Lakes, Waterfalls & Hotsprings

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Jan 23, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For those who read our last blog of at Shakespear Regional Park up near Auckland, we have now added a little video to the group of photos, should you care to go back and take a look.

After our few days in the Auckland surroundings, we packed up and headed southeastward…to the area around Rotorua.

The pastoral landscape was fringed with tall hedges of all sorts. I was struck by the fact that fields had no irrigation infrastructure.  It's just not needed.  I’m told the north island is more dominated by grazing for dairy, meat & wool, while the south island has a higher ratio of "cropping" or vegetable production.

Gradually the pastures gave way to forests, some natural, and some timber plantations.  At Fitzgerald Glade, the forest closed in over the road, creating a green tunnel of leaves. 

Soon we caught our first glimpse of Lake Rotorua.  For those who don’t know, Rotorua is known for it’s extensive volcanic history, some ancient, some geologically quite recent.  As such, the landscape is characterized by numerous calderas filled in with brightly hued lakes, hot springs (pools of liquid and of mud), and of course, the distinct odor of sulfur.

Near the center of town is a thermal park with many fenced in hot springs of all flavors, or should I say scents?  Sulfur comes in many forms, some more pungent, some not so bad, really.  We chuckled at how many different ways bubbles can come up through water, thin mud, thick mud, or holes in the ground.   Take a look at the video…  How nice to walk through a neighborhood park, stop to dip your feet in a clear hot pool, then dry off in the sunshine before walking further on!

From there, our plans were taking us to one of the many lakes of this region, Lake Tarawera, where we had arranged for a home exchange.  This gorgeous lake is at the end of a road that runs alongside a redwood plantation and two other lakes: Blue Lake, which is public and well-frequented by locals, and Green Lake, private, and quiet…a place where black swans can be seen swimming along.

We arrived at our temporary home on Lake Tarawera, and were pleased to see that the photos did not lie.  The views from the balcony and kitchen are spectacular!  The lake is generally very quiet, except for the sound of blackbirds, bellbirds, tuis and others.  We made a tasty asparagus frittata for “tea” (dinner), served up with some Syrah from the nearby wine country on the east coast.

Awaking feeling mildly ill with a sore throat, we took it a little slower the next morning, relaxed on the sun deck and took in the breeze.   By afternoon it was time for a little adventure.  We took a nice drive along winding roads past several more caldera lakes, all sparkling blue (Season, if you’re reading this…think Laguna Apoyo, but much cleaner and a little cooler water). 

The drive took us to the Tarawera River.  Its waters were that clear pale blue that belies its calcium carbonate content.  We stopped along its shores for a picnic lunch (salads have never tasted so good as they do here), and then continued on further to its unique waterfalls. 

Tarawera volcano originally erupted about 11,000 years ago, then again in 1886.  Between those two dates, the caldera filled with water, creating the current lake.  But with the second eruption, the river that flows out from its base dove underground through fissures in the rock in a few places, emerging at Tarawera falls.  We stopped for a bit to admire the falls pouring out from the middle of a rock cliff face, and to marvel over the diversity of ferns and other plant life. 

Then we hiked up a trail to find the spots where the water dove into the rock.  Walking back, the bell bird’s call made me pause several times, wondering if I was hearing Mark whistle to get my attention from some distance along the trail.

Driving back, we commented to each other on the density of the timber plantations.  With all the rain this land receives, trees are planted within only a few meters of each other, and still seem to thrive when fully mature.  Even steep slopes are planted, apparently by hand with large mounds of soil at their bases.  New trees are planted right amidst the slash of the last harvest.  Undergrowth is abundant and on first glance appears diverse, though I suspect much of it is weedy and non-native.  Foxgloves seemed to be one of the most common weed plants, appearing along roadsides and popping up in between newly planted pines.  Even gigantic bushes of lilacs thrive along established roads.   It’s a vastly altered landscape in many places (not all—tree ferns and other natives are common in many places), but thanks to all the precipitation the area receives, it doesn’t look as devastated as most of the timberlands and agricultural lands of the southwestern U.S.  And I must confess, foxgloves make darned pretty weeds.

Alright, enough land use commentary for now.  My current work emphasis is getting the best of me!  

Today has been a day to catch up on chores, internet, and so on.  While sitting in the internet cafe, Mark took a walk through Whakawerawera forest plantation.  It's an area covering thousands of acres planted beginning in 1901 with several different stands of conifers, including redwoods that are now a full hundred years old.  For being such "young" redwoods, these trees are already massive.  The forest is filled with extensive hiking and mountain biking trails of all grades...a fun place for the locals to play.

Time to return home to Lake Tarawera for the night where we’ll throw together a fresh pizza, salad, and glass of wine!

Thus far, we're including photos and one video associated with this blog.  Look for the title that says "VIDEO - click me."  We'll label all videos this way in the future.  There's another video we wanted to include, but, DRAT, couldn't get it up for you just yet.  Come back and check this blog out later, and hopefully you'll get an impressive view of Tarawera Falls.  Don't forget, if you click on the photos at the bottom of the blog, you can scroll through larger images than the "thumbnails" you see here.

Cheers to all…
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