Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rangitikei River - nearly home

After stopping in Taupo and having lunch with my cousins, I headed home. The sight of the mudstone cliffs above the Rangitikei River made me feel like I was nearly home. These photos were taken from a layby near Mangaweka, the sort with picnic tables. I see they are reminding drivers these days to 'take a break' on long trips, and it is always much easier to do so when you end up getting views like these.


On my way home I stopped off at Wai-o-Tapu thermal reserve, about 26km south of Rotorua, just off the highway to Taupo. The scenes and colours are dramatic (though the prices are definitely aimed at the tourist market, not NZ families.)

The 'drama' is not just confined to 'big' pools etc. Here is a small fumarole, where sulphur is forming as the steam cools.

These next three photos show some of the drama of the colours at the edge of the Champagne Pool. Where there is a 'whitish' look, it is because steam blew my way, and it was definitely warm steam, like being in a sauna.

White Island

White Island is a continuously active marine volcano off the east coast of New Zealand and I took a boat trip from Whakatane to reach it. ( More info later on my Nomad blog. )

White Island is so impressive that these photos can only give a glimpse. But here is a glimpse into a visit onto a live marine volcano.

Landing at the bay.

Walking across the outer part of the crater towards the inner crater lake.
The colours are truly varied on the rocks.
Here is an older couple in our group, near a fumarole.
Layers exposed, revealing some past activity.
The crater lake, much higher than it was on a previous visit I made here, but lower than it has been. A lot of the edge has slumped down from where it was on my last visit as well.
Another group in the distance - gives some idea of the scale of the volcano.

Coast to Coast

After my day in Waitomo, I took rather a long journey 'Coast to Coast'. After going on the Ruakuri Walkway, I travelled down on the road to Marokopa and a short walk took you down to these magnificent Marokopa Falls. (The morning sun made a photo a bit hard to take.)

I next arrived at the Marokopa township. Here beside the river estuary is a place that you feel time has truly forgotten. It was not really on an easy road to anywhere.

I then travelled along the coast up to Kawhia. This harbour was a peaceful place as well, though it did not feel nearly as isolated as Marokopa.

Next came a 'big drive' from the west coast at Kawhia, right across to the east coast at Whakatane. Above is a scene of boats on the harbour at Whakatane, while below is a seat by the war memorial in the town.

Waitomo Caves

OK, this swingbridge shot is 'out of order' as I deleted it by mistake, and changing photos around on a blogger page is not so easy. See the stream it crosses at the end!
At Waitomo I chose to go with Spellbound Tours to see the glow-worms, rather than go to the main cave with a zillion others on the same boat. Spellbound take you in a minivan, so there are about 12 people per trip. Here we are outside the entrance to the cave where we are about to have a magical experience viewing glow-worms. The river is disappearing underground, and complete with helmets and lamps, we are about to do the same. We had ample time underground for our eyes to adjust to the dark, and the view we had of glow-worms was simply magical.
After seeing the glow-worms, we were provided with morning tea by our guide Annette. These limestone outcrops are a common sight all over the King Country. Inside our second cave we were able to have a bit more light on, and could take photographs of various formations. Here are some of the many stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling.

On the afternoon of my day in Waitomo I was a 'real' tourist and paid big biccies to go black-water rafting, ie, using an inner tube to get down a cave stream. More about this later on my main blog! Next morning I went on a short walk along the Ruakuri Walkway, apparently one of NZ's 'top ten' walks, (not that I had heard of such a list before!) The walk was truly stunning though. Here is a view through a small cave tunnel along the path. Here is a view of the stream along the way, and at the top of this posting is a photo of a swingbridge that crosses it. This would be an absolutely magical walk to take children along.

Koroniti Marae Pt 2

This is part of an old canoe prow that stands near the entrance to Koroniti marae, on the Wanganui River Rd.
There was a sign saying visitors could wander in freely at most times. But in more formal situations, visitors (manuhiri) are welcomed onto the marae in a ceremony (powhiri) during which they sit on these seats opposite the marae buildings.
Here is the gate outside the marae at Koroniti. Koroniti is a Maori form of "Corinth". On this river road you also find Hiruharama (Jerusalem), Atene (Athens), London etc.

Wanganui River

First day of my NZ trip I drove to Waitomo 'the long way' via the Wanganui River Road up to Pipiriki, then on to Raetihi. I had last driven this way with Angelika, a German visitor. Before that, many years before, when four of us had finished the Matemateonga Walkway, we got our pre-arranged jetboat downstream from the track end on a steep river bank to Pipiriki.
You pass many marae on the Wanganui River Road. Outside the Koroniti Marae there is a sign saying that visitors are welcome at most times. So I felt free to wander in. These two photos are of the meeting house, and two sleeping houses, on the marae.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Updated at home Tuesday 30th

Waitomo has been a pleasant surprise all round. I was expecting a busy tourist mecca... and some of it is, but you don't need to know that. Most of the action centres around the main caves where a zillion tour buses pull in each day. But it is quite possible to avoid all that!

I am staying two nights in the Top Ten camping ground. Highly recommended. Very peaceful, vey well run, extremely clean.

This morning I went on a Spellbound Tour. More expensive than the 'major' caves, but just exquisite. Small groups, as in a mini-bus load of 12 or so. First cave we had a short walk in, to see some glow-worms. We had ample time for our eyes to adjust to the dark, then it was just magic. We sat in a boat watching the ceiling of the cave, just covered with a huge display of glow-worms (though we learned the glow actually comes from the rear-end of what is basically a fly maggot!)

Spellbound gave us some morning tea in a purpose-built shelter out in the middle of a farm. Then in the second cave we got to see formations in the dry. We saw a moa skeleton, and several tomos, where a section of the roof of the cave had collapsed. In some cases this meant you could see the light above, but in other places the 'chimney' up was not straight, or not to the surface. This second cave was quite dry, so did not provide such good conditions for glow-worms, though we did see a few, especially near the tomos.

This afternoon I actually went blackwater rafting. Goodness how brave of me! This was quite an adventure, and far more like 'real' caving than I was expecting. I was wondering what I had got myself into when I had to don the wetsuit, in which I felt very much like a sumo wrestler. We then had a short drive out in the country to the farm where Caveworld has leased a cave.

It was a warm afternoon, and with my sumo suit, I was already feeling very warm! The next surprise was that we had a walk ahead of us over some of the farmland. I had checked I was not going to have to abseil, but I never thought to make sure there was minimal walking involved! It was tricky getting up a hill with my sumo suit, but then we headed downhill and through some bush which was very pleasant. Before I knew it, we had entered the cave.

There was a short bit of clambering to do before we got to the stream way. It was never too much of a squeeze though - I had sought assurance beforehand that the gaps would be wide enough for me! I also managed to negotiate the uneven muddy bits without falling over which was a blessing.

Then came the stream-way in our tubes, the part I had been waiting for. I was surprised to find our stream-way was not entirely natural. Well, the water did flow there naturally, but 'unaided', it was only ankle-deep. The company had put in two dams to make the water deeper. I came to really enjoy the floating down the stream in the tube. Our guide was superb, and for the first section she helped us join our boots onto the tube ahead, and then she guided us down in a line. We did it in the dark, and the water moved at quite a gentle pace. So I was able to relax and enjoy the glow-worms overhead, as we did most of it in the dark with our helmet lights off. I had thought I might find this a bit scary, but I was surprised to realise I quite enjoyed it.

But then we came to the first dam. Having to jump backwards off the dam, holding my tube behind me to fall into, was almost too much. But you gotta do what you gotta do in these places! I was fine to do it once I had watched someone else do it first.

We got to do some more floating along together in the next section as well and I was totally relaxed, just looking up at the glow-worms. The water was surprisingly warm, but it apparently isn't often quite that warm. Then we reached a deeper section and had to work in our tubes individually. It took me a while to work it out, but then I got in the groove, pulling myself ahead by the edges of the cave walls. This was fun.

Then we came to the water slide. Uh oh, very steep. But our guide was great, explained how to do it, then when it was my turn I just shut my eyes, and before I knew it was at the bottom!

Our 'tubing' was now over. We had a short easy walk out of the rest of the cave in ankle-deep water, then a climb up quite a few stairs out of the cave and back to land. The van was near the exit though, so I never had to feel quite like such a sumo walker again. By now, my gumboots were full of water.
Back at base we had hot showers and soup. I realised how full my wetsuit had become of water, as I could barely carry it once I had it off! No wonder my muscles felt tired that evening... they had done a lot of weight-lifting!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Stanfield Hut

Today I went on my second PNTMC tramping trip of 2007. Again I met a couple of people I had tramped with 'way back'. The trip was into "Stanfield Hut" on the eastern side of the Ruahines, a track I had gone on quite a few times many years ago. The uphill bits provided a challenge this time around, but it's all in the plan to improve my uphill fitness!

The sign is an 'old' one - yes the altitude is in feet above sea level.
We had taken the ridge track up to get to the hut, and had some wonderful views en route of the hills. To get back to the carpark at Tamaki West Road, we followed the stream.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

First trip with the tramping club

In my 'younger' days' I used to go out tramping quite often with PNTMC (Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club), but I haven't been on a club trip for years. I decided that 2007 would have to be a year for more tramping, in view of my planned St James pilgrimage in 2008!

There was a nice 'easy' short local trip today, with a botanical focus, to just behind Woodville. I learned long ago that 'easy' in tramping club terms just refers to the overall length of the trip: it doesn't mean there are no steep hills! This trip was across an area of regenerating native bush that has been 'covenanted' to the QE2 National Trust.

Here you can see that farmland is interspersed with regenerating native bush. Areas of new slippage here are from the 2004 storms, and have occurred where there is no bush cover.

Above, a view of a major part of the area of the regenerated bush, and below, the sign as we entered the covenanted area.

I re-met a few people I knew back in my old tramping days. Here is Doug stepping it out across some fields on the way back to the cars.

You can get some idea of the steepness of the terrain here.
This photo shows how deformed the landscape is. (This area is not too far away from a major earthquake fault line.)

Here is Peter our leader sharing some of his botanical knowledge. I learned some things I had not realised before. The first trees to take root in the area were ones with windblown seeds. As they became established, birds moved in, and they brought the larger seeds that they tend to transport, so then different trees can start growing.
We learned various facts about some different species of trees and the children did really well on their 'test' at the end!
I was slow up the hills, but I loved getting out to a new bit of the countryside. I will be back on some more club trips soon! (My new Merrell shoes also got their first proper workout on this trip, and it was great to feel so secure wearing them on what was very wet grass at the start of the day. But now I need to clean them!!!)

12 January Swimming
It has been a lousy summer here. Ask the travel agents. They have record of numbers of people booking trips at short notice to warmer climes!!

But the last few days we have finally had some humid northerlies replacing southerly breezes with a nip to them. And today I actually got myself off to the Lido.

I wasn't sure how far I would try and swim. I have only been to the Lido one other time this season, and didn't actually count my distance. However, I started off today and felt fine in the water, so decided I would do ten lengths (500m). But that was coming too easily so I thought I would stretch it to 15 lengths. (750m) Then I realised I would need to do 16 lengths anyhow to get out near the steps, so I thought I may as well make it 1000m = 1km. Has a nice ring to it. (Though a few years back I swam more like 1500m on a usual swim.)

I had that great 'Yes I have exercised" feeling when I emerged from the pool and rewarded myself with a dip in the warm spa indoors. But I must admit my muscles do feel a little tired this evening!