Monthly Archives: May 2014

Old Haunts revisited

Having circumnavigated the island and with two weeks until our return home we decided to head back to some areas where we now had more information about sights to see and time to explore. We started by doing a loop in the Waitomo area taking in yet another waterfall and then checking bits of the west coast we had missed. The rain had caused rivers to run well and they stained the sea brown as they emptied their loads. We headed down one narrow country road which ended at a tunnel cut into the cliff for the previous flax trade. We walked through to emerge onto an empty back sand beach backed by towering, orange cliffs with a waterfall cascading down and ours were the only footsteps. It was a magical place.

The coast road deposited us back at Waitomo where we revisited some of our favourite places and also went to Ruakiri tunnels walk which we had missed. It was a loop walk through a gorge accompanied by the river which dipped in and out of tunnels ( and so did we). We also did a tramp as opposed to a walk (rough track, no steps, river crossings instead of bridges, marked by orange triangles thank goodness or we would have lost it!) to a waterfall that was well off the beaten tourist path. The falls were worth the effort falling through a sunlit slot into an orange canyon filled with green, mossy rocks.

Next came a walk along a limestone gorge that the track notes said could be boggy. It most certainly was and we deliberately walked through the stream at the end to remove some of the mud off our boots. It also didn’t deliver the views we were hoping for due to the vegetation. Having time to kill we then headed to the previously ignored McLaren Falls as the photos didn’t look impressive.  The river had been dammed for hydro purposes and was now a trickle but we found a beautiful lake had been made and the area planted with a great variety of trees. It was lovely especially with the autumn colours.

Another day and another waterfall – this one came down in three leaps and then dropped into a green gorge which was very pretty. It was then back to the coast which was decidedly warmer than inland and a climb up a local mountain with lots of the locals walking and jogging up and down. New Zealanders are prolific walkers and joggers and every hill near a major town always had lots of people.

The Coromandel Peninsula drew us back for more walks and coast watching.  We timed our visit to Hot Water Beach so we could feel the hot water bubbling up through the sand with our bare feet. I went on a boat trip that I couldn’t manage previously due to bad weather but found it a bit disappointing as our boat rushed madly from one attraction to the next with limited time to take photos, especially as it was advertised as great for photographers. (I also had to contend with people in front and we were rarely given side on views.) We took walks through the old gold mining tunnels to find lots of wetas and a surprise from some enterprising local. Another waterfall also gave us lots of exercise.

Hamilton gave us a much cheaper alternative place to store our van and also the unexpected delight of their themed gardens, well worth a visit.

After three months in New Zealand I feel qualified to espouse some observations

– The price of living is similar with petrol more expensive but fish, icecream and bakery items cheaper.

– DOC (Department of Conservation) is a very big presence and do a great job providing a variety of mostly well signed walking tracks, camping areas in some beautiful locations and lots of huts ranging from very basic (which we did not visit as they require more knowledge of the area) to palatial like the 80 bed Pinnacles hut in Coromandel with mattresses, gas cookers, lights, shower (cold!) and a barbecue for bacon and egg breakfasts.

– NZ is having as much trouble with depletion of native species as we are. They are working very hard at addressing the problem of stoats and possums in particular which have had great effect on their bird life. Certain areas have been targetted for intensive trapping and poisoning and we did hear more birds in these areas. They have also made use of their many off shore islands as sanctuaries for captive bred  and released populations.

– NZ is more open to adventurous activities than Australia and is not such a nanny state. They allow people to take responsibility for their own actions (less fencing of cliff edges, tunnels not closed off, free self guided caves with leaflets ).

We are now back in Australia for the winter with plans to return and travel the South Island in spring.

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Central North Island

We finally left our journey around the coast of the North Island and headed into the centre. We aimed for Rotorua but stopped along the way at the delightful Edwardian town of Te Aroha that was built up around spas. We enjoyed the 50cm high soda spring geyser, walked to some waterfalls and a view and finished with a free foot bath in the park. After Te Aroha we found the not very well advertised Wairere Falls. These are 153m high and were roaring when we saw them – very impressive.

Rotorua was the next stopping point and we visited a spring with clear, blue water emerging from the depths of the ground amongst Californian Redwood trees. We also went to Kaituna River, flowing from the lakes with a great volume of water and descending over a couple of falls just made for thrilling paying customers in rafts. It also thrilled the watching photographers who had waited 15 minutes before we knew we were there at the right time when the official photographer arrived.

 

The weather gods finally caught up with us after two and a half months of mostly good weather. We spent a day in the library at Rotorua hiding from the rain and then went on a tour of waterfalls in the showery weather. Whirinaki forest gave us the delightful  Waiatiu Falls and eerie Te-Whaiti-Nui-A-Tui Canyon before finally depositing us at Mangamate Falls with its welcome shelter and fire to dry us out. We then went to Tarawera Falls where the river found its own way through the volcanic rock after the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

The completion of our circle brought us back to Rotorua to catch up with my brother and partner in better weather and see some more sights. We walked around Blue Lake and climbed Rainbow Mountain which is still steaming. We also visited the local hangout of Kerosene Creek with its warm flowing water enjoyed by many.

Our one paid excursion (and yes Ray came too!) was to Wai-O-Tapu billed as the most colourful thermal park and it lived up to its billing. We had yellow, blue and green pools and the star attraction, the Champagne Pool, a clear blue surrounded by a red-brown ochre edge. We went mad with the cameras. It also had the added attraction of a geyser that performed on cue  ( with a little help) and boiling mud pools.

We moved on down to the Taupo area where the attractions were all centred on water from Huka Falls-an amazing amount of water gushing out from a narrow canyon, Aratiatia rapids-that same amount of water  going down through a gorge but only 3 or 4 times a day when it is released from the hydro dam upstream and Lake Taupo itself as seen from a nearby mountain where an amazing amount of locals do their exercise walking and running up and down.

The southern end of the lake was the end point of the Tongariro River, a haven for fly fishermen and rafters. We did some walks along the river and drove further upstream to where the river carved amazing deep gorges through the lava fields. It was beautiful to see and very hard to capture. We didn’t see any rafters there but kayakers have conquered the depths of Tree Trunk Gorge. A walk in the drizzle around Rotopounamu was very lovely and relaxing.

Then it was back to the non-touristy parts of New Zealand by heading to Pureora Forest Park with walks in the forest and a chance to get up with the birds by climbing a tower above the canopy. Unfortunately the birds still stayed out of sight but within hearing for us to enjoy their songs and calls. We saw a large totara tree that rivalled the big kauris and another lovely waterfall that we would celebrate in Australia but is tucked away out of sight here.