Monday, August 30, 2010

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

While on holiday we caught up with my Dad, who gave the boys a taste of some of the hobbies I enjoyed as a kid, such as shooting. Here they are having a look through the scope on his hunting rifle (with the bolt safely removed of course).
We also did another great walk which I thoroughly recommend; the Waimangu trail, located in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley 20 minutes south of Rotorua. Billed as ‘the world’s youngest geothermal system,’ it’s the only geothermal system in the world wholly created as the direct result of a volcanic eruption - the Tarawera Eruption of 10 June 1886. Dad had heard about this and done it before, and it was the perfect length for the boys.

The trail slopes gently down hill or is flat for most of its length, and takes about an hour minutes to reach the end at Lake Waimangu , from where you catch a bus back to the start. In the summer you can take a boat cruise on the lake and see even more geothermal sites.
It’s a fascinating place and much less touristy than most of the Rotorua geothermal sites; you have to pay but the very well maintained paths, sparkling visitors centre and lovely little cafĂ© make it worth while. Then there’s the walk itself; this area is the site of the world famous pink and white terraces which were destroyed by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

The trail takes you past lots of hot water springs, pool, and a few geysers, including the incredibly blue Inferno Crater, and Frying Pan lake. There are several ‘champagne pools’ which appear to fizz with volcanic gases rising up in tiny bubbles through brilliant green water. In all, a fascinating place well worth a visit.

Back again!

Hello blogosphere! Yes I’m actually back again after taking a couple of months off. With a four week holiday planned, I needed to get through a mountain of work before heading to New Zealand …you can see when the shit hit the proverbial fan by the date on my last blog! After a month of blood, sweat, tears and narrowly met deadlines, I finally jumped on a plane with Niels and Carl and headed off to spend three lovely weeks in N.Z., followed by a week in Singapore where hubby joined us. Bliss!
We hit the jackpot with the weather this year; despite being winter in NZ, we were treated to absolutely gorgeous weather most of the time.
In an attempt to counter-balance the yummy kiwi food we nostalgically tucked into…I’m talking fish & chips, PILES of seafood, my sisters’ delicacies such as feijoa cake and home made sausages, not to mention loads of crayfish from my Dad…we tried to get and out to do some hikes, or at least long walks.
Since we were staying in Tauranga, a walk to the top of Mt Maunganui was of course a must-do. Carl made me feel both old and unfit by RUNNING to the summit, but the view was worth it (I'll try to post pics later). Blue skies that stretched to meet an aquamarine horizon…long white beaches and the scent of Manuka trees wafting on a warm breeze; remind me again why I ever left the country?! Tauranga was largely unchanged since my last visit, but the Mount seems to be sporting a couple of new apartment buildings, and it’s rumoured that the penthouse on one of them cost $5 million; a hefty sum in kiwi-land.
Oddly enough, 3 out of 4 members of my family had moved house since my last visit 18 months ago, so I spent a lot of time oooohing and aaaaaahing at new houses, squelching my envy at the space and sheer size of the houses which kiwis take for granted. Single level dwellings sprawl on massive sections, surrounded by gardens and lawns on all sides….no semi-detached properties with vertical staircases to be seen! And the views! Oceans and islands and native bush; literally a world apart from where I live.

The photos in this post are from the Karanghake Gorge Historic Walkway, a truly excellent walk which includes going through the railway tunnel in the gorge. My sister Karen has done it a couple of time and knew it would hit the spot with the boys and I. Taking about 1.5 hours, the walk starts just off the main road, with a swinging bridge skirting crumbling remains of the Victoria Battery site (above). You then walking along a narrow path following the Ohinemuri river for some distance, before crossing a steel bridge and entering the 1100 meter former railway tunnel. The tracks have been removed so the floor is more or less even, and initially lights are regularly spaced to provide an adequate - if dim - light. However about a third of the way in the lights stop, and you're walking in pitch blackness, aiming for the distant light of the far end of the tunnel. With the drip-drip-drip of water seeping through the rock for company, it's spookily creepy in a thrilling kind of way which kids just love. The final third of the tunnel is lit again, and from there it's not long before you cross over a high road bridge to loop back to the carpark. I thoroughly recommend this gem of a walk to anyone!
A final parting photo...this is Niels and his cousin Tazmin at Tauranga airport just before we left...but I've jumped forward three weeks and have lots more to tell, so come back soon!