Written by auskiwi on 15 Oct, 2009
April was D-Day - or W-Day - and all went very well considering most of it was organized via emails. There were a couple of minor hitches but nothing to worry about – people still got their fear share of alcohol and food and appeared…Read More
April was D-Day - or W-Day - and all went very well considering most of it was organized via emails. There were a couple of minor hitches but nothing to worry about – people still got their fear share of alcohol and food and appeared to have had a great time. Even the weather put in a good performance, which is unusual for Taranaki at that time of year; therefore we could have the ceremony outside as planned. Everyone scrubbed up well.After the wedding we had ourselves a nice mini trip around the top of the North Island. From New Plymouth we drove across the Forgotten Highway to Taupo – stopped at Whanganomona, at a lovely stream for lunch and watched kayakers go past and Owhanga. The holiday park we stayed at had a spa pool which we relaxed in for ½ hour after a day driving.We spent the next day walking around the Craters of the Moons thermal park – cheapest thermal park in the area as it is only new -, going on the Rapid Jet ride – a must do - and visiting some free mud pools.Then is was on to Rotorua where we spent the day roaming around the free thermal reserve in the centre of town - a real find, why pay heaps to see the same thing for free -, visiting the Maori church and meeting house – beautiful setting on the lake and we got to enter the meeting house and hear a Maori legend of the local tribe - and visiting the museum – has some interesting history of the local area. That night we went along to a Maori cultural night where we finally met up with some friends again after the wedding and had a hungi feast and watched a cultural performance including the haka, traditional Maori dances, songs and weapon usages. The holiday park here had natural, heated pools and we spent about ½ hour in them relaxing at the end of the two days we were there.The next day we were of the Mount Maunganui where our friends spent the afternoon near or in the surf and Dale and I climbed the mount – what a fantastic view, worth the effort. That night we went out for a lovely dinner and met some other friends at a local pub where we leered up and taught the locals a few things about how to have a good time. This is where 2 of our friends and the other 4 of us departed company. They had to fly out the next day so opted to stay put while the rest of us carried on up to Owera to stay at Dale's nephews place for the night. The next day, before continuing north to Whangarei Heads, we stayed a watched him Kite Board for a couple of hours and have a cupper. Then it was to Dale’s sister’s place for a drunken night of mayhem – Tims Bits, Tims Bits, Tims Bits. Felt a bit sorry for myself the next day but all good. The next day we visited and stayed in Whangarei with Dale’s brother and his Mum before continuing on our journey north. First stop after Whangarei, travelling via Kawakawa (stopped to look at the decorated toilet block and shops here), Pihia (stopped for a spot of shopping and a look at the Haruru Falls) and Kerikeri (stopped to visit the old Church on the hill, the Stone Store and Missionary House and walked to the Pa Site), was Mangonui and Hihi where we visited the whaling museum. The museum was very interesting, especially as it held some connection to Dale’s Great Grandfather - he was a Portuguese fisherman who worked on a whaling boat and jumped of board at a location in the Mangonui area, got in good with a Maori tribe in the Bay of Islands area and married the chief’s daughter. Dale had his first cast of a fishing line for the trip and didn’t get a thing. The grounds of the museum also had a Pahutakawa tree that is a couple of hundred years old and has a huge circumference – one of the, if not the, oldest and biggest in New Zealand. Then we drove right to the top where we stopped, in the campervan, at a beautiful bay called Spirits Bay. Dale’s second chance to show of his angling brilliance – he caught 3 fish, one went back to be caught another day and he caught one molly hawk and one seagull – these were also released. The next day we drove to Ninety Mile beach and stopped at the Kauri Museum (has a huge staircase carved out of a Kauri stump), then up to Cape Reinga (it was blowing a gale but the sun was shining and the views were fantastic) and lastly south to Opononi in the Hokianga Harbour where we stayed the night at the Opinoni Hotel – great food, plenty to drink, friendly locals and neat room.Next morning Dale was up with the larks and fishing again – caught 5 fish this time, these were put in the fridge to take to his brothers for demolishing. While Dale was fishing a bewildered local (the weather was blowing a gale and spitting and Dale was out there trying to cast a bloody line) came up to him and gave him something to eat and a bottle of drink, just for being so crazy. After the successful fishing venture we set of for Whangarei, stopping at the Hokianga Museum, through the Kauri Forest (stopped at the walkways to walk into the forest and see the huge trees, Tane Mahuta, The Four Sisters and the King of the Forest, amazing, they are huge), then through Dargaville (stopped at the Museum there which also has connections to Dale’s family on his Grandfathers, the Morgan’s, side) and then it was back to Whangarei to catch Dale's family again.We then went back to Owera to Dale's nephews so he and Dale could go fishing. We drove back to Owera via the coastal road to Leigh and stopped of at a couple of small beaches, Goat Island and Ti Point for a look see. We would love to visit that area on a lovely, sunny weekend. It was beautiful on a cloudy, overcast day.Then the last couple of days we spent at my brother’s place, in Auckland, during which time we went to Devonport (visited the little galleries), North Head (went for a walk around the reserve and old World War II gun placements), went to Waiteki Island (got the all day bus pass, visited the galleries and the museum, next time we will rent a car so we can go of the main routes) and went up the Sky Tower in Auckland – a must do, even I got up there although I did close my eyes in the lifts with the glass sides and bottom. Close
Written by Slaney on 14 Jan, 2007
When friends lent us a car we could explore on our own and our first trip was to Lake Taupo via Rotarua and the Huka Falls.As we entered Rotarua we could smell the hot springs which throw steam up from the pavements and gardens. Lake…Read More
When friends lent us a car we could explore on our own and our first trip was to Lake Taupo via Rotarua and the Huka Falls.As we entered Rotarua we could smell the hot springs which throw steam up from the pavements and gardens. Lake Rotarua is the largest in the district with windsurfing, kayaking and fishing for trout being allowed. Moaoia Island is in the centre of the lake, has walking tracks and can be reached by boat. We followed the sign to the geyser park (Whakarewarewa), where boiling mud and erupting geysers can be seen and where the Maori Tribe displaced by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 now live, but then noticed a sign going off to the “Buried Village” so we decided to detour. On the way we came across a “Duck Jam” when a family of ducks decided to cross the road.We had every intention of touring this site, but just as we arrived it started to pour with rain, so we looked round the Interpretive Centre, souvenir shop then went to their café and had morning coffee. It was still raining when we had finished this snack, so we gave the tour a miss, but picked up a brochure.When the volcano Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886 the Maori village of Te Waiora was buried, along with 8,000 sq. kilometres of the scenic countryside. Excavations carried out since 1931 by three generations of the Smith Family have revealed some buildings and the museum tells the story of the village. You then venture round the excavated areas through bush to the stream and 30 metre Te Wairere Falls. Admission is NZ$22 per person, with complimentary guided tours. Back tracking to Rotarua we stopped at the beauty spot of the Blue & Green Lakes. Green (Rotokakahi) Lake so called as it looks emerald green from the air due to it being shallower than Blue Lake, has a sandy bottom and is named for the abundance of shellfish. It flows to Lake Tarawera (which is 322 ft lower) via the Te Wairoa waterfalls. Being sacred to the Maori it is very peaceful. It is 1302 ft above sea level and 69ft below the level of Blue Lake. Blue (Tiki Tapu) Lake is almost circular with no apparent inlets or outlets and is a volcanic caldera formed 2000 years ago. This lake is home of the legendary monster Taniaha. From the air this lake appears turquoise due to the reflection of white phyolite and pumice on the bottom. On our way again, we passed Huka Falls. From the overlook we were able to watch the Hukajet jet boats approach the edge of the falls and do a quick spin spraying water all over the passengers. Lake Taupo with a surface area of 616 square miles is fed by rivers coming from the mountains and is the result of a volcanic eruption in 186 AD. Cliffs overlook part of the lake with snow capped volcanic cones on the southern side. The country’s largest river – the Waikato – running out of the lake, together with the rivers running into the lake, runs hydro electric power generating schemes. All rivers and lakes are teeming with trout and offer good fishing to all anglers. Among other activities on offer are water skiing, windsurfing and yachting.As it was the week before Christmas, everywhere was decorated. There were models of Santa Claus in swim shorts decorating street lamps, in one town adults and children dressed as Santa Claus and his Elves were going round the shops handing out sweets to everyone, teenagers were carol singing. All this seemed weird to us as it was so hot and sunny – instead of cold and snowy!!Close
We were on a journey round the Coromandel Peninsular – an area largely missed by tourists, who when visiting the North Island tend to go further north to the Bay of Islands. Our journey would take us up the east coast, across the north part…Read More
We were on a journey round the Coromandel Peninsular – an area largely missed by tourists, who when visiting the North Island tend to go further north to the Bay of Islands. Our journey would take us up the east coast, across the north part of the peninsula and down the west coast. Having previously visited Tairua, the rest of the journey was new territory and our first nights stop would be Whittianga which gave us time to take the trip slowly, looking at everywhere we thought would be interesting. Leaving Tauranga at 9am we were ready for morning coffee by the time we reached twin harbour towns Tairua and Pauanui. The area is very pretty, Tairua having one main road with cafes, restaurants, bars and souvenirs shops and being on the coast it is popular with the boating/fishing people. Pauanui – a purpose built holiday community – has panoramic views from the top of the 1200 ft mountain of the same name. The volcanic peak Paku overlooks the harbour of both towns and a 15 minute walk up the steep slopes leads you to the top. A ferry commutes between the two towns every hour in summer.Venturing into the area of Mercury Bay – so named due to Captain Cook landing here in 1769 to observe the transit of Mercury – we discovered numerous small communities, some with hard to pronounce Maori names like Kuaotunu and Wharekho (Cooks first landing place in New Zealand), then there is Cathedral Cove (which is a marine reserve) all have beautiful white sandy beaches. Some we exited the car and explored more fully, others like Ferry Landing - a small town on the water, so named for the ferry taking passengers to and from Whittianga at a cost of NZ$2 per person - we drove straight through.One of our stops was Hot Water Beach where there are art galleries and shops. There are two unique hot water springs on the beach, but only accessible at low tide. Spades are for hire at various shops and you can dig a hole to create your very own spa and relax in the warm waters. One hour boat trips of the coast line are also on offer. Whittianga is a popular holiday resort and being the main holiday season was thronging with people. We saw a B&B with vacancies just outside the town, but decided to go further to see if there was anything available. The first Motel we stopped at in town was full, but the lady made a telephone call and said she had a room for us down the road. This turned out to be in a private apartment owned by a man named Peter (see journal "Peters’ Place").After settling in, we walked to the marina and spent two hours just sitting on the headland at the mouth of the harbour relaxing, enjoying the sun and watching the activity of the herons, seagulls, cormorants and a kingfisher as well as boats returning from the days fishing. Next morning was raining, but after breakfast we set off for Coromandel Town and soon the sun appeared. Coromandel Town was a pioneering town and has restored heritage architecture from these days. Coromandel Goldfield Centre offers one hour tours 7 days a week 10am – 4pm at a cost of NZ$6 per adult and NZ$3 per child. Gold panning is also available. We enjoyed wandering round the many interesting shops and after coffee, found a loop road. Peter had told us we could go further round the Coromandel, but the road was unpaved – which my husband was not keen on – but we went anyway.
The views of the bays were spectacular, although the road was quite daunting in places, at one time it looked as if we were making our way straight into the sea. This whole road is very scenic with spur roads to beautiful bays, scenic views of the rocky coast line from the tops of hills and lovely country side on the flat, but the one thing missing all along are places to pull in to admire the view and take the odd photo. As we dropped down the other side of the mountains, the road hugged the coastline, which changed from the white sandy beaches of the east side to rocks and rough seas and we entered Thames – named for London’s River Thames.Known as the Gateway to the Coromandel, Thames is 90 minutes drive from Auckland, with a population of 18,000 plus. There was a gold mine boom in the late 1800s but the quartz rock proved too tough for extracting the gold and it was short lived. Noisy during this time, on our arrival most places seemed closed and the historic main street was deserted, but there were a few Motels on the approach and restaurants were open in the town. We had no difficulty getting accommodation here and watched a beautiful sunset over the Forth of Thames. Activities offered here are Historical and Mining Museums, Goldmine Trail, a boardwalk through the mangroves to a Bird Hide as well as many bush walks and a Saturday morning market, offering local crafts, collectibles and produce as well as a modern shopping mall.
After a quick visit to our friends at the beginning of 2005, we were invited back to spend Christmas and New Year with them. Our visit lasted 5 weeks and as our friends are self employed, it involved us helping them in their business (fishing…Read More
After a quick visit to our friends at the beginning of 2005, we were invited back to spend Christmas and New Year with them. Our visit lasted 5 weeks and as our friends are self employed, it involved us helping them in their business (fishing tackle, bait and tools) in the run-up to the holidays. As New Zealand has their main holiday period over Christmas and New Year, which is the summer time, trade was very brisk as customers were stocking up for their fishing trips.I helped in the office and my husband helped with deliveries until he knew his way around the customers, when I went with him and we saw a little of the surrounding area. This meant we were visiting places in the Bay of Plenty which tourists would probably not see. Lots of them were quiet seaside towns, some were inland towns where we wondered where the customers were to keep the shops going and we had to remind ourselves that New Zealand is sparsely populated compared to the UK. One of the villages we travelled through was the victim of a tsunami and the damage could be clearly seen with fallen trees, boulders and other debris. We took it in turns to look after the business whilst the other two had the day off with us ladies walking, shopping and lunching on our days off and the men golfing on theirs. We also enjoyed visiting various sale properties as our friends were looking for what is termed a “lifestyle property” with a view to starting a boarding kennels and dog breeding business. A lot of the new properties in The Bay of Plenty are very much like American homes. One story, three/four bedrooms and two bathrooms with small gardens, but the “lifestyle” properties are larger homes with an acre or more land – some with outbuildings complete with chickens - and a lot of them are wooden with (what look like) tin roofs. Brian (being British) was adamant he wanted a brick and tile home and these were what we toured. Properties for sale in New Zealand have “open days.” This is usually at the weekend when the Real Estate company shows prospective buyers round whilst the owners are absent. We found this a good way of viewing a house at our own pace.In the evenings we were invited to friends or neighbours barbecues with every one making us very welcome. The weather hadn’t really warmed up at this time and there we were sitting round the garden table wearing thick sweaters and coats, drinking wine and eating burgers, chicken, etc., all cooked on the barbie. They all used to laugh at me as I was the only one who was cold and I come from a cold country.My husband was really looking forward to his Christmas lunch eaten outside in the sun, but he was disappointed in this. The day, although sunny, was quite windy so we had to eat inside and instead of our usual British fayre of turkey, we had ham with sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and potatoes in cream and instead of our traditional Christmas pudding, there was pavlova for dessert. We did get to open our presents in the garden. It was all different to what we are used to, but all very enjoyable.New Years Eve was to be spent at a neighbour’s house. They were moving directly after Christmas and lots of their friends had been invited as well as neighbours, their home being literally thrown open with every guest taking a contribution of food and wine/beer to be consumed during the evening. Music was being played the whole time, tables and chairs were set outside (which seemed strange to us being used to huddling over a fire at this time of year to keep warm). At midnight we all sang Auld Lang Syne wished each other “Happy New Year” and dispersed for bed. We enjoyed it immensely, but our friends were disappointed that there were so many people there making it too crowded for dancing during the evening.A walk round the Mount the next morning blew all the cobwebs away. This walk takes you right round Mount Maunganui and is very popular as it has wonderful water views with the opportunity of spotting a whale or two if you’re lucky. On reaching the other side and surveying the beautiful beach, which stretches for miles, again it seemed strange to see it so busy at this time of year. There are campsites at each side of the Mount, both full to bursting. The walk had given us an appetite for ice cream so we sat at one of the many beachside café’s and joined others people watching. Close
Written by Rain on 22 Jan, 2002
Northland proved a fascinating place for a week's exploration.
First day I drove all the way up through Auckland as far as Paratai near Helensville. Paratai had a lovely camping ground with lots of trees and I also got a free swim in the pool which…Read More
Northland proved a fascinating place for a week's exploration.
First day I drove all the way up through Auckland as far as Paratai near Helensville. Paratai had a lovely camping ground with lots of trees and I also got a free swim in the pool which had water heated by the naturally occurring hot springs. Not any mineral content or anything left in the water though: definitely an inferior experience to Hanmer!
Next day I explored all around the Kaipara Harbour. Lots of mangroves. Went down backroads and beach roads: the fingers of the harbour cover a huge area. Found the beautiful Minniesdale chapel in the "middle of nowhere", overlooking the harbour. This was a chapel set up by Pakeha settlers. I was somewhat stunned by the number of small churches in rural Northland, many of them dating back many years, and most of them associated with marae.
I also visited the kauri museum at Matakoe. This was an impressively set up museum, but I found myself feeling incredibly sad as I went through it. It told the story of how all the kauri trees had been logged in the area. There was a section set up with a "sawmill" that included many models of people, all modelled on real people. Little notices said who they were and who they descended from. There were also many exceedingly beautiful pieces of furniture in the museum. This museum had been set up by local people to convey their history, and it had been set up with a lot of energy and passion: yet I had this all pervading sense of sadness as I went through it. There was one small corner with info about modern efforts in conserving forests. I couldn’t see anyone else looking sad though, so it was actually a relief to meet up with friends a few days later to find they had had the same feelings at the loss of so many mighty kauri trees, some 2000 years old, all gone.
I had travelled a long way this day and stopped in Dargaville for the night. I had always imagined this town was somehow the "back of beyond" but I was surprised it was actually a vibrant and friendly place and I kind of liked it! I had never heard of the huge "Northern Wairoa" river that flowed through it. Apparently it is navigable for many kilometres. The tide was coming in, and water was rushing upstream with incredible force. I had never seen anything like it before.
Next morning I paid a visit to the West Coast coastline at Bayly’s Beach, before heading off up to the remaining kauri forest. First I walked through Trounson Kauri Park, getting somewhat wet in the process as it turned out! Then I took the main "tourist" tracks through the Waipoua Forest. It was so good to find an area with so many kauri still standing, their massive bulk filling the sky.
My next treasure was some travel through the Hokianga area. I first caught sight of Hokianga Harbour above Omapere, and it was a breathtaking sight, one of those views that has you getting out the camera and trying to take a line of shots to join into a panorama. The sandbar of golden sand at the harbour entrance is contrasted against the blue sea, and the land stretches far inland around the water. Very beautiful. Also very crowded just below in Omapere and Opononi in the summer holiday season! I carried on to reach Rawene where I took the car ferry across the harbour, and then spent time exploring the isolated rural roads down to Panguru.
I finally stopped for the night at Ahipara, and had my first walk along a part of the "Ninety Mile Beach", (which is actually more like 90 km). I found it a strange feeling to think that the beach just went on and on and on and on, flat "clean" sands just stretched out as far as my eye could see this low tide.
Sunday 6 January I joined a Harrison’s Coach tour for Cape Reinga. (Good value tour with an informative, friendly local driver if you are ever up that way.) The tour took us along 90 Mile beach in the bus, and we left the beach by travelling up Te Paki Stream, where toboggans were dragged out of the bus for people to slide down the sand dunes on.
Cape Reinga was a special place to be. Our bus driver, a Maori man from Kaitaia, gave us info about the significance of the site to Maori spiritually. We only had half an hour here though, presumably some kind of DOC requirement to reduce overcrowding. I would like to return one day in my car and spend more time just "being" there. We then popped across to another beautiful bay for lunch, before heading down the road south again. We passed Parengarenga Harbour and saw Te Hapua in the distance, the settlement that has the most northern school in the country.
Monday I began to see a few places I had met up with before, when I was teaching in Kerikeri for the year in 1980. The dental nurse, had taken me on a trip as far north as beautiful Cable Bay, and we had climbed the distinctive peak of Taratara. I drove down to Matauri Bay and was somewhat surprised to find that access to the Rainbow Warrior monument was not possible "to protect the privacy of the campers". Partly I did not mind this, as it was a stinking hot day to be thinking of climbing anywhere! – but I am going to ask Greenpeace about it all the same. I had actually stayed in Matauri Bay one night back in 1980 as the husband of one of the teachers was principal here: I remembered the amazing view from on high, as the school sits on the hill well above the beach.
My next exploration was a trip "down memory lane" in Kerikeri…… except the place has changed so much it was almost impossible to recognise it! What was a sleepy rural town is now a busy, heavily populated place. I found my old classroom at the school, and a whole line of new classrooms stretched out beyond it! My old flat, the grey cold place we used to call "Colditz" was still there, but also much changed. It is hard to find as it is surrounded with vines and a thick green hedge. I found the owner in the backyard, and he showed me around. There has been a lot of renovation done and the place looks great. I spent sometime exploring on the other side of the river, where it had all been very rural in my day, and is now very built up, with a new school as well.
I spent a couple of hours at Waitangi. They had good displays explaining the history behind the Treaty, and a sound and light show explaining the significance of the carvings in the meeting house. I only wished I could find out even more about the carvings.
I then took the "long road" around to Russell, experiencing more of rural Maori Northland. In Russell itself I ended up spending a couple of hours at Pompallier House, where there was an excellent guided tour by a local woman who was obviously passionate about the history of the area. What the Historic Places Trust has done at Pompallier is truly wonderful. This building is unique in that it is made of "rammed earth" in a style that comes from the Rhone Valley region of France. The house was never a Bishop’s "Palace" as was popularly thought for many years. The bishop and priests lived in a small, very overcrowded house on the property. The big "house" was actually a factory for making books. I learned a lot here. Apparently in the very early days of Maori-Pakeha contact, Maori were very interested in literacy and Catholic books poured from this printery to satisfy demand. Leather was cured here for the covers; type was set and proofed. I was lucky enough to be allowed to "operate" the small proofing press during our tour, and printed a copy off an old engraving, which I was allowed to keep. The Historic Places Trust have set things up so that the old processes have been recreated, albeit on a small scale, and the old books are being reprinted using the old techniques. It was fascinating.
Written by Alan Ingram on 02 Sep, 2001
"A volcanic walk to fire you up"
From the ultra-modern, high-rise edifices of sparkling chrome and glass of windy Wellington I travelled north by air-conditioned coach through rolling, verdant, but sparsely populated countryside, dominated by the snow-capped, multi-summited, semi-active volcano of Mt. Ruapehu, and over the…Read More
"A volcanic walk to fire you up"
From the ultra-modern, high-rise edifices of sparkling chrome and glass of windy Wellington I travelled north by air-conditioned coach through rolling, verdant, but sparsely populated countryside, dominated by the snow-capped, multi-summited, semi-active volcano of Mt. Ruapehu, and over the "Desert Road" through the bleak, barren wasteland formed in its rain-shadow, to the small, rural town of Turangi.
Early next morning a local mini-bus service took me across the "Saddle" through mist-enshrouded hills and up the winding, mountain road to the camping grounds sheltered amid giant tree-ferns at Whakapapa at the centre of the Tongariro National Park - an embodiment of all New Zealand's varied landscapes.
A few days later, after exploring the picturesque lakes and waterfalls of the scenic park and an interesting ascent of the glaciated Ruapehu, I retraced my route across the "Saddle" and branched off up to the roadhead in the Mangatepopo Valley - the starting point for the "Tongariro Traverse" - claimed by many to be the best one day walk in New Zealand. Leaving the road the trail follows alongside a meandering stream through alpine scrub and across old lava flows to a wide, flat amphitheatre at the head of the valley. A zig-zag route up the head-wall then gains a col at the base of the scoria-scree slopes fanning down from Mt. Ngauruhoe - another of the North Island's trinity of volcanic summits. (Mt. Egmont, a look-a-like for Japan's Mt. Fuji, is the third).
Outcrops of solid rock protrude from the scree and the recommended technique is to utilize these as much as possible on the long, steep climb to the crater rim. Unfortunately some patches of the soft, loose gravel are unavoidable and render upward progress both difficult and exhausting. Clouds shrouded the top but a rough trail led round the rugged rim of the outer, older crater to the highest point of the 7,500 foot volcano. I was enjoying my packed lunch when the swirling mist cleared to yield a spectacular view of the nearby, snow-covered peaks of Mt. Ruapehu - the highest of the North Island's mountains. Thankfully it was to be some time after my visit that Ruapehu caused a major surprise by blowing its top.
Moving further round onto the completely-circular rim of the newer, smaller, inner crater I peered down into the awesome depths where plumes of nauseous, sulphurous fumes hissed ominously from numerous fumeroles. The scree slopes, previously a handicap on the ascent, now provide an exhilarating and rapid means of descent - known as the "Ngauruhoe Express" - to regain the col at the base of the volcano where a poled route leads down into and across the wide, flat expanse of the extinct South Crater - a veritable lunar landscape with its encircling high, barren, jagged escarpment.
On the far side, a short climb to another col gains a splendid outlook over the austere beauty of the Rangipo Desert formed in the rain shadow area between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Climbing higher I reached the rounded hilltop above the smouldering, sensational Red Crater - the steep inner sides are partly jet black and partly deep crimson - the colour contrast emphasized by a separating band of pure-white rock.
Onwards one plunges down through soft, powdery ash to a set of emerald-green lochans and across the level expanse of the dormant Central Crater to skirt the banks of the tranquil Blue Lake. Continuing round the lower slopes of the North Crater the trail emerges from the harsh volcanic landscape into grassy scrubland.
Further down I was intrigued by a vast cloud of smoke billowing from the hillside. On approaching I discovered it was issuing from a set of thermal springs boiling and gurgling like an immense, witch's cauldron. Patches of bright, multi-coloured sediments, akin to an artist's palette, surround the scaldingly-hot waters gushing from the fissured earth.
Descending from the Hot Springs of Ketehahi through the rough tussock-grass a picturesque panorama unfolds of the brilliant, blue waters of Lake Rotoira and Lake Taupo in vivid contrast with the dark bottle-greens of the surrounding, conifer forests. A pleasant walk through the woods leads to the minibus pick-up point on the Rangipo Road to complete the continually interesting and justly renowned crossing of Tongariro National Park.
The north island of New Zealand does not seem to have much wildlife – other than birds which are plentiful and very varied. We saw lots of cormorants, kingfishers, herons and hawks, many wading birds as well as a few species unknown to us, on…Read More
The north island of New Zealand does not seem to have much wildlife – other than birds which are plentiful and very varied. We saw lots of cormorants, kingfishers, herons and hawks, many wading birds as well as a few species unknown to us, on our travels. The Kiwi – New Zealand’s national bird – is on the point of becoming extinct and is protected. It lives in scrub and native grasslands, is a very shy bird, semi-nocturnal, flightless and the size of a domestic fowl, weighing between 3-9 lbs. It has no tail, 2” virtually useless wings, and long slender bill which has two nostrils at the top. It also has very sharp three toed feet which can kick and slash an enemy and can outrun a human. Many New Zealanders have never seen a Kiwi bird, but we noticed a couple of places where they can be viewed in captivity – one being in Rotarua.Possums, which were released in 1837 to establish a fur industry, are in abundance, many ending up as road casualties. With over 70 million of them at large they are decimating New Zealand’s bush and birdlife – including the Kiwi.The majority of deer in New Zealand are farmed for their meat. We came across quite a few of these farms on our travels and the general opinion was that any “wild” deer are escapees from such farms.We also noticed that pull-ins seemed to have resident fowl scratching around. We do not know if these were wild or domestic, but they seem to survive by being fed by stopping motorists and all looked very healthy and plump. Close
Tauranga (pronounced Tow--as in cow--ronga) situated side by side with Mount Maunganui, on the Bay of Plenty, is a seaside resort with ample holiday accommodation. In the name of modernisation and improvement, as homes become vacant developers are buying them to demolish and build apartments…Read More
Tauranga (pronounced Tow--as in cow--ronga) situated side by side with Mount Maunganui, on the Bay of Plenty, is a seaside resort with ample holiday accommodation. In the name of modernisation and improvement, as homes become vacant developers are buying them to demolish and build apartments on the land. Of course this is good for both the town council (more revenue in rates) and developer alike, but many believe it is taking the character out of the area. Tauranga also has a large harbour popular as a cruise stop and there are many varied places to eat – a few of which are listed below:Gusto, Tauranga - This is one of the many places where people gather for Sunday Brunch and it was very pleasant to join people in egg and bacon on a sunny Sunday morning. The restaurant was very busy, but we managed to get a table on the pavement outside so we could people watch whilst eating.Bravo, Tauranga - For a break in Christmas shopping, we sat in the sun and ate a beef and horseradish sauce sandwich washed down with a bottle of wine.Kwang Chow Restaurant, Mt Maunganui – Saturday night was very crowded, but we were just in time to get a table without a wait. The buffet had a very good selection and is cheaper on weekdays and lunchtimes.Henry’s, Tauranga – Situated on a back street this is a typical lunch break café patronised by local workers and shoppers alike and has a good variety of sandwiches. NZ$14.90 for two sandwiches, latte and tea. Volataire, Mt Maunganui – Giving the impression of being under the sea with a coral reef and fish painted on the walls (lights at night give a better impression of this) the seafood chowder with garlic bread is delicious and costs NZ$10 per person. Located in the main street it wasn’t busy at lunch time and is also open in the evenings.Zultain, on the sea front road between Tauranga and Mt Maunganui – A very popular Turkish restaurant decorated in an apt style with lots of low tables, benches and cushions a kebab wrap is NZ$10 and a Pitta with choice of filling is NZ$9.And a little further afield:Happy Buffet, Greerton – A very popular buffet with a good selection of food, including pork and beef joints carved by a chef, seafood and a large variety of salads and vegetables. Also available were soups and desserts as much as you can eat for NZ$25 each. Seaside Café, Maketu – a market is held here on summer weekends and the café is situated on the sea front. Not large, we managed to get a table overlooking the sea and enjoyed Sunday Brunch. People were in the bay at low tide looking for shell fish, but it was very quiet as there was no market.Close
Written by heypeggy on 31 Jan, 2004
In midweek, Jay and Viv both left to return to the world of obligations and deadlines, and then there were two new residents of the bunkhouse, Michael, a slender young Dutch traveler hardly out of his teens, and John, a middle-aged dairy farmer from an…Read More
In midweek, Jay and Viv both left to return to the world of obligations and deadlines, and then there were two new residents of the bunkhouse, Michael, a slender young Dutch traveler hardly out of his teens, and John, a middle-aged dairy farmer from an area five hours’ drive south of Auckland. Michael was at the end of a solo five-month trip including Thailand and Australia, and John has been coming to Tiri annually to plant and help out for twenty years. Both were extremely knowledgeable about New Zealand birds, and a great resource for all my questions, and again an easy atmosphere prevailed. Michael joined in planting trees, unable to resist John’s gentle invitation.
Together we became an efficient crew, setting out over 200 seedlings along the edge of the cliffs. In the evenings, Michael cooked noodles or spaghetti, and John had two steaks and a huge mound of mashed potatoes, followed by ice cream with his wife’s bottled peaches. They each ate the same thing three nights in a row, while by then I was enjoying my last frozen Indian dinners. At the end of the week my food supplies were dwindling; all my beer was gone and I was rationing the muesli. I felt lean, mean, and relaxed after days of steady physical exertion.
One afternoon John and I joined Ian the ranger on a hike to try to find the shy and elusive fernbirds; about a dozen had been released some months before but not seen much since. He carried a small tape recorder as he led us through the underbrush, stopping every few minutes to lift it over his head and play a tape of a fernbird call. I was dubious about this method, as the tape player seemed very small and the bird could be anywhere. After several unsuccessful attempts, he took us to a spot where dense spiny fern forms a thick tangle, head high, and tried again. By now I had learned the tape recorded call pretty well, and recognized right away the new sound of a real bird, responding on cue. He came close to us but stayed well hidden in the fern, obviously suspicious of this new intruder.
On Saturday, my island sojourn ended, and I filled the water baths for the last time in a reverential mood, relishing the sights and sounds of my now familiar feathered friends. As I waited for the ferry with Michael I asked what he’d seen the night before. He told me that he’d watched the penguins come ashore for a while and then had fallen asleep on a stretch of boardwalk. When he awoke it was 4am, and there was a kiwi beside him, which he watched as it snuffled along until disappearing into the bush. Better him than me, sleeping on boardwalks, I thought, and resolved to seek kiwi sightings more aggressively on another visit to Tiri. Anyway, I’ll have to come back in a few years to check on those trees I planted.
So the days went, now all merged into a pleasant jumble in my memories. We shared the morning water chores and then were given different assignments for the rest of the day. I painted (two coats) the floor of the room housing the…Read More
So the days went, now all merged into a pleasant jumble in my memories. We shared the morning water chores and then were given different assignments for the rest of the day. I painted (two coats) the floor of the room housing the solar batteries, washed and filled the 19 special stitchbird feeders, pruned a vine, and fed a pair of rare brown teal ducks. One day all three of us were given large trash bags, and taken by quad bike to a spot on the northwest coast of the island. We clambered down to the beach and picked up garbage as we worked our way back to the wharf. It was low tide as we poked around amid the rocks and tidal pools collecting all the debris of civilization: Styrofoam and plastic pieces, bottles and clothespins, lighters and balloons, etc. etc. We took our time, resting for lunch, and lingering when we found a swing hanging from a tree on the cliff. Eventually it was late afternoon and we found our way blocked by the rising tide. We each had two full bags of garbage by this time, and climbing a rocky cliff over the water was not an option. Reluctant to abandon all our carefully collected treasures and not wanting to retrace our steps, we ended up clambering up on the tree roots to the cliff top above, hurling our bags of garbage up ahead of us.
I spent most of the last two days in brilliant sunshine, digging holes and planting lots of little trees on the incredibly steep hillsides overlooking the rocky shore. The shovel bit easily into the dark moist soil, and I quickly overcame my objection to dirty hands, reaching in barehanded to stuff dirt around the tender roots. Stunning views in all directions did not contribute to this volunteer’s productivity. I confess to lots of daydreaming and gazing into the distance while leaning on a shovel or sitting beside my freshly dug holes.
Our evenings were quiet with scattered conversation, reading and a few night walks in search of kiwi. No kiwis were actually seen, at least by me, but we might have heard one call. Little blue penguins come ashore at dusk and I was delighted to see them scuttling around the rocks, looking for a burrow. The world’s smallest penguin, they seemed to converse with each other, mewing and growling as they waddle around the rocks. One evening after dark, Richard led us to a bench on a bluff overlooking the beach, and asked if we wanted to see the gray-faced petrels. Of course, we said, and he instructed us to whoop "like Indians." Bewildered but willing, we complied, covering out mouths with our hands and issuing long warbling yells. Almost immediately birds were wheeling and circling overhead, some diving directly at us, some landing in the grass beside us. Richard picked one up gently and held it still in his lap, its strong hooked beak and bright eyes full of alarm, before hurling it into the air. They are not good at take-offs, he explained, needing an updraft to lift them off the cliffs, but are inexplicably drawn to the whooping calls. It was a wonderful, eerie encounter.
Moonlight streamed through my window at night, removing the need for a flashlight. The Milky Way was downright creamy, with many stars thickly scattered in a huge arc above me. These southern hemisphere constellations still look askew to me; an upside down Orion is just plain weird. One morning I went out just before dawn and walked up to the meadow beside the lighthouse where I could see the moon setting over Auckland on one side, and the sun rising over the water on the other. The dawn chorus of birds greeting the sun was palpably cheerful, and like a dog’s delighted greeting, exuberant and unrestrained, as if this joyous event had never happened before.