Our dog, Betty, came to live with us last winter and we've been looking for dog friendly walks ever since. One of the first new walks we found was Raparapahoe Stream and Falls, near Te Puke. It seems this walk even has it's own resident dog tour guide, Max, who accompanied us down to the falls one day.
It's a great little walk, less than 2km round trip. The first half of the track is very steep with roots, wooden steps, and a staircase leading down the bush-covered valley walls. The second half of the walk meanders along the stream with tree roots and other natural obstacles to reckon with.
It was on this walk that I first realised the importance of physically challenging the kids on tramps. This track is short, but provides technical terrain. And the kids love it! In contrast, when we walk the undulating, wide, hazard-free base track at Mount Maunganui, they complain endlessly because the relatively easy terrain and lack of obstacles is boring for them. Sure the stunning scenery is tough to beat, but their little bodies want to move. When they are given the option, they'll go up the mount rather than around it, every time. As parents, we can use our tramping fairy magic to make the walk more fun - by finding painted rocks, chasing one another, singing songs, and spotting seals, but easy walks are not naturally attractive to the kids. Children want to be given the opportunity to climb, to balance, to choose the best route, and manoeuvre uniquely. Under the right conditions, they'll be inherently motivated.
Raparapahoe Stream is even more beautiful than it is difficult. Walking along the stream you hear the sound of water bubbling and gushing over the mossy rocks until you near the end of the track and the dull roar of the falls floods your ears. Over the next little hill, you come into view of the falls and the sheer cliff face on the opposite side, which seems to reach up to the sky.
On winter visits, we have felt revitalised by our time in the bush and nourished by picnics on the rocks at the falls. But the best visits include a dip in the swimming hole during the summer! The water is absolutely freezing according to me, cool and refreshing to others maybe. After you swim across the water hole to the falls, you're bound to have just enough feeling in your fingers to climb up the side of the falls. It's slippery, but there are two ropes in place that you can use to help you get up. Once you're up there's no way down but to jump. I'm not an expert in waterfall physics, but we always jump to the side of the falls to avoid getting into trouble. After you scream and splash safely into the frigid water, the force of the falls will push you back towards the picnic spot where the stream continues. Sadie (5) and Dan (7) prefer to paddle around with their pool noodles and boogie boards, but their brave friend Leigh (9) has jumped from the falls ledge with some help from his mum.
Keen on swimming holes? Try the one near Puketoki Reserve.
Raparahoe Falls: <2km (round trip, approximate)
Time: <1 hours
Difficulty: Moderate (Difficult for toddlers)
Buggies: No. Backpack child carrier okay. Avoid carrying baby on your front as you'll want to be able to see where to put your feet.
Dogs: Yes. Note that the staircase is quite steep so Betty needed to be carried up and down them, not due to age or illness, but short legs.
Barefoot: Large rocks and sticks, some mud. Doable for the determined beginner.
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