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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Winding Roads

New Zealand's small population is focused in several larger cities spread throughout the country, separated by geological boundaries limiting population growth. While there is room for more people, the mountainous terrain makes multi-lane highways quite difficult, time consuming, and costly to build, forcing Kiwis to rely on small, windy roads. This lack of infrastructure restricts how large New Zealand can get, and means that traffic jams are inevitable. Gisborne is uaully rather traffic free, but outside of city limits it's a different story.I left Gisborne driving east towards Mahia, continuing until I reached the turnoff for Patutahi. Patutahi is the home to two of Gisborne's seven distinct localities (the Gisborne wine region will be discussed in more depth during a later post). I made my way through the vineyards and past several wineries, all of which appeared to be closed . I snaked along some back streets before finding the first sign indicating my destination.I turned left, continuing away from Gisborne. The inconsistent drizzle, overcast but bright sky, and vibrant color of fall set a good mood for a country drive. I left the flatlands of Patutahi and began winding through increasingly dense forest. I came upon the small rural community of Rere without even realizing it, my only indication the decreasing speed limit and the small Rere School. I turned at the next street, which had a small sign simply stating, "Rere Falls 4 km". A gentle climb up a hillside dropped me into a large valley, covered in shades of green, yellow, and red. I encountered a ute (New Zealand for pickup truck) partially blocking the road about a kilometer further along. I quickly slowed as I noticed the ute's owner was sitting on the tailgate with his shotgun. I looped around another blind corner to find a herd of cattle grazing along the roadside (free cattle feed and free roadside weed-clearing). After slowly making my way through the herd, I finally reached Rere Falls, part of the Wharekopae River and home to a lovely park that is a popular summer destination.The recent rains had the river and falls flowing quite strongly. I walked around the small park and enjoyed the soothing sound of the waterfall before continuing further northeast to Rere Rockslide. After hearing about this natural waterslide, my first thought was Slide Rock, a natural waterslide I visited years ago in Sedona, Arizona. I must admit that Rere is a bit more impressive, consisting of a 60-meter rockface covered with a thin layer of rushing water that terminates abruptly in a small pool of water. To exit the pool, one must beat the river's current to reach a small path lining the slide (the picture below was taken looking down the falls).
I pulled into the carpark to find I was the only potential slider. Though Rere rockslide recieves visitors throughout the year, it is primarily a summer venue. The water temperature gets rather cold during winter, requiring those entering the water to wear a wetsuit (most sliders wear wetsuits despite temperature to protect themselves). The rain ceased as I walked down the path to the slide's peak. I decided I should suit up and slide, regardless of the uninviting conditions.Since I had never visited the slide before, I wasn't quite sure how things worked. I entered the water cautiously a few meters behind the slide's edge, intent on crossing the ten meter wide river before sliding down since it looked like a smoother ride. About midway across, I stepped off a rock ledge into deeper water and the current grabbed me and swiftly dragged me down the falls sideways over several large rocks before I awkwardly found the pool at the bottom. I made my way up the foot path and completed a few more successful slides before hiking back to the car, changing back into my warm clothes, and making my way back home. I past through Rere and back onto the flatlands, opting to take the longer route connecting to Ormond, then back into Gisborne.


  1. Slide rock! fond memories of freezing mountain water. That water slide thing you found was in drive thru new zealand too! Looks sick!

  2. I've been reading your blog and a friend who is coming back to the US from Austrailia tomorrow. It's interesting how similar they are.
    Glad you had a good time and are doing well.
    We have June gloom big time so take your time in Bali.
    Mark your neighbor.

  3. Slide Rock was always epic. This is the same slide from Drive Thru, my buddy took them all there!

    Good to hear from you Mark, thanks for the well wishes. What's your friend's site called?