Category Archives: Caving

Coramandel to Waipu Cove-Day 23-24

Kauri Forest and Then Up Coramandel-Day 23-24

Views on Way to Kauri
Views on Way to Kauris

We left Sapphire Springs in search of a really big Kauri tree that was supposed to live nearby. Kauri trees have beautiful, tightly grained, durable wood and huge forests of them used to cover the islands, but the original stands were decimated in the 1800’s and have not  recovered. These days the oldest trees are given their own individual names and protected within parks and people are attempting to cultivate new groves of them.

The sign at the trail head has a cleaning station, with a boot brush and an underground tank with a spray nozzle to clean your boots  before you enter the forest.

Kauri Tree Disease Prevention
Kauri Tree Disease Prevention

Every Kauri stand we come across has these stations in an effort to prevent the spread of a soil borne fungal disease, Phytopthora agathadicidia that is now attacking the trees.  It is good to see them trying so hard to prevent the disease, even though the chances are slim that it will help much.

Young Kauri Forest
Young Kauri Forest

After hiking for an hour and a half we figured out that we were on the wrong trail, and were instead in a young Kauri forest, so we had to go on down the road to the next trail head.

Tuahu Kauri Tree
Tuahu Kauri Tree

Once on the correct path, we quickly arrived at this tree, named Tuahu, which was huge and towered over the surrounding forest. We met a local man and his well traveled grandson while enjoying the tree. The boy was ten years old and had already been to the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore in the States.

As we resumed our drive towards the coast we came to an interesting looking park in a narrow gorge, with swinging bridges over the river, and decided to stop.

Karangahake Gorge

Originally a protected Maori gateway, this steep walled canyon became  an industrial gold mine from 1883-1933. Thirteen levels  of tunnels were chiseled through the mountain,  and rails carried the broken quartz rocks along narrow ledges to wood fired kilns. The surrounding hills were totally deforested to provide fuel. After eighty some years, the trees and ferns have reclaimed the area

Karangahake Gorge Walkway
Karangahake Gorge Walkway

Today, the woods have grown back over the old mine buildings and some of the tunnels have walking trails through them,with swinging bridges criss crossing the river.

Reflection of Outside-Inside
Reflection of Outside-Inside
Tree Fern
Tree Fern
Interior of Tree Fern Trunk
Interior of Tree Fern Trunk

Giant tree ferns, flowers and lichens add color.

Beauty Comes Back
Beauty Comes Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hahei Beach

We finally make it to the coast and a stop at Hot Water Beach, a very strange place which seems like a normal beach until you realize that there are a lot of people and everyone is carrying a shovel.

People With Shovels on Hot Water Beach
People With Shovels on Hot Water Beach

We follow a string of folks out to a tightly bunched crowd, all madly digging holes in the sand and sitting in them as they fill with water.

Sitting in the Dug Out Pools
Sitting in the Dug Out Pools

It is pretty amusing to watch this whole process and although I am not digging, I can see where if you had a bunch of friends and some beer, it might be fun. Hot water seeps onto this section of the beach from a couple of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) springs, for two hours either side of low tide. It is a small area and there is a fair amount of jostling for best position.

20151217_3333 A flourishing business has evolved with shovel rentals,        paid parking and cabin rentals nearby.

Our  campground for the night, the Hahei Holiday Park is just a short drive around the cove. A couple of boys are doing a great job of miming a rope pulled taut across the road as we approach the entrance gate. We pretend to be held back for a few seconds before they collapse to the ground laughing and we give them a “Good job!” and a thumbs up. All the people that work at the park are in the middle of an outdoor  Christmas party, so they tell us to park in an empty section and catch them in the morning. A thunder storm is brewing up black clouds as we find our spot and then quick head down to yet another beautiful beach before it hits.

Storm Brewing on Hahei Beach
Storm Brewing on Hahei Beach

As usual on most New Zealand beaches (except the hot water one) there is hardly anyone around and it is breathtakingly beautiful, with little islands off shore, long vistas, clean water, and clean sand. When the sky starts turning an alarming shade of green, we high tail it back towards the camper van, but the storm beat us back and we get totally drenched. The rain is coming down in buckets, wind is whipping the trees and we pile into the van and wait it out. Dinner does not happen tonight because the storm did not let up until late, so we just had a snack and lay on the bed reading and downloading camera cards for awhile. When it finally stopped raining we got out and set the tent up over the tailgate, went to the bath house and washed up and crawled into bed.

When I went to the kitchen in the morning for my coffee water, I was disappointed to find no table inside, only picnic tables outdoors, and since they were all wet from the storm, there was no where to eat and no one else around to talk to. I ended up using our own little table and chairs, which we hardly ever use, back at the van. This place looks like it is going to be a big party spot in a couple of weeks and they are booked solid. There are lots of different showers, a covered airing room to dry bathers and such and I notice how different the plumbing is here than at home.

Wash House
Wash House

The water pipes are all exposed and not insulated in any way, which probably means it does not ever freeze here. They are able to have wash stations and fish cleaning sinks and all outside all year round.

Cathedral Cove

There are hiking trails and cool destinations close by and today we are walking out to Cathedral Cove so we get an early start.

Dept of Conservation Trails
Dept of Conservation Trails

Lucky that we did because the parking area is already getting

crowded and I imagine in peak season it is impossible to find a space. we have packed a lunch , swimsuits and sunscreen, since it is sunny and warming up fast.

Flat Cliff Top Meadow
Flat Cliff Top Meadow

We walk through tropical forest with openings into sunny meadows and views of the ocean.

Arch to Cathedral Cove
Arch to Cathedral Cove

Then down a steep path to a white sandy beach cove surrounded by cliffs and sea caves with the clearest blue water.

Changing Cave
Changing Cave

At his point we had to duck into a sea cave and change into swim suits.

Cathedral Beach Sea Stack
Cathedral Beach Sea Stack

We waded around and walked through the cool shady archway into another secluded beach with sea stacks.

Cool Shady Beach Cave
Cool Shady Beach Cave

It seems like this huge shady cave would be an excellent place to cool off on a hot day at the beach. It is open on two sides with great views of the water.

Cathedral Beach Path
Cathedral Beach Path

The day was warm and sunny, the water clear and still a bit cold, but we waded around, relaxed,  and checked out the caves and cliffs until the tide came in too much. There were a few people here picnicking and a group of kayakers wandered in but it was not crowded yet. I wanted to stay here all day, scrabbling over the rocks and exploring further up the coastline but we had to walk back out through meandering pathways to the van and continue our journey. Darn it.

We headed  around the Coramandel Peninsula on the road. There are tracks at the far north where no roads go which would be good hiking.

Random Roadside Bee Hives
Random Roadside Bee Hives

Colorfully painted beehives are randomly parked all over roadsides throughout New Zealand and we passed some of these on the way. I never saw any that were all one color.

Coming Down the Coramandel Range
Coming Down the Coramandel Range

Then we climbed a steep hill and dropped down the other side for a nice view of the west side of the Coramandel Coast.

Fishing Boats Out On Coramandel
Fishing Boats Out On Coramandel

We started to see fleets of fishing boats in the harbors.

Pied Shag
Pied Shag

Then there was a whole group of a Cormorant type bird called a Pied shag. I love the way they stand around and dry their armpits.

Jeff wanted to go into Auckland to get more information on the northern part of the island, right into the center of the city.

Auckland Free for All
Auckland Free for All

When the pedestrian lights are GO they come from all directions at once and totally clog the center of the intersection. No cars move, only people. There were a lot of people.

Auckland Tower
Auckland Tower

The i-site was a few blocks walk from where we parked, in the base of the big needle tower. Gathering travel information was a bust because the internet was down all over the city. No body knew what to do. I just wanted out. On the way, we watched crazy people suit up in flight coveralls to jump off the tower– from really high up. They were tethered to bungee cords and guy wires but it looked pretty scary. I just wanted to get out of town and our talking GPS kept turning us around in circles. We finally made it out and headed north again. Seemed like we drove all day long and we did not stop until we got to Waipu Cove, except for a quick stop at a super windy beach camp that was full anyway.

Waipu Cove

The camp at Waipu Cove was one of the nicest ones, with a cozy kitchen and shiny new bathrooms. Tonight is our twenty first night traveling around in New Zealand. We have another five days here and then we have a week in Perth, Australia.

Waipu Cove Kitchen and Bath
Waipu Cove Kitchen and Bath

We pulled into camp fairly late in the day and as usual, wanted to go right out on the beach. We had to cross a wetland to get to the dunes walk and they had a hand powered rope ferry to pull yourself across on.

Hand Ferry Across Waipu Marsh
Hand Ferry Across Waipu Marsh

I loved crossing the water on the little floating ferry and walking the winding path through the dunes. The wide open and deserted beach was one of the few where we actually found shells. There was no one out there but us.

Shells from Waipu Cove
Shells from Waipu Cove

There is only one other tent there tonight, although closer to the road there are quite a few cabins with folks that look like they are staying for long periods.

Waipu Campsite
Waipu Campsite

We cook our dinner at Waipu Cove and make ready for another day. It is peaceful and quiet and we can see a lot of stars out and hear the ocean. Tomorrow, there are the Waipu limestone caves that we have to explore

-Wendy Lee Writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

Waipu Caves to Kerikeri-Day 22-23

Waipu Caves- Day 22

Since Jeff is a caver and I only want to explore caves I have never seen before, Waipu Caves is our next stop. As we get close, ancient limestone boulders that have been worn down by running water start showing up in the fields we pass.

Limestone Rocks
Limestone Rocks

A housing subdivision (one of the few we have seen) has lined up a bunch of them as part of their entrance fence.  There are also big bird- nest- looking epiphytic plants perched in some of the trees.

Epiphytic "Bird Nests" in Tree
Epiphytic “Bird Nests” in Tree

The Waipu Caves parking area is in a meadow and has an outdoor shower attached to the outhouses so you can clean up after getting all wet and muddy in the cave.

One of the Flooded Waipu Caves
One of the Flooded Waipu Caves

We knew we would be getting wet on this trip so we put on our water shoes and shorts and grabbed our headlamps, cameras and flashlights. It seems a shame to go underground on such a sunny warm day.

The entrance to the main cave is huge and open with a shallow stream running down the middle that disappears under a ledge further in. Nice big Stalactites are hanging from the ceiling and Stalagmites are growing up from the floor. We wander around in the big room, impressed with the condition of such a well known cave. There is no graffiti or trash and the formations are still in good shape.

I can hear people splashing through the water on the other side of the overhang and we duck under to explore the rest of the cave. We have to wade through fairly cold water about knee deep for about 4 meters to reach dry passage again. The people we heard have disappeared. We turn out our lights to look for glow worms and see only a few so we turn the lights back on and keep going.

Eventually we find a room with an entire “sky” full of Glow Worm “stars”. My camera will not take a good photo in such a dark place but Jeff gets it on his. Before we turn the lights out we can see where they are by their glistening threads that dangle down from the ceiling. Once the lights are off you can see their luminescence . They are yet another endangered species that occurs only here in New Zealand.

There is a trail going up the hill that might go to more caves so we go for a walk. Jeff checks out every cavey looking spot he sees and I sit on rocks and take off my shoes and enjoy being in the woods barefoot. The track goes somewhere eventually but we turn around and go back to the van for some lunch and to finish checking out the other cave spots. One has a flooded entrance and you would have to get fully wet to explore it so we pass.

One of the Flooded Waipu Caves
One of the Flooded Waipu Caves

 

Back on the road again we pass more of what we call Moldy Marshmallows- round bales covered in green plastic. We have seen alot of these.

"Moldy Marshmallow" Hay Bales
“Moldy Marshmallow” Hay Bales

Then there is a giant tree stump in a yard that looks like someone is going to make a tree fort with,

Big Dead Tree House Stump
Big Dead Tree House Stump

Rainbow Falls

The next stop is strange because we have come out onto sort of flat ground, and there is a sign for Rainbow Falls. We are trying to figure out where it could possibly be in such a flat looking place. It turns out that this area is like parts of Missouri, where the river valleys are all below the main body of land instead of having hills rising up from them. The trail meanders around through a small woods and suddenly the bottom drops out and there is a huge waterfall below us. There is a bench near the top of the falls and we talk to some local folks while their grandkids splash in the shallows nearby. This couple has come across to the mainland to visit after serving as caretakers at a wildlife preserve  out on an Island  for many months. That is something I would consider doing.

We followed the trail down to the bottom of the falls where there was a deep swimming hole that the Maori used  as a fishing trap for tuna (eels), which at one time was a major food source.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Today, the eel populations in New Zealand are seriously threatened by over fishing from commercial fleets, hydro electric dams which prevent their migration, draining of wetlands and loss of native forests. Sigh. It seems to be the same all over the world these days.

Whangarei Falls

We stopped at Whangarei Falls town park and walked a trail along the river to a wooden walkway through a Kauri Forest with some 500 year old trees .

Whangarei Falls
Whangarei Falls

On the way there were kids jumping off a rope swing into the river but the water looked like grey water from a washing machine and was not appealing to me. It was the first water we had seen that actually looked and smelled polluted. The falls were still pretty and the walk was beautiful.

Kauri Boardwalk
Kauri Boardwalk

Kerikeri-Day 23

Later,after driving up to the Bay of Islands, we got a camp site at Kerikeri Holiday Park where the woman manning the the registration desk went out of her way to help us find a  sailing trip on the Bay the next day. We ended up with a spot on the  Gunga II, a forty foot sailboat that would feed us lunch and take us out to an island where we could get off and explore.

In the meantime, we set up down near the river and enjoyed the last bit of warm sun for the day before going up to the kitchen to make dinner.

River at Kirikiri Camp
River at Kirikiri Camp

I was cooking noodles and throwing shredded up carrots and cabbage in with some bottled sauce while a Korean guy was cooking nearby. He offered me some Kim-chi, which I did not know how to use, so he came over and looked at what I was making and told me it was basically the same, only fermented. My food took about fifteen minutes to throw together and he was getting all complicated, so it took him a lot longer. In the end, the two dishes looked pretty close and he said he was going to try my quick way next time. I told him I would try his way as well. It was fun to have this exchange while cooking. There were other people in the huge kitchen as well . The young French contingent was pretty rowdy, teasing the heck out of their boyfriend,  and we were all drinking wine and having fun while we cooked.

Sailing the Bay of Islands

Early the next morning we went down to the dock in the village of Paihia to meet our sailboat and 10 people joining us for the day. We stopped at Russel, across the bay, to pick up two more.

Gunga II
Gunga II

There was not enough wind at first so we motored out with a Dolphin escort. There had been Orca whales hanging about the last few days and the dolphins were just starting to come back. Orcas eat dolphins.

Dolphin
Dolphin

We motored close to some small volcanic islands and then into the middle of a very windy part of the Bay. There were islands everywhere and lots of sailboats . I helped raise the sails, which were harder to crank than I expected, and we started moving fast through the water, relaxing to the sound of the sails and lapping waves. The sun was shining, it was warm on deck, popcorn and beer was passed around. I would like to do this more often.

Lava Islands in Bay
Lava Islands in Bay

Some of the islands were just volcanic rock  homes to birds, one had a few houses on it, others had gorgeous sandy beaches and green hills.

Gunga II Under Sail
Gunga II Under Sail

The Captain had been living on his boat for 23 years and had just recently bought a house on land. He told us a story about a round the world trip where one of his fellow captains had relied on satellite connection and a PC to navigate and got seriously turned around because the computers could not negotiate the Maori names of places. Some Maori words are different by only a letter or two and I can see where this might be a problem. There was a story in the local paper yesterday about a guy who tried to sale his new boat up from Wellington and wrecked it on some rocks. when he called 111 for help he gave the wrong place name and  took the searchers many kilometers in the wrong direction. He nearly died from hypothermia before they finally found him.

Waewaetoria Island

We were headed to Waewaetoria Island, which had hiking trails and a half moon beach and looked like a magazine spread, with clear aqua marine blue water and a clean bottom.

Waewaetorea Bay
Waewaetorea Bay

We anchored the boat and got the dinghies and kayaks ready to launch. The water looked so inviting! But it was still cold and it was driving me crazy.   We rode in a small dinghy to the beach but I swore I would swim  back to the sail boat after we hiked to the top of the hill and got warmed up.

From the Island Hilltop
From the Island Hilltop

The views from the top of the hill were amazing and we got nice and warm from the climb. The grass looked like it would be prickly and we were all barefoot walking around but it was actually soft and knee deep. We were assured there was nothing that would bite or sting us here and it didn’t even make our legs itch. I would have never walked in stuff like that otherwise, but they have no snakes or poisonous critters to worry about here.

Looking Down on the Beach
Looking Down on the Beach

Once we got down to the beach again, I waded around in the shallows until my lower legs were numb, thinking I could get used to the cold long enough to swim to the boat.  The breeze, when I got out of the water and waited to dry on the back platform, was going to make me totally miserable and cold. I bailed out. I hate being cold.

NZ Bay of Islands
NZ Bay of Islands

I took the dinghy back, while only one brave soul swam, and we boarded the boat, ate lunch and sailed away from the island. It was a hard place to leave and a well spent day on the water.

We hit the road and drive North on Coastal Route 10.

Camp Kitchen at Karikari- Night 23
Camp Kitchen at Karikari- Night 23

Tonight we are staying at a camp further up the coast on Karikari Peninsula-not to be confused with Kerkeri, where we stayed last night. This place is one of those Top Ten Holiday Parks and is filled with really loud and annoying Chinese staying in the cabins above us, who do their best to keep us up. Tomorrow, we drive up the skinny northern most neck of the island to Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Our New Zealand trip is almost over and I wish we could stay longer.

-Wendy lee, writing at Edgewise Woods Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thermals, Redwoods, and Waterfalls_Day 17

Rotorua Thermals

Kuiaru Park, which is a nicely landscaped free, public park, right in the middle of the town of Rotorua, holds ball fields, play sets and walking trails, but is also full of mud pit holes, dangerous steam vents and hot thermal pools.

Thermal Landscaping
Thermal Landscaping

The  trails wind all over between the hot spots and most of them are fenced so little ones can’t fall in.

One of Many Fenced Hot Spots
One of Many Fenced Hot Spots

A new hot vent opened up last week , in the soccer field, so it has temporary plastic construction fencing around it. I would hate to have something like that open up in my back yard but it happens fairly often here.

Fenced Hot Vents
Fenced Hot Vents

Of course, there are sometimes fatalities from people being stupid or suicidal ( a truly horrible way to die) but I appreciated the way they tried to beautify and make accessible the unique features. What else could you do with them in the middle of town?

Bridge Over Hot Lake
Bridge Over Hot Lake

People picnic and jog and walk the trails all over the hundred acre park, through lawns, woods and lakes. The play sets are fun too.

Climbing Fun
Climbing Fun

Plus they have free, hot, foot baths, as well as a farmers market area and pool facilities. There were even people camping in their vans for free.

Foot Bath
Foot Bath

Considering how many of the thermal parks charge entrance fees, it was nice to see such a nice free one.

As we leave Rotorua  we notice that cars are lined up way out on the highway. Has something happened? They are queuing for gas. Last night when we arrived gas was $1.62 / liter, now it is $1.42. Makes us wonder if it is a mistake or if something happened in the world (Dec 17, 2016) that we don’t know about. We don’t need gas so we keep going.

Wakarewarewa Redwoods

Now, a stop at the Wakarewarewa Redwood forest that was planted in 1901 and later dedicated to Forest Service folks who gave their lives in WWII.

Looking Up a Redwood
Looking Up a Redwood

It was initially an experiment to grow Redwoods as a replacement tree for all the Kauri timber that was cut down, but they grow so slowly that they gave up on that idea.

115 Year Old Redwoods
115 Year Old Redwoods

Now they replant Pinus radiata, also from California, in all the tree plantations instead, which grows much faster. Tree ferns grow happily amid the stand of experimental Redwoods, which are happy growing here, just too slow for commercial lumber operations. It takes only 40 years to grow the Pine and 90 to grow the redwood the same size (about 5 feet in diameter). The trunk of the Tree Ferns can also be used to make things like privacy fences and small bowls.

Tree Ferns
Tree Ferns

An extensive network of Mountain biking, horseback and walking trails run all through this park and they have a new treetop walk under construction.

Treetop Walk
Treetop Walk

One of the trails leads out to views of a big geyser in the valley below and we did that one first. People pay big bucks to go see this geyser but when we zoomed in we had a great view.

Free View of $50 Geyser
Free View of $50 Geyser
Zoom of Geyser
Zoom of Geyser

Jeff forgot his hat and the sun came out, hence the shirt on the head get up. He was already getting burnt.

For Lack of A Hat
For Lack of A Hat

There were mud pots down another trail, buried behind ferns.

Mud Pots Behind Ferns
Mud Pots Behind Ferns

The mud pots smelled like boiled eggs and looked like chocolate pudding cooking on the stove. Blup, blup…Jeff is totally fascinated by them.

Wild digitalis and other pretty flowers were blooming on the edges of a recent clear cut in the same park.

Wild Digitalis
Wild Digitalis

We ran across a pack of kids all decked out in protective gear, mountain biking the designated trails. There was an Enduro Race here a couple of days ago and the trails are well marked with degree of difficulty.

Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers

We bought some little wooden boxes made of 45,000 year old swamp Kauri trees from the parks gift shop and sat outside at the picnic tables and ate our lunch.

Way to Disguise the Johnny Houses!
Way to Disguise the Johnny Houses!

To pretty the place up they opted for sculpted metal cutouts to hide the port-a-potties. It was after lunch now and  place was getting crowded so it was a good time to leave.

Tree Hugger
Tree Hugger

Saying goodbye to the redwoods.

Okere Waterfalls and Tutea Caves

Okere Falls Series
Okere Falls Series

We parked our van and headed up the Okere Falls trail to the first of two falls.  Jeff was saying,

“No way, Nobody goes down that.”

Big Falls
Big Falls

I said that I would, with the right boat and a good guide, probably not in a boat like ours. We kept hiking down the trail towards the caves.

Ledge of Steps Down to Haku Cave
Ledge of Steps Down to Tutea Caves

Walking down the narrow steps feels like an adventure into a hidden little people land.

Steps Down to Haku Caves
Steps Down to Tutea Caves

There are a couple of caves, not very big , but fun anyway.

Inside HAku
Inside Cave

This one is low and you have to stoop to walk.

Looking Out of Haku Cave
Looking Out of Cave

The next one is taller and has a great view. Over the sound of the  rushing water, we hear people carrying on, screaming (in a fun way) and we scramble up the steps again to get a better look. Here comes a raft over the falls.

Raft in Falls
Raft in Falls

They made it down and more kept coming. There was a photographer up on the landing that would blow a piercing whistle in response to the rafts to give the all clear.

Steps to Falls
Steps to Falls

We watched about five rafts and a guide in a kayak all come over. the falls. Then I went running down the trail to watch them do the next set. Only one flipped upside down and they were fine. They all got wet and they hollered when they hit the cold water, but obviously it was do able. Now I wish I could do it. Alas, that would take time and planning…

After we watch a second rafting company come through with their rafts we finally get back on the road again. The scenery in New Zealand is never dull. There is always something new around the next bend in the road.

On the Road Again
On the Road Again

Kaiate Falls

We take a little side trip down a narrow road, as in one lane,  to visit Kaite Falls. It is starting to rain again so we figure we will make it a very fast trip. A photographer arrives just ahead of us and actually runs down the trail, staying two steps ahead of us the whole time. It is strange. Not as strange as the vibe I get from the teenage boys that were hanging about in the parking area though. They had no car and looked like ours would do in a pinch. I did not get a good feeling.

Kaiate Falls Trail
Kaiate Falls Trail

The trail was steep and filled with numerous really nice waterfalls and the rain sort of held off.

The Tall Waterfall
The Tall Waterfall

We always seem to find the best swimming holes when it is too cold to swim. This one would have been great on a hot day, or better yet if it was fed by a hot spring. We ran back up the trail and found our van untouched, luckily, but we still got out of there fast.

We ended up at Sapphire Springs Thermal Resort to camp for the night. Our campsite was right next to a rocky stream which would lull me to sleep. The kitchen was fine and we were able to do our laundry right next door while we cooked our dinner. A short walk down the path there were thermal pools and a swimming pool which were disappointing because they were not hot enough. I could not stay in very long, but getting out in the cold night air was worse. Apparently they are never quite hot (I think they were only 32 degrees C) and they got a bad review in the NZ Frenzy books because of that. We slept well and moved on the next morning. Still headed for the coast.

-Wendy Lee writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters

Taieri Beach to Doubtful Sound-Day 5-7

Taieri Beach-Night 4

We spent our fourth night at the tiny Taieri Mouth holiday beach camp, a tiny little place tucked behind the dunes, with a path giving direct access to the beach.

Wildflower Dune Path
Wildflower Dune Path

We parked, did our walk through to get familiar with the kitchen and bath setups, and immediately headed down through the  wildflower covered dunes, emerging onto a flat endless beach.

Taieri Beach Sunset
Taieri Beach Sunset

We picked up abalone shells and watched the sunset over the water and had to tear ourselves away to go back and cook  dinner.

Abalone at Tieriri
Abalone at Tieriri

Cooking was fun because we shared the kitchen with two  young French couples who had work visa’s  as environmental engineers and were also  tramping (Kiwi for long hikes) around the South Island for a year. They spoke mostly French, and since we do not, we  had an amusing time trying to talk about our travels. This ended up being one of our favorite camps because it was so small and friendly and we had such great interactions with other folks.

Taeiri Kitchen
Taeiri Kitchen

The showers were basic rustic cement block  but the kitchen was homey and we all fit around the table. After dinner we went back out on the beach to star gaze in the incredible unbroken darkness.

Taieri Sunrise

Taieri Sunrise

We met the camp owner at checkout in the morning  and she said she had come here on holiday two years ago and ended up buying the camp  so she could stay. She lives in a tiny camp house, keeps a few laying hens, grows a garden and works in Dunedin as a security guard for the hospital at night. There was also an older guy living in one of the single room camp huts with his labradoodle who just couldn’t bear to leave. He was barely getting by on his pension and was enjoying his simplistic arrangement.

Rainbow at Taieri
Rainbow at Taieri

 Right after the sunrise there was a rainbow, and now it is raining and we are driving down a dirt road with sheep on both sides of the road. Always sheep.

As we drive down the coast, we stop at every little cove, waterfall, trail and lighthouse that we see. There are always seals or sea lions down below on  the rocks, resting up from their swims and waiting to sun themselves on this still grey morning.

Rainy Catlins Beach
Rainy Catlins Beach

This area on the south east portion of the island is called the Catlins.  You might think it would be chilly all the time this far south, considering that Antartica is the next place down, but the ocean currents sweep down from up near the equator on the West side of the island and then hug the shore on the East side heading back north, so the weather is tempered here. On warm days there are cool breezes and on cool days there are warm breezes. Breezes being the key word.

There are little Blue penguins and Yellow Eyed penguins that nest along this shore, where there are  rocky places, protected pools and bush areas coming down to the waters edge. The parents hide the babies in the scrub brush while they go out fishing for the day, and then when it gets dark they come back and feed them regurgitated fish. We are going to see if we can spot some tonight at Curio Bay.

Tokata/ Nugget Point is the next stop on our way this rainy morning. A rocky promontory with a lighthouse out on the end and nuggets of rocks jutting out into the ocean, which has wrecked many a ship.

Tokata Light
Tokata Light

Tautuku Nature walk is a little further down the way and it finally stops raining. It is a jungle, one of the few left after the colonial settlers arrived and cut down all the timber.

Jungle Path
Jungle Path

Walking in it brings home just how daunting it would have been to arrive on this coast from a little wooden ship and try to make your way inland.

Giant Tree Fern
Giant Tree Fern

There are giant tree ferns, Liana vines, bayonet like sword ferns, huge trees and very little light. A machete would have been useful, but luckily there is something of a path for us. Suddenly you emerge through the tall strappy flax right onto a totally flat deserted sandy beach. NZ flax is not the blue flowered Linum that we know but rather Phormium tenax and Phormium colensoi, known by the Māori names harakeke and wharariki respectively. The Maori used the plant fibers for clothing, ropes and  fishing baskets.

 McLeans Falls- another short walk we came across. There are tromps and trails everywhere in New Zealand.

Mcleans Falls
Mcleans Falls

The last stop of the day was down the road a bit for a chance to see penguins coming in after nightfall to feed their young parked up in the bush. We sat  among the petrified tree molds in the rocks at Curio Bay for four hours as the tide came in and the sun went down. It was windy and cold and then it got dark and even colder. As usual we had layered our rain gear over quick dry hiking clothes, so we were comfortable.

Curio Bay with Petrified Log
Curio Bay with Petrified Log

We sat out until 9:30 Pm and finally manged to see one Penguin emerge from the nursery in the shrubs, which was cool. By then the crowd of 30 people had thinned to five of us die-hards.

Penguin Parent

Penguin Parent
Penguin Parent

We ended up camping way up on the bluff that night, stashed among a giant flax maze, overlooking Curio Bayon one side and Porpoise Bay on the other. We arrived way after dark and were surprised in the morning to find just how close we were to the cliff edge. No wonder it was so windy that night. The van was rocking with it and we were worried the tent would blow off but we still slept really well.

Porpoise Bay
Porpoise Bay

Day 6

The main part of the camp was overlooking Porpoise Bay,  where people swim with the endangered Hector Dolphins under the pretense of learning to surf. No body was out there since it was still too cold to swim. And windy. There are only three to four thousand Hector Dolphins left on the planet, with genetically separate groups  surviving only around the NZ South Island. These porpoises don’t travel from the East coast to the West coast so the gene pool stays separate and limits their adaptability.

Pewter Sea at Porpoise Bay
Pewter Sea at Porpoise Bay

The light changes constantly, as does the weather, and the ocean was mesmerizing to watch.

Heading inland a little ways now, the next semi-planned stop is the Cliffden Caves, to see Glow Worms, and because Jeff just has to go caving or he gets antsy.

Entering Cliffden Cave
Entering Cliffden Cave

The entrance is small but it opens up inside and there are some gorgeous formations.

Flowstone
Flowstone

There are Glow Worms all over the ceilings which you can spot as glistening spider web like threads hanging down when your light hits them. You turn off your lights and they look like a sky full of stars over your head. The cave is in very good shape considering how easy it is to find and a little strange in that there are reflector tapes marking the way out. We were hoping to do a through trip but the pool of water at the other end looked really deep and we didn’t want to get soaked. It turns out, it was only knee deep and we could have done it without getting all that wet. The reflection on the water fooled us. At least we kept our boots dry.

Some Big Rooms
Some Big Rooms

And now, for the rest of the day we drive on towards Manapouri and Doubtful Sound, which the New Zealand Frenzy books  
say is a better choice for a boat trip than the, for some reason more well known , Milford Sound. Since we had not reserved a space on a boat in advance, we stopped at the launch site for Real Journey’s on Lake Manapouri for information, and were inspired and lucky enough to get a space for a trip the next morning. I love it when things just work out like they are meant to be. They recommended the small, local Manopouri Holiday Park, which we had not seen advertised anywhere, and it also turned out to be a great choice.

The owners came here with their VW camper bus in the 1970’s from the U.S. ,and proceeded to build Swiss style mini chalets and campsites.

Manapouri Kitchen House
Manapouri Kitchen House

We parked in our un-powered site tucked into the trees and proceeded to make ourselves at home, doing laundry and cooking dinner in the clean and homey kitchen building. The photo on my New Zealand page is of the kitchen here.

Manapouri Dining Room
Manapouri Dining Room

Day 7- Doubtful Sound

In the morning we boarded the first boat to take us across Lake Manapouri, which was beautiful in its own right. At the far end is a mostly underground water powered electric station that normally we could have toured. Today, though it was under some kind of maintenance and closed to tours. That’s Ok by me as I am more interested in visiting the fjord. It is called a sound but that is not what it truly is and to get there you either have to enter from the sea (which is not likely as it is in the middle of nowhere) or you have to cross Lake Manopouri and travel overland 22 km to the Fjord and get on another boat to travel around it. When they built the power plant they built a road over that 22km stretch that begins and ends in water. There is a bus that takes us across the mountain on a one lane road where we board another boat to tour Doubtful.

Doubtful Sound on a Rainy Day
Doubtful Sound on a Rainy Day

It is an off and on rainy day and waterfalls are everywhere in the sound. The boat has a comfy sitting area inside where it is warm and dry and you can pour yourself some hot tea and listen to the guide. It is easy to get up and go outside and get some great photos.

Low Hanging Clouds in Doubtful Sound
Low Hanging Clouds in Doubtful Sound

Penguins and dolphins both come into the sound.

Penguins in Doubtful Sound
Penguins in Doubtful Sound

Every now and then it clears up a bit.

Rain Brings Waterfalls to Doubtful Sound
Rain Brings Waterfalls to Doubtful Sound

And then the clouds paint it back. We traveled up three arms of the fjord and they were all gorgeous.

Distant Mountains
Distant Mountains

If it had been sunny and hot it would have been very different. It was a perfectly beautiful way to spend a rainy day for us.

Grey is Beautiful
Grey is Beautiful

The captain and guide were unobtrusive yet friendly and observant, allowing us to get close enough to get sprayed on by one big waterfall.

Huge Waterfall in Doubtful
Huge Waterfall in Doubtful

Today was Jeff’s birthday and this is what he got, a good seven and a half hours long memory of a great day spent with a few nice people from all over the world.

When we disembarked it was time to look for our next home for the night, so we headed towards TeAnau and Milford Sound.

Lupines Add Color
Lupines Add Color
Water drop on Lupine Leaf
Water drop on Lupine Leaf

After a short stop at Mirror Lake we camped for the night at Knob Flats, which is run by the DOC (Department of Conservation). This was a great little camp with a ranger in residence who directed us to a great little trail to a waterfall in the woods right behind us, that we would never have known about otherwise.

We’ll start there an the next post.

-wendy lee writing at edgewisewoods