A relaxing soak in nature
An amble through bush and boardwalks to Great Barrier Island’s Kaitoke Hot Springs.
Words and photography Carolyn Enting
Having a hot pool to ourselves on Aotea / Great Barrier Island was worth the early start. The day before our blissful dip, we’d got as far as the carpark, which was jammed. My partner flatly refused to get out of the car and announced we’d come back the following morning. I agreed it was a good idea. Back at the Kaitoke Hot Springs track at 7.30am, we were stoked to discover that we had it all to ourselves, and, when we got to the hot pools, those too. The return trip to the pools is an easy walk and flat for most of the way. The track is also wide, and at some points traversing boardwalks over wetland is required. From the carpark, the trail wends through softly draping tree ferns, glades of nikau palms and stands of regenerating kānuka forest, and around the shore of the Kaitoke wetland. The wetland was formed about 6,000 years ago and is unique because it has a mix of hot and cold water, making it home to unusual plant species and rare birds and reptiles. If you’re lucky, you’ll see or hear a fern bird. The hot pools are dammed at a fork in Kaitoke Creek and have been used for bathing and good health by locals and visitors since humans first came to the island. According to the sign, the locals love the hot springs being low key and hope to keep them that way. The water level of the main pool was low when we visited, so we chose the more picturesque pool about 100m further up the track (you’ll find a bench on the track and steps leading down to the water). The water is hot but it doesn’t take long to get used to and you can rest on a handily placed log if you need to cool down for a bit. It is one of the most popular walks on the island, being an easy track and having the allure of a natural spa experience. Plus, it’s free! Track notes • 45-60 minutes each way • Start track from Whangaparapara Road • Suitable for pushchairs and assisted wheelchairs • Do not put your head under the water in the pools • Wear your bathers as there is only one long drop loo at the pools! Ilove a car that rates your driving performance after every trip and tells you you’re a great driver. The Toyota Yaris Cross GX hybrid reckons I am, so I’ll take that! The opportunity to take the Yaris Cross Hybrid for a test drive for a few days offered up a few good surprises in addition to its excellent eco credentials. At the end of each journey, text on the dashboard praised me for “good eco driving” or “excellent steady driving” as well as providing a summary of my eco score for the trip. And that felt good. I also love that Toyota NZ is on an emissions mission to demystify the transition to electrification for everyday Kiwis like me. The Yaris Cross Hybrid is classified as an HEV, which like a conventional car needs to be refuelled with petrol. The internal combustion engine and regenerative braking keep its hybrid battery charged, meaning the vehicle self-charges the hybrid battery. The other kind is a PHEV – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which is closer to a full battery electric vehicle, with the ability to recharge the hybrid battery at a charging station or at home. A PHEV also has an internal combustion engine, which can provide the car with greater range than current battery electric vehicles. Hybrids are a key factor in the transition to a low-carbon future and use around a third less fuel than similar petrol-only vehicles. Because they use less fuel, the carbon emissions are reduced. Piha was my destination of choice for a roadie in the Yaris Cross Hybrid. It was a joy to drive, powering up the hills while handling the windy road with stability and ease. It switched seamlessly between electric and petrol power, providing instant torque when I pressed the accelerator, which is a must for me. It was enlightening to later learn that another feature of the Yaris Cross is Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. This gives you a fun driving experience while also adding cornering stability and better handling. Another thing I like about it is how it sits up high on the road, providing greater visibility. Toyota have certainly led the way in the area of electrification. It introduced the world to a new type of vehicle – the Prius Hybrid electric car in 1997 – and Toyota NZ has set itself an objective of cutting CO2 emissions from its portfolio of vehicles by 90 per cent by 2050. By 2030 they aim to have an electrified option of every car model in their line-up. In October 2021 Toyota Motor Corporation revealed the production design of the new bZ4X, their first battery driven vehicle (BEV) which will be available in New Zealand early 2023. The BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) produces zero emissions while driving and is powered solely by electricity. Toyota’s investment into future battery technology also includes solid state batteries which will have higher performance, reduced environmental impact and more recycling options. I agree with Toyota NZ’s chief executive Neeraj Lala when he says the bZ4X is an exciting step. It’s also going to take a combination of electrified vehicles – BEVs, HEVs and PHEVs – to achieve low carbon objectives. For me, the Yaris Cross hybrid ticks lots of boxes beyond its eco credentials. The lustre of the Crystal Pearl paintwork is beautiful. Inside, it’s roomy and comfortable, and it has heaps of boot space – great for weekend getaways with family or friends. Plus, it’s easy to park!