Sometimes the desire to do a certain travel experience, despite it not being the most logical choice, is too great to ignore. Sailing on beautiful Lake Taupo to the Maori Rock Carvings, on the electric eco-yacht Barbary, was one such adventure. We needed to leave the wheelchair behind for this one, but it resulted in a gorgeous family outing, and one of our most relaxing adventures on our New Zealand holiday.
MAORI ROCK CARVINGS LAKE TAUPO – SAILING WITH BARBARY
The giant Mine Bay Maori rock carving of Ngatoroirangi on Lake Taupo has been hailed as one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary Maori artworks. Standing 14-metres above the water of Lake Taupo, the carving has become a must-see attraction for tourists visiting Taupo.
Traditional marae-taught carver Matahi Brightwell came across this rock face while he was looking for a place to fulfill a promise he’d made to his grandmother, who wanted a likeness of her ancestor Ngatoroirangi created. His grandmother had asked Matahi to carve the likeness on a totara tree to create a permanent connection between her family and the land. With no totara tree available, Matahi looked for an alternative.
In 1976 Matahi came across the rock alcove at Mine Bay on Lake Tapau and decided it should be the canvas for his work. Sculpted over a four year period, Matahi and his team of four artists created the spectacular carving of Ngatoroirangi on the rock face.
AJ was particularly keen to see the Maori Carvings and given the kayaking trip was too long for us to do, sailing there was our best option.
While there are other boats that take visitors to the rock carvings, I was lured by the romance of a sail, pizza, wine and potentially a swim in Lake Taupo. Thankfully we had a fine summer’s evening for the sail and it lived up to the daydream-like picture I’d conjured up in my mind.
Sail Barbary’s eco-friendly electric engines ensure there’s no distracting rumble of a motor, or smell of fumes during the trip. The yachts use the sustainable power of the wind, or if mother nature isn’t playing that day, there’s the eco-friendly electric engine to power the sail.
By the time we’d had a drink, nibbled on pizza, taken in the views and listened to the commentary from our captain, we had arrived at the Maori Rock Carvings. The afternoon sun illuminated the face of Ngatoroirangi and being so close to the rock face allowed us to appreciate the carving feat of Matahi and his team. We were told the carvers wore nothing more than safety goggles and a pair of speedos (swimmers), while marking out the artwork using chalk, string lines and spray paint, before sculpting it by hand.
Surrounding Ngatoroirangi are smaller sculptures. These carvings depict tupuna (ancestors) and kaitiaki (guardians) that are pivotal to the history of the local Maori tribe.
The tour only allows for a quick swim so Hubby and AJ jumped into the water while BJ and I cheered them on from on board the boat. Conditions need to be pretty warm for BJ to dip his toe into the water these days. Must be old age!
Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, beautifully clear and fresh. It should be noted for less confident swimmers, it is harder to swim in the fresh water, so stay close to the boat and have a strong swimmer by your side.
BJ enjoyed the sailing trip, with fellow passengers and staff proving friendly and helpful. BJ can sit well but the natural rock of the boat meant he had to work a bit to keep his balance. I imagine it was quite tiring for him but he was a happy sailor.
This boat trip does require a passenger to be able to walk on to the boat due to the narrow gangway and there is no room on the vessel to store a wheelchair. Staff arranged for our family to be the first to board the boat to give BJ time to walk with assistance and get settled before everyone else got on. Hubby then ran back to the car to leave the wheelchair there. We found the team at Sail Barbary, from the time of booking to the sailing, really helpful and accommodating.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening on Lake Taupo and seeing the Maori Rock Carvings. Some of our adventures, like this one, take more effort to make happen. As long as we mix it up with others which have easier access, I think we end up with a good balance. I’m grateful BJ is up to the challenge and we can manage to do these things as a family.
You can read more about Sail Barbary on their website.
If you are looking for a more accessible way of seeing the Maori Rock Carvings as a wheelchair user, I suggest contacting Chris Jolly Outdoors as their vessel can accommodate manual wheelchairs. As with most boats, the steepness of the gangway will depend on water levels at the time of booking but their staff are more than willing to assist any way they can. The width of the gangway on Cruise Cat is 73cm. Enquiries can be made by emailing them at email@example.com
During our week in Taupo we found plenty of activities within easy reach, including –
Craters of the Moon – a wheelchair accessible geothermal walk.