I walk carefully along the swing bridges from tree to tree, high up in the redwood forest among the birds. It is another world up here. My vision of coming back as a bird in my next life has taken wings. It is all here before me in this forest setting. I could be a fantail flitting around the ponga ferns, feeding on tiny insects. The sunlight filters through the redwoods and the forest lights up into three dimensions. My brief dream shatters as a curly redhead pops into my vision. It’s not another feathered bird in the tree with me. I’m on the Redwoods Treewalk in a place better known for bubbling mud pools, Māori culture, mountain biking and a pervasive smell of sulphur.

A bird’s-eye view of the redwood forest from the Treewalk

Each November I join a group of friends for three- or four-day escapes somewhere in the North Island. Rotorua is our destination this year with a series of day walks planned. We’ll be staying in a lakeside house on the edge of Lake Rotorua at Ngongotaha.

In the vicinity of Rotorua there are 11 large lakes, and a number of small ones, offering an interesting array of walks. The Department of Conservation’s walking and hiking brochure offers a choice of 31 hikes ranging from short forest walks and walks to mud pools, to a 22-kilometre long day hike. There is something for everyone. Rebecca, our trip organiser this year has selected a good mix of walks for us.

The top of the treewalk looks down from 12 metres

Down a long driveway by the lake we discover our home for the next three nights. Both dining and living room enjoyed expansive views out over the lake, a perfect place to try out the kayaks lying beside the house. We unload our bags and line up beds for the night before driving though Rotorua out to Tikitapu/Blue Lake for a 5.5-kilometre walk around the lake, to stretch out after the drive from New Plymouth.

There is a great campground beside Tikitapu where I have stayed several times. It’s about 10-minutes’ drive from the centre of Rotorua but feels a world away, in a peaceful lakeside setting. It’s a Top 10 Holiday Park and offers a large range of campsites, motels and cabins. During one visit we gathered mushrooms for dinner off the back fields of the campground.

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