Farewell Spit 2006

In which Miles takes you back to 2006 for a tour of Farewell Spit.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view them on imgur, click here.

As I mentioned previously, I declined to pay $150 or more to take the Farewell Spit Eco Tour on my recent visit to the area.  But I did enjoy it the first time I went there.  Here are some of the photos.

The tour started early in the morning, and it was quite overcast. It cleared up later. Three busloads of people set out at the same time, with a stop on reaching the start of the spit.

Tour buses at the start of the spit
Tour buses at the start of the spit

This view of endless windswept sand is Farewell Spit as I remember it.  My recent visit of course was much more bright and sunny.

Farewell Spit
Farewell Spit

We passed a number of seals, always alone and looking lonely in that vast empty place.

Seal on Farewell Spit
Seal on Farewell Spit

There is an oasis of sorts near the end of the spit though.  Once a lighthouse keeper and family lived here.  Today the lighthouse is automated.

Farewell Spit lighthouse
Farewell Spit lighthouse
Farewell Spit lighthouse
Farewell Spit lighthouse
On the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse
On the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse
On the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse
On the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse
Farewell Spit lighthouse
Farewell Spit lighthouse

There’s even a trail of decent length that you can follow through some bush, including some large trees.

Near the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse
Near the grounds of the Farewell Spit lighthouse

It costs extra to continue further to view the gannet colony.

Gannet colony
Gannet colony
Ganet
Gannet
Ganet
Gannet
Ganet
Gannet

I thoroughly enjoyed the tour once.  But at $150+ I didn’t have trouble deciding not to do it again.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view them on imgur, click here.

Feeding tame longfin eels in Collingwood

In which Miles feeds the tame longfin eels in Collingwood.

Eel feeding is advertised on photocopied signs in the Collingwood office of the company that does the Farewell Spit Eco Tours.  Shows can be arranged, or you can feed the eels yourself.  Food is provided for a $2 donation.

A sign directs you up the right driveway.  The flag would seem to indicate that the eel rustlers are expats from Texas.  I parked in front of several cages that are home to a number of birds, parakeets and lovebirds I think.  A nice kitty greeted me, accepted lots of pets, then disappeared.  A pair of turtles live near where the food is collected and donations left.

Home of the tame eels
Home of the tame eels

The eels live in a pond with some interesting decorations.  Longfin eels are a protected species in New Zealand.  I don’t know whether this means that the owners of these eels need any special permission or not.

Collingwood eels
Collingwood eels

I was mostly interested in seeing these things move.  I didn’t take many pictures, but I shot a lot of movies, and I’ve shared three with you below.  Enjoy!

Farewell Spit

In which Miles returns to the northwest corner of New Zealand, the area around Wharariki Beach and Cape Farewell, to walk the accessible part of Farewell Spit.

To view the full gallery of 29 pictures on imgur, click here.

The picturesque coastline of Golden Bay in Puponga again demanded a stop on the way to Farewell Spit.

Coast of Golden Bay in Puponga
Coast of Golden Bay in Puponga

Farewell Spit is a unique geographical feature.  It is the longest sand spit in  New Zealand, extending from the Cape Farewell area for 26km into Cook Strait above sea level, and another 6 km below.  It continues to grow, and I’ve read that it will one day enclose Golden Bay.

NASA satellite image of Farewell Spit
NASA satellite image of Farewell Spit

The spit runs in from west to east, and is made from fine golden sand – as Cape Farewell to the west of the spit is mostly composed of late Cretaceousquartzsandstones, i.e. silica but with traces of other heavy minerals, garnet, ilmenite, magnetite and pyroxene. The erosion of the cliffs into fine sand carried on the sea currents creates Farewell spit further east.[1]

The northern side of the dunes are steeper and unstable being constantly exposed to the prevailing winds which average over 25 km/h. The southern side which faces Golden Bay is more stable and largely covered with vegetation. The tide here can recede as much as seven kilometres exposing some 80 square kilometres of mud flats; a rich feeding ground for the many sea birds in the area but also a trap for the frequently stranded whales.
read more on Wikipedia

Access to most of Farewell Spit is restricted for environmental reasons.  This brochure shows (on page 6) the part that visitors are able to walk (as well as the other walking tracks in the area).  To see the rest of Farewell Spit you must join the Farewell Spit Eco Tour.  I took this tour in 2006, but I declined paying $150 to do it again this year.  The tour takes a bus designed for sand.  Walking the spit is a somewhat different experience.

Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Farewell Spit Inner Beach

Triangle Flat Car Park is right next to the Inner Beach of Farewell Spit.  Inner Beach is on the Golden Bay side of Farewell Spit.  Inner Beach is made of broken sea shells near the water, and sand higher up.  It is fairly uniform in width, and looks about the same as far as you can see in both directions, except that there is a mountain backdrop to the west.

Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Farewell Spit Inner Beach

There are far more black swans on the Inner Beach than any other bird. Occasionally one will fan its wings, showing its white feathers.

Black swans from Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Black swans from Farewell Spit Inner Beach

After some time, and hundreds of black swans, you reach the end of the portion of Farewell Spit that is accessible to  visitors.

Black swans and oystercatchers from Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Black swans and oystercatchers from Farewell Spit Inner Beach

At a certain point a sign indicates that visitors can go no further.  You can return along Inner Beach, or cross the spit to Ocean Beach.

Whale bone on Inner Beach
Whale bone on Inner Beach

The spit is much wider at this point that I expected.  The dunes visible in the distance, in the photo below, are only about half-way across.

Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit

This may be the most interesting part of the walk.  I was inspired to shoot panoramas at several points as the landscape changed along the way.

Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit
Crossing Farewell Spit

After crossing the last dunes you arrive at the endless white sands of Ocean Beach.

Farewell Spit Ocean Beach
Farewell Spit Ocean Beach

Now I began walking a very different looking beach in the opposite direction.  Again I stuck close to the edge of the water in order to walk on the firmest possible surface.

At some point I remembered having left something outside of my car.  I started wondering how I’d be able to tell where to cross back over to the other side of the spit.  After some time I came across some Germans lying in the sun.  The last people I had encountered had gone ahead of me on the crossing from Inner Beach to Ocean Beach.  It was strange to see people sunning as if it were any beach, so far away from anything.  They said that they had not followed a path, but had simply struck out across the dunes from Inner Beach.  I decided to do the same, but set out at an 45 degree angle to the water.

I found that there were a greater variety of birds on the Ocean Beach side of the spit, and that they were found in greatest numbers a short distance away from the water.

Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach

Along the way I encountered some fairly heavy bush, but was able to push through.  There are thistles, but I managed to avoid any damage from those.  It was tough climbing the sand dunes; each step involved sliding about half a step back down the hill.  When I arrived at the top, I saw that there was a great deal of heavy bush between me and Inner Beach.  I could see that I could get around the dense vegetation by walking along the top of the dunes for some distance away from the carpark.

Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach
Crossing back to Inner Beach

From the top of the dunes I could see that the tide had gone out dramatically since I had left Inner Beach.

Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Farewell Spit Inner Beach
Farewell Spit Inner Beach

On the walk back to the carpark I met two girls from Taiwan and one from Hong Kong.  We walked back together and shared stories of our travels in New Zealand.  They had seen two little blue penguins and a bunch of yellow-eyed penguins, after several unsuccessful trips to the beaches further south, and had swum with dolphins in Kaikoura.

To put it as another Taiwanese girl had (“the best is meet the wild animals!”) I set for myself the goals of meeting little blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins and dolphins!

The item I was worried about was where I had left it.

To view the full gallery of 29 pictures on imgur, click here.

Cape Farewell and Pillar Point Lighthouse

In which Miles walks from Cape Farewell to Pillar Point Lighthouse, enjoying white cliffs and other land and seascapes along the coast of the Tasman Sea/Cook Strait, in the northwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand.

To view the full gallery of 24 pictures on imgur, click here.

You could spend days walking the tracks around Farewell Spit and Cape Farewell, as I learned from this DOC brochure.  I had already spent a good part of a day just walking Wharariki Beach.  With a very sunny weekend off I decided to visit Cape Farewell, and enjoy different views of the coastal cliffs by walking Hill Top Track to Pillar Point Lighthouse.  I parked a short 5 minute walk from Cape Farewell.

From the carpark I saw my destination at the top of Pillar Point.

Pillar Point Lighthouse from the carpark at Cape Farewell
Pillar Point Lighthouse from the carpark at Cape Farewell

Cape Farewell is a striking white cliff with an archway at the point.  Tracks lead west to Wharariki Beach and east to Pillar Point.

Cape Farewell
Cape Farewell

I walked along the cliffs toward Pillar Point, expecting to join Hilltop Track along the way.  I wanted to enjoy views of both Cape Farewell and the cliffs themselves before heading inland.  This meant steeper climbs, but the views were highly motivating.

Coastal cliffs on the way to Pillar Point
Coastal cliffs on the way to Pillar Point

At this point Farewell Spit is already visible in the distance.  Farewell Spit forms the northern side of Golden Bay and is the longest sandspit in New Zealand, stretching for about 26 km above sea level and another 6 km underwater.  I’ll show you more of that in my next post, or possibly the one after that.

Coastal cliffs and sea caves on the way to Pillar Point
Coastal cliffs and sea caves on the way to Pillar Point
Coastal cliffs and sea caves on the way to Pillar Point
Coastal cliffs and sea caves on the way to Pillar Point

The landscape eventually nudged me inland, away from the cliffs, and toward Hill Top Track.

Near Hill Top Track
Near Hill Top Track

The entrance makes the bush looks more dense than it actually is.  The shade was welcome at this point.  The lighthouse is visible on top of the hill.

Entering a small forest on Hill Top Track
Entering a small forest on Hill Top Track

The song of cicada was loud in the bush, as it was everywhere in the Golden Bay area, and really everywhere else in New Zealand in the summer.  As in the campground in Collingwood, abandoned exoskeletons littered the bark of the trees.  I don’t believe the positions of the exuviae below have anything to do with mating, but rather one cicada finding the abandoned exoskeleton of another a convention place to anchor himself while shedding his own.

Cicadas' abandoned exoskeletons
Cicadas’ abandoned exoskeletons

After ascending above the trees, views inland, to the south from Hill Top Track, open up.

The view inland, south from Hill Top Track
The view inland, south from Hill Top Track

The lighthouse itself is unremarkable; the attraction lies in the views  from Pillar Point.  Cape Farewell is visible in the distance in the picture below.

Pillar Point Lighthouse
Pillar Point Lighthouse

I walked a bit further for better views to the east that include Farewell Spit, Old Man Rock, and Port Puponga.

Farewell Spit from Hill Top Track
Farewell Spit from Hill Top Track
Farewell Spit and Old Man from Hill Top Track
Farewell Spit and Old Man from Hill Top Track
Old Man and Port Puponga from Hill Top Track
Old Man and Port Puponga from Hill Top Track

I wasn’t entirely sure I would walk Farewell Spit, but that changed when I saw the views above.  I now knew what I would do with the next day.

To view the full gallery of 24 pictures on imgur, click here.

Limestone Bay, Ligar Bay, Tata Bay, Wainui Bay, and Wainui Falls

In which Miles finds that getting to Wainui Falls is half the fun – and finds himself in Abel Tasman National Park.

To view the full gallery of 36 pictures on imgur, click here.

The drive from Takaka to Wainui Falls follows the southeastern coast of Golden Bay.  The scenery is beautiful and varied, including beach after beach after beach.

Around Tarakohe, on the east end of Limestone Bay, the landscape gets very interesting.  The area is characterized by the smell of fish and scallops, boats for fishing and for pleasure, and by rock formations like these below.

Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe
Tarakohe

Abel Tasman Memorial sits on a lookout offering views of Ligar Bay, Tata Beach and Tata Islands.  The monument itself is a bit uninspired, but the information provided is interesting, and the views make it a well worth a visit.

Ligar bay from Abel Tasman Memorial
Ligar Bay from Abel Tasman Memorial lookout
Ligar bay from Abel Tasman Memorial
Ligar Bay from Abel Tasman Memorial lookout
Abel Tasman Memorial
Abel Tasman Memorial
Abel Tasman Memorial from Ligar Bay
Abel Tasman Memorial from Ligar Bay
Watch out for little blue penguins!
Watch out for little blue penguins!

The coast of Wainui Bay has its own cool rock formations and its own beautiful beaches.

Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay
Wainui Bay

Abel Tasman Drive heads inland, away from Wainui Bay, toward Wainui Falls.  This would usually be sheep, but here it was cows.

Cow crossing near Wainui Falls carpark
Cow crossing near Wainui Falls carpark

Sandflies prompted application of insect repellent, but they weren’t bad once I entered the bush.  The bush was bright green and lush, and I immediately felt the increased humidity upon entering it.

Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track

I didn’t know that I would be entering the north end of Abel Tasman National Park.  I have now been there.  Visits to Abel Tasman National Park usually center heavily around beaches.  I plan to walk the coastal track later this summer.

Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track

This suspension bridge over the river was very bouncy.

Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls Track
Wainui Falls
Wainui Falls

Large volumes of water pass over Wainui Falls.  The are loud, and cold, and wet.  It was a hot and sticky day, but no one stayed at the viewing area for very long.  I shot most of my photos, and the video below, a short distance away from the viewing area to minimize the mist on the lens.

To view the full gallery of 36 pictures on imgur, click here.

Wharariki Beach, and lots of New Zealand fur seals

In which Miles visits Wharariki Beach and the Archway Islands on a day filled with seals, pups and adults alike.

To view the full gallery of 50 pictures on imgur, click here.

When I set out for Wharariki Beach I was venturing west of Collingwood for the first time in ten years.  It was good to see the views along the way once again.  Below is a view of Golden Bay from Puponga.

View of Golden Bay from Puponga
View of Golden Bay from Puponga

The shortest trail to Wharariki Beach is just 20 minutes.  It starts with rolling hills and pastures and sheep, adds trees and shade, and then introduces white sand to the mix.

Trail to Wharariki Beach
Trail to Wharariki Beach

When I reached the top of the dunes at the edge of the beach a view of the length of the beach opened up before me.  I stopped to take pictures.  The couple visible below were friendly, and told me that there was a seal pup on the beach, “having a wee scratch”.  I thanked them and set off to find the little guy, thinking that it sounded like they had only seen the one, and that he wouldn’t stick around forever.

Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach

I looked for the largest group of people who appeared to all be taking pictures of the same thing.  I found a whole group of seal pups playing in shallow pools at the base of the green-topped rock behind the grassy dunes shown above.  The rocks to the left of that are the Archway Islands, from this angle not showing why they are so named.

New Zealand fur seal pups
New Zealand fur seal pups

About seven cute little pups wrestled with each other, taking breaks to crawl up  onto the rocks to have rest and a scratch, then heading back into the water to wrestle with their buddies some more.

A sign on the way in warns against bothering the seals.  The people already there kept a good distance from the pups, and the two or three young adults in the area.

New Zealand fur seal pups
New Zealand fur seal pups

After a while, most of us wandered away to take in nearby sights on the Beach.  I noticed one girl arriving by herself, and walking up much closer to the little seals.  I considered suggesting that she might be too close, but instead I observed.  None of the seals, young or old, seemed to mind.

Seal pup on Wharariki Beach
Seal pup on Wharariki Beach

Soon I and several others joined her.  The seal pups ignored us for the most part.  One noticed a girl squatting down to take pictures from a low angle, and became curious.  I thought he was going to walk right up to her, but after approaching within a few feet, he changed his mind, and went back to attack one of his playmates.

The video below was shot fully zoomed in, so it may be shakier than previous videos.

This somewhat older seal sunned himself higher up on the rock.  Behind him you can see a cave.  While I was watching several seals emerged from that cave.

Seal on Wharariki Beach
Seal on Wharariki Beach

After a very short walk to the south it starts to become apparent how Archway Islands got their name.

Archway Islands
Archway Islands

A short distance further and the other island shows its good side.

Archway Islands
Archway Islands

As I walked toward the south I was drawn to the many caves in the large rocks along the beach.

Archway Islands and a cave on Wharariki Beach
Archway Islands and a cave on Wharariki Beach

I met a family who were looking in the many small pools for sea creatures.  Many of these pools were in holes in the rock well above the current level of the sea.  They were filed with water… but it had rained heavily the last few days.  The tides vary drastically in Golden Bay, so maybe the same is true at Wharariki Beach, on the Tasman Sea.

They showed me these crabs.

Crabs in a rock pool
Crabs in a rock pool

And these sea slugs.

Sea slugs in a rock pool
Sea slugs in a rock pool

And these sea anemones.

Sea anemones in a rock pool
Sea anemones in a rock pool

And this seal, hiding in the rocks.

Seal napping on Wharariki Beach
Seal napping on Wharariki Beach

This guy opened his eyes, and moved his head just enough to look at me, as I took his picture, but couldn’t be bothered to move any more than that.

I’ve noticed that when a seal is napping, he (or she) really can’t be bothered.  The seal below was a good example of this.

Napping seal, Archway Islands
Napping seal, Archway Islands

This guy was crashed hard, right in the middle of the beach, no shelter of any kind around.  Every now and then he would lift a flipper to catch a cool breeze.  He looked my way as I took pictures.  As I was leaving the beach I talked to a German girl who had wondered if this guy was dead, or dying.  As I told her, I’m pretty sure he was just very dedicated to his nap.

As I mentioned, it had rained hard for two days previous to my visit to Whaririki Beach.  I suppose the seals were just enjoying a bit of sun.  Maybe the seas had been rough, and they were tired.  In any case, I spoke to other people who saw few seals, or none, on their visits to this beach.  The day of my visit was a good day for seal watching.

Below is another picture of this seal, with the south end of the beach in the background.

Napping seal
Napping seal

I walked as far south as I could.  At the south end of the beach these seals sunned on the rocks, well out of reach of people – but they barked at me and another visitor when we came too close.  I guess they had chosen the far end of the beach for a reason.

Seals on Wharariki Beach
Seals on Wharariki Beach

As I returned to the north end of the beach I explored more caves and tunnels.

Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach

As I passed the entrance to the beach I recognized some Dutch tourists who shared the campground in Collingwood.  I was able to direct them to the baby seal pools.

Near the north end of the beach Wharariki Stream empties into the sea.

Wharariki Stream
Wharariki Stream

The north end has more sand dunes, and I walked over those as I headed south again.

Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach

Wharariki Beach is 3 kilometers long, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking it twice.

Wharariki Beach
Wharariki Beach
Trees along Wharariki Beach
Trees along Wharariki Beach

While shooting pictures at Te Waikoropupū Springs my camera rolled over – it started naming files at DSC_0001 again.  This means that at some point that day I had shot over 30,000 pictures with that camera.

At Wharariki Beach I filled both memory cards for the first time.  The camera holds two, and I have one 16gb card and one 8GB card.  In addition to shooting a number of movies, I shot over 1000 photos that day.  Wharariki Beach is one of the most photogenic places I’ve seen.

To view the full gallery of the 50 best pictures on imgur, click here.

Te Waikoropupū Springs

In which Miles takes in Te Waikoropupū Springs, the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere, and with a horizontal visibility of 63 meters, some of the clearest water ever measured.

To view the full gallery of 10 pictures on imgur, click here.

Te Waikoropupū Springs, also known as Pupu Springs, is a short drive from Takaka.  Te Waikoropüpü Springs is a Wähi Tapu (a sacred place) of great significance to the Manawhenua iwi (a South Island Māori tribe).  Contact with the water is prohibited, as are consumption of food and alcohol, and smoking.  The interpretation panels pictured below are available in full online, here, and offer a wealth of fascinating information.  I recommend reading about the abundance of life in the springs, including over 20 species thought to exist only in Te Waikoropupū Springs.

Info panels at Pupu Springs carpark
Interpretation panels at Pupu Springs carpark

The visitor can opt to walk a 40 minute loop that takes in Fish Creek Springs and surrounding bush before arriving at the Main Springs.

Fish Creek Springs and walkway
Fish Creek and walkway

Cold water constantly bubbles to the surface of the Main Springs, crystal clear and displaying the brilliant blue of the rocks on the bottom, in contrast with the greens and reds of the plants below and above the water.

Te Waikoropupū Main Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Springs
Te Waikoropupū Main Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Springs

I was drawn to a silver fern, an important symbol of New Zealand, lying on the bottom of the Main Springs pool.

Silver fern in Main Spring
Silver fern in Main Springs
Te Waikoropupū Main Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Springs
Te Waikoropupū Main Spring
Te Waikoropupū Main Springs

The movie below lets you experience the sights and sounds of the upwelling water, and of some of the wildlife that thrive on and around the springs.

The DOC page says that Te Waikoropupū Springs’ water is the second clearest in the world, after Antarctica’s near-frozen Weddell Sea.  But Wikipedia says that a 2011 study found the visibility of Blue Lake ranged from 70 to 80 meters (230 to 260 ft), clearer than the 63 meters (207 ft) measured for Te Waikoropupu Springs.  The Wikipedia entry claims that Blue Lake is the clearest water in the world though, not even mentioning the Weddell Sea.  It’s always fair to suspect the accuracy of Wikipedia’s information, and this omission leads me to do so – more research is needed.  Online photos of Blue Lake look stunning, and I hope to see it in person one day, but it is usually accessed as a side trip on a 5-6 day walk of the Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park, something I’ll probably save for some future date.

Dancing Sands Springs are just to the side of the Main Springs.  Sands are agitated by the upwelling water, giving the springs their name.  I wasn’t able to see this though; it may be a sight enjoyed only by the few scientists allowed to enter the water.  Dancing Sands Springs are beautiful in any case.

Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Spring
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Springs
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Spring
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Springs
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Spring
Te Waikoropupū Dancing Sands Springs

Enjoy these moving pictures of Dancing Sands Springs.

To view the full gallery of 10 pictures on imgur, click here.

Labyrinth Rocks

In which Miles runs with this crazy rock theme he’s got going.

Enjoy the full gallery of 48 pictures at the end of this post.  To view them on imgur, click here.

Labyrinth Rocks has a lot in common with The Grove, and is only a short distance from it, near Takaka.  Labyrinth Rocks is a large limestone outcropping carved by erosion into a maze of bizarrely shapes rocks and trees.  But in spite of the similarities, Labyrinth Rocks has a different character from The Grove.  It doesn’t have trees as old, or as large, and where the The Grove has a very vertical character, Labyrinth Rocks is more horizontal.  It also covers a lot more territory, and is more consistent in its maze-like qualities – the whole park is really one large maze.

Labyrinth Rocks
Labyrinth Rocks

I think that sounds like a lot of fun for kids, but Labyrinth Rocks takes it one step farther.  Hidden away in cracks and crevices in the rocks, all over the park, are small, brightly colored plastic critters.

Hamburgler hiding out in the rocks at Labyrinth Rocks
Hamburgler hiding in the rocks at Labyrinth Rocks

As I explored the park a small group of boys played a game in which they’d find a critter and carry it with them until they found another, then leave the old one in place of the new, and continue hunting.

Kung Fu Panda demonstrating form at Labyrinth Rocks
Kung Fu Panda demonstrating kung-fu form at Labyrinth Rocks

The rocks at Labyrinth Rocks take on a wide variety of unusual forms, enhanced by the foliage.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I’ve included the full gallery below so that you can really zoom in.

How many little critters can you find in these pictures?

Expert mode:  How many can you identify?

Enjoy the full gallery of 48 pictures below.  To view them on imgur, click here.

 

Rawhiti Cave

In which Miles geeks out on rocks and plants teaming up to do cool things in a cool New Zealand cave.

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

Rawhiti Cave is near Takaka, which is about 25 minutes from Collingwood.  The trail is accessed by a private road over some beautiful private land, kindly made accessible to the public by a local farmer.

Private road to Rawhiti Cave
Private road to Rawhiti Cave

Pro-tip: In the Māori language, and thus in the names of many places in New Zealand, “wh” is pronounced like “f”.

The trail starts off following a dry river bed.  Very quickly the  nearby hills tower over you.

Trail to Rawhiti Cave
Trail to Rawhiti Cave
Trail to Rawhiti Cave
Trail to Rawhiti Cave

Soon enough it gets steep.  It’s steeper than Pinchgut Track up Mt. Robert in Nelson Lakes.

Trail to Rawhiti Cave
Trail to Rawhiti Cave

After about an hour, the cave entrance is suddenly there in front of you.

First glimpse of Rawhiti Cave
First glimpse of Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave

The mouth of Rawhiti Cave is so large, and the forest so close, I had trouble taking it all in.  After spending some time there I think I manged to capture it pretty well in still pictures… but I also took some video in my attempts to better capture, and share, the experience.

At the mouth of Rawhiti Cave:

Inside Rawhiti Cave, from the viewing platform:

I recently mentioned being underwhelmed by some aspects of caves in New Zealand, mostly the variety of color and the quality of the rock formations.  I was impressed by Rawhiti Cave though.

But it’s even cooler knowing a bit about what makes Rawhiti Cave nationally significant.  The cave features amazing examples of phytokarst, a phenomenon in which mosses and algae and calcium work together to “grow” stalactites and stalagmites.  These plants grow on the rock formations, and are constantly saturated with calcium carbonate, becoming part of the stalactites.  The plants grow faster on the sunlit side, causing the stalactites, and stalagmites, to grow toward the light.

Phytokarst at Rawhiti Cave
Phytokarst at Rawhiti Cave

The mouth of the cave is also huge, and admits sun light quite far into the cave, creating an unusually large “twilight zone” for flora and phytokarst.

Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave

Visitors aren’t allowed inside the cave beyond the viewing platform.  It fades into darkness below the viewing platform, leaving the visitor to imagine how far it actually extends.  I found this apparent opening of a cave within the cave similarly enticing.

Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave

I felt that it was necessary to wait for other visitors to leave so that I could take in the cave in solitude and silence.

Rawhiti Cave
Rawhiti Cave

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

Driving back to Takaka, I was compelled to stop for a photo of the hills I had just left.  The locals seem to call them hills – as they do Takaka Hill – but they seem like mountains to me.  I guess the mountains here are just that much larger.

A look back at the hills
A look back at the hills

The Grove Scenic Reserve

In which Miles continues his journey west, dodges rain, and explores more bizarre rock formations, this time without a roof.

To view the full gallery of 36 pictures on imgur, click here.

In my previous post I wrote about traveling to the northwest region of the South Island, and exploring Ngarua Caves.  I also mentioned first exploring New Zealand caves years ago in the Waitomo region of the North Island.  I should add that caves in New Zealand offer some activities I haven’t enjoyed else where.  In Waitomo we repelled (or abseiled, as they say in German, and in New Zealand for some reason) into the caverns, and took a zip line (or flying fox as they call them in New Zealand, for some reason) across one of the larger caves.  A friend told me of climbing water falls underground, and moving along underground rivers with just enough space for his head, and lots of spiders, above the water.

Continuing west, the vista of Upper Takaka opened up before me from Takaka Hill.

Upper Takaka from Takaka Hill
Upper Takaka from Takaka Hill
Upper Takaka from Takaka Hill
Upper Takaka from Takaka Hill

In Takaka I stopped at a sort of rest area, took shelter from some rain, and reviewed my options.  I decided on The Grove Scenic Reserve as something I could see in a short time, thus good for dodging potential rain.  Low clouds enhanced views of the mountains along the way.

Mountain view from Takaka
Mountain view from Takaka

When I reached The Grove it was sprinkling, and soon began to rain harder.  I had a snack while I waited, then decided to drive on.  A short drive later I stopped to check Google Maps and realized that the rain had stopped, so I went back.

Back at the carpark I spoke with a couple of guys who had just arrived and discovered that both were from the USA.  One now lives in Golden Bay, the other was visiting New Zealand for the first time.  The one who lives here shared his knowledge of foliage in New Zealand.  He pointed out that the tree growing over the rock right at the entrance is a Northern rātā,

Northern rātā at the entrance to The Grove Scenic Reserve
Northern rātā at the entrance to The Grove Scenic Reserve

Northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta) is a huge forest tree endemic to New Zealand. It grows up to 25 metres (82 ft) or taller, and usually begins its life as a hemiepiphyte high in the branches of a mature forest tree; over centuries the young tree sends descending and girdling roots down and around the trunk of its host, eventually forming a massive, frequently hollow pseudotrunk composed of fused roots. In disturbed ground, or where there are gaps in the forest cover, Northern rātā will grow on the ground with a normal but short trunk.
Wikipedia

Northern rātā at the entrance to The Grove Scenic Reserve
Northern rātā at the entrance to The Grove Scenic Reserve

As the Wikipedia excerpt indicates, the rātā tree pictured is very old.  So are many of the trees in The Grove.  Our guide also pointed out young and old nīkau palm trees, which also take a long time to grow.  Young ones are visible in the lower left of the picture below.

Strange rocks and nīkau palm trees
Strange rocks and nīkau palms

Nīkau palm are the only native palm in New Zealand, and the one most seen.  They grow slowly, taking some time to look like trees.

Large and small nīkau palm trees
Large and small nīkau palms

A tree fern may be confused with a palm, but is easily distinguished by looking closely at its leaves.

Tree fern
Tree fern

The Grove is a maze of rocks and beautiful old trees.

The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve
The Grove Scenic Reserve

An especially tall passage leads to a lookout.

Passage to the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve
Passage to the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve

The view looks over farmland and distant mountains.  On a clear day you can see Farewell Spit.

View from the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve
View from the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve

We shared the lookout platform with three travelers from San Francisco, and I was obliged to remark that it was the first time that I had ever shared a space with five other people from the USA while in New Zealand.

Passage from the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve
Passage from the lookout at The Grove Scenic Reserve

Research – mostly CamperMate – had shown a campground with good WiFi and generally good reviews in Collingwood, so after saying fare-thee-well to my fellow norteamericanos I set out for that destination.  I stopped at the Golden Bay Lookout along the way.

View from Golden Bay Lookout
View from Golden Bay Lookout

When I arrived in Collingwood I made a point of first trying out the WiFi.  It worked well, and indoors in front of my laptop was the place to be when it started raining – and then poured.  A young German lad put the TV on Fútbol Americano and got me hooked on a sport I hadn’t watched all season.  He also told me of a sport called handball that is popular in Europe, mostly soccer without feet, with some rules similar to basketball.  Although he is keenly interested in sports, I was able to tell him of the existence of American handball, although I had to consult Wikipedia for details.  The next day started clear and sunny, then poured again for hours, so I watched a second day of the NFL playoffs.

Collingwood is a small town with one main street that ends at a campground that I stayed at ten years ago.  My campsite back then was right on the coast, offering an amazing view that I could enjoy from the bed in my van.  I took pictures of that view every day during my recent stay in Collingwood.  I’ll share just one of them in this post.

View of Kahurangi National Park over Ruataniwha Inlet and Golden Bay, from Collingwood
View of Kahurangi National Park over Ruataniwha Inlet and Golden Bay, from Collingwood

To view the full gallery of 36 pictures on imgur, click here.