!!
So as winter approaches, it’s time for you to think about all the great reasons for visiting Ohakune and Ruapehu Country Lodge. The epic Desert Storm Trail Bike ride takes place on 9 -10 May, the Carrot Festival takes place at the end of May, as does the Ohakune Fashion Show, Mardis Gras weekend is the last weekend in June, the Waimarino Art Awards in early July and then of course there is the snow.
So there’s plenty going on for you to choose from. Come and see us at Ruapehu Country Lodge.
The mountain in winter is just not my scene. A bad experience a few years ago has been something I have struggled to get over.
So this day, a blue sky day, dry roads, little to no snow, seemed like the perfect reason to overcome my fear, ride the Movenpick chairlift and see what all the fuss was about.
The school holiday period is a really bad time for the mountain to have no snow. However, the perception that Ohakune is a one trick pony couldn't be more wrong.
There is so much to do here on a day with no snow. The mountain bike tracks can be tackled by any level of rider – even by children. There are enough walks in the area for even the most unfit of people to enjoy. And no snow, doesn’t mean poor weather. It can be quite the opposite in fact, like this particular day.
The Engineer pandered to my anxiety and drove oh so slowly up the mountain road. The mountain road meanders through native forest and then once above the tree line, it looks like you would imagine the planet Mars to look like. Bare volcanic rock – normally covered in snow at this time of year. We parked just a short way from the main steps, overlooking the beginner slopes. Even on this day with no snow, they were filled with families enjoying a day out with limited facilities available. Snow guns were pumping at full bore, and shrieking and laughter filled the air.
The cool guys were all there too. You know the ones.
Even with no snow.
We bought our tickets for the chairlift and walked over the ice to the carousel and were ushered on to the lift and off we went.
The Movenpick chairlift has a vertical rise of 290m and takes about 10 minutes in each direction. There is nothing for sightsee-ers to do upon reaching the top. Just get off and get on again.
But the view during the ride is worth every minute and every penny. An outstanding, unforgettable view out across the countryside. Mt Taranaki in the distance with its snow capped peak. The valleys underneath would normally be littered with people skiing but on this perfect day, without a breath of wind, the air whisper quiet, was just that. Perfect. Even with no snow.
So don’t listen to that forecast. Come any way!
Since our sightseeing day last week, the mountain has had a generous dumping of 80 centimetres of snow with another 50 centimetres due in the next 24 hours.
The weather in Ohakune on this Sunday in October, dawned bright and sunny without a cloud to be seen. After a relaxed breakfast, our guests, Hillary and Gerry decided a walk was in order. The Gardener and I decided to join them. It wasn’t their first visit to the Central Plateau, although it was their first visit to Ruapehu Country Lodge. We decided on a walk around Lake Rotokura – which is a short drive away, just 12 km from Ohakune.
The area around Lake Rotokura is an ecological area and there is intensive pest control being carried out around here in order to return the forest to its natural state.
There is plenty of parking and as we exited the car, we were immediately assaulted by a steep hill that had us regretting our full breakfast. Fortunately, this only lasted about 10 minutes. We reached the Dry Lake – which whilst it is the lower of the two lakes, it is by no means dry!! We stopped for a quick photo shoot and then headed another 5 minutes in to the bush before reaching the first edges of Lake Rotokura. We could see the majestic Mt Ruapehu towering above the lake and on a beautiful day like today, you can see its reflection in the water. We headed clockwise in to the bush where the track narrows in some places to a mere sliver. The ancient beech trees that form a guard of honour around the lake tower above you blocking out much of the sun so that even on an amazing day like today, you feel the remnants of winter each time the sun disappears behind a tree. A couple of times we had to climb over fallen tree trunks, some newly fallen and some not. It sounded by this stage, that the birds were enjoying the day as much as we were. We identified the sounds of the bellbird from a ‘WhatbirdNZ’ app. We also heard the Tui, and spotted a fantail hopping on and off branches sending a rustling thru the air.
We stopped at the Dry Lake for a drink of water on the way back down– Lake Rotokura is tapu (meaning sacred healing waters) so it is offensive to the tangata whenua, Ngati Rangi, to eat or drink near the lake.
All in all, this walk took us about an hour at a nice slow amble and was the perfect way to start such a perfect Sunday.
The Lakes/Pakahi Road Loop
A ‘proper’ cyclist was meandering along the road as Peter and I made our way down the drive for our first outdoor cycle of the year. The weather was not looking like it was going to stay fine so this was our window of opportunity for the time being.
The cyclist (Mike) stopped, asked how fast we rode, and then asked to join us. Our plan was to just cycle the Lakes/Pakahi Road loop. The loop is a mere 15kms - but long enough for the first ride of the year. Once The Gardener had wrestled his shoes on, off we went. Within a minute, I was alone with my thoughts as Peter and Mike became just specks of fluorescent orange and green ahead of me.
The Loop is, for the most part, a nice easy ride through stunning rural Waimarino countryside. The sight of Mt Ruapehu, on the Central Plateau, peaking out periodically between hills and trees is a sight so common to us now however we never tire of its beauty and strength. We rode on for half an hour – the boys stopping every now and then to wait for me – my excuse being I was on a mountain bike with big thick road grabbing tires and they on road bikes with skinny fast wheels. Nothing at all to do with me being slightly out of shape of course.
Green pastures with lambs suckling their mothers, rolling hills, fields planted in neat rows with future crops, and amazing gardens make up part of this landscape.
We had crossed three one-way bridges before we struck the hill. This is where my thoughts took over and I said to myself repeatedly I will not stop, I will not stop, and then I stopped! Hills are not my forte – walking, running or cycling - but I did need to strip off a layer before continuing – that’s my excuse anyways. Needless to say I was still alone.
The hill only needed one stop – its amazing how rested ones legs can feel with just a minute’s break. It seemed never ending but finally I did reach the top, sucking in much needed oxygen,where yes, my two fellow cyclists were waiting. We cruised down the other side and in a minute or two were back on the main road minutes from home.
We had made it and what a way to spend an hour – out in the fresh air, muscles well worked. Feeling exhilarated!!.
Can't wait to do it again.!!
We have two mountain bikes and helmets available for guests to use when staying at Ruapehu Country Lodge.
In June we welcomed Agathe and Bruno from Le Havre, France, to Ohakune, and Ruapehu Country Lodge. It's wonderful when our guests are here for more than a few days. Agathe and Bruno were with us for four! They cycled the Old Coach Road, hiked to the South Crater on the Tongariro Crossing, traveled up to Waitomo to visit the caves, and experienced watching a Rugby test match at a local pub. The Engineer, being of English heritage was able to sit on the fence and cheer for both teams much to Bruno's amusement. It was a really fun few days getting to know them. As promised, Agathe sent me a recipe passed down to her from her grandmother - for "Far aux Pruneaux"
On a rainy day in June, I decided to give it a whirl.
Here it is.
500ml boiling milk
3 eggs (ours are home grown !!)
1 pinch of salt
1 tea spoon of flavored sugar vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
In a bowl, mix the eggs & sugar, mix well. then add flour and softened butter. Add rum & flavored sugar , the salt, then the boiling milk.
Oven must be at 180°C while you mix ingredients.
Grease a baking dish and lightly sprinkle flour to stop the mixture from sticking.
Put the prunes in the bottom of the dish and pour over the batter.
Bake for 45 /55 Minutes.
Would I make this again? Definitely - you could even substitute a different fruit - although then it wouldn't be a Far aux Pruneaux!!
I cooked this in a ring tin however it could be cooked in a normal round cake tin as well.
A few weeks ago our friends Rudi and Ulrike came to Ohakune and stayed at Ruapehu Country Lodge. I felt especially excited as Rudi and Ulrike are both extremely talented in the kitchen and I knew this was a great opportunity to learn a thing or two …..
I was lucky enough on this occasion to learn how to make Burli Bread. Rudi tells me this is a Swiss style bread rather than that of his homeland – Germany.
Here is how we (the royal we!!) made it.
Burli Bread (Rolls) Recipe
1kg 00 bread flour 00*
about 600ml water
We measured all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I used the trusty Kenwood with the K beater. The Kenwood has a nice powerful motor and can keep mixing quite a large quantity for ages. Rudi tells me he usually mixes this dough with a hand beater – and he has been thru quite a number in his time of bread making!!
Now, I am one for following instructions and bread making, so I have learned , is very much about feel.
Rudi beat this dough for around ten minutes – occasionally adding water. When the mixture makes a slapping type of noise against the sides of the bowl, the consistency is correct. It’s quite a sloppy mix and if you were to put it on a tray at this stage, it would not hold up. It’s almost batter like in consistency.
We left this mixture covered in a nice warm spot in my sunny kitchen for the afternoon and before we retired for the night, we popped it into the fridge. It was bubbly and light, and fermenting away nicely.
We took the mixture out of the fridge in the morning and gave it a stir. It immediately halved in size, but was still quite batter like rather than bread like.
Next step was to sprinkle the bench liberally with flour and then start scooping handfuls of batter out of the bowl. These handfuls were then coated in flour before being placed on the baking tray. There is no way the batter can be shaped but when placed on a tray was able to sit but be a bit sloppy. Each handful is placed next to the other with no gaps. This mixture made a tray full of approx. 12 bread rolls.
We popped these into the oven for about 40 minutes at 200 degrees. Underneath the tray of bread rolls, you need to place a bowl of hot water so that the steam helps form a nice crust on the buns.
A truly yummy result. Guests and family enjoyed these rolls and I have a feeling they will be a regular on the breakfast table at Ruapehu Country Lodge.
There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the house!!
People often comment that Ohakune is a one-dimensional town with nothing going for it outside of the July - October ski season. When Peter and I moved here from Auckland in January, it was assumed by many that we were here for the skiing. How wrong could they be....
Here are four great reasons to come and stay in Ohakune.
The Old Coach Road Cycle Way. Peter and I cycled this track last year and it was such a fun thing to do. Its 18kms long and you can start at either end. We opted to hire bikes and the operator dropped us for a small fee at the beginning of the trail at the Horopito end. You can start at the Horopito or Ohakune end, or cycle there and back however we opted for one-way hence the transport needed. Cycling in this direction also has a slight downward slope which was much more to my liking!!
We were familiar with the track - having walked part of it on many occasions so whilst we didn't amble, we didn't go at break neck speed either. Two and a half hours later we prised our fingers off the handle bars and fell about laughing. We had had an awesome morning.
The Tongariro Crossing. Touted as the worlds best one day walk, we accomplished this for the first time on our very first visit to Ohakune - way before we ever contemplated moving to the area and buying Ruapehu Country Lodge.
We stayed locally and caught a shuttle to the beginning of the Crossing. Again, the views spectacular, the walk - challenging, and an unforgettable experience. Of the many guests that we have hosted at Ruapehu Country Lodge so far, probably around 80% have gone to do the crossing and not one regret amongst them.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts operate their chairlift over summer from Whakapapa. Peter and I have done this outing many times - pretty much every time friends and family come to visit for the first time (they always come back). It's a mere 30 minute drive around the mountain and the two chair lifts needed to get to the top takes about 30 minutes. I even took my Mum up there when she visited. She is a bit unstable on her feet and the staff helped her get on and off each chair and were fabulous. At the top is a cafe which is the highest in New Zealand and is situated in the most amazing building. It's a piece of architecture in itself. Hot chocolate and a muffin are a must at this point. On a clear day you can see forever. It's exhilarating!!
There are a multitude of bush walks and short hikes in the area. You can spend days exploring them and there are walks for every ability. We haven't done them all yet - slowly slowly!!
Ohakune is also a great base to explore the wider region. The Whanganui River is only a 30 minute drive away and there are some great day trips to be had there, Whanganui (town) is just 1 hour 10 minutes away, Taupo an hour 30 minutes away, Palmerston North - 2 hours away.
So all in all, Ohakune is a great place to be and Ruapehu Country Lodge will continue to host guests wanting to explore the area.
Oh..... and there is great skiing in winter.
And that was way more than four reasons!!