The Blue Mountains and the Ongaonga

A short drive from Lawrence bought us to Tapanui where we parked our caravan on the disused tennis courts of the recreation centre. In to town to investigate the short main street and information centre. An excursion into the bush of the Blue Mountains to the east of town seemed like a good idea so after a cup of coffee in the coffee shop and lunch back at the caravan it was off to the Blue Mountains.

When we arrived at the mountains we picked the easy trek through the bush that would have taken us about 15 minutes according to the notice. But half way round there was another notice pointing to the waterfall and a time of 1 hour. So off to the waterfall we went and the track quickly turned into a narrow, steep and difficult climb. While we were sitting puffing, red in the face and generally pooped, a guy came running up the slope armed with two climbing sticks and was quickly lost to sight as he shot upwards along the track. No, he was not being chased by a wild pig with a frothing mouth, or wearing a superman suit. He was just fitter than us. Much fitter.

We continued onwards much subdued, until we encountered the ongaonga. That’s the Maori name for it and I can just hear them saying oh nah, oh nah when they came in contact with it. The other name for it is the Giant Tree Nettle, a native stinging nettle. It has leaves and stems covered in very fine spikes that inject a person who is silly enough to touch it with a substance that causes stinging and itching, redness and swelling and finally a numbness that can last for several days. We managed to brush our hands on it as we passed. One touch and the effect is instant. We have skipped the redness and swelling but are now in the numbness stage. Not too.much of a problem, no medical intervention or rescue helicopter required.

We never made it to the waterfall. Must of got close as 55 minutes had passed, but couldn’t hear the falls so they must have been very small. On the way back three teenagers came running up the track. No, they were not being chased by a pig either.

It was a good walk through the New Zealand bush. A few birds, mainly fantails, with bellbirds calling in the treetops.


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