March 9, 2003

Breakfast at 7:30 then into our swimsuits and to the Black Water Rafting reception lounge by 8:15.  Along with nine other people we squeezed, shivered, laughed, pulled and tugged ourselves into wet suits.  After adjusting crash helmets with attached lights, we piled into a van.  At the first stop we picked out inner tubes that would properly fit our derrières (no rude comments please), had a practice dry run at linking up by holding onto the feet of the person behind us and did our first jump backwards (with inner tubes in place) into cold water.  Climbing out of the water, they loaded us and the inner tubes back into the van and took us to the start location where we waddled our way down into a cave.   Just inside the darkness, everyone sat and conversed allowing our eyes to become accustomed to the dark.  Our guides were very good at providing safety information in a way that was humorous and made us feel comfortable.
Once everyone was introduced to everyone (like we are going to remember!) we, with inner tubes in hand, made our way down deeper into the limestone cave.  Then the first big moment when we again turned backwards and threw ourselves into the watery darkness and began to float with some paddling along the underground stream - sometimes linked together but most times on our own.  When we were told to turn off our helmet lights, we were rewarded with the sight of hundreds of glowworms looking like stars in the dark arched sky.  For about ninety minutes we floated, jumped backwards over waterfalls (average 6 feet high), crawled over rocks and between narrow passage ways, floated in caves where we could reach the ceiling and others where the ceilings soared like grand cathedrals.  Now and then we turn off our lights and could see the wonderful lights of these tiny insects.  Magical!

We emerged from the tunnels at the bridge we had crossed the night before on our trail tour with Ross.  A little walk down the trail and we went back in the water to finish the rest of the trip and emerged where we had done our first orientation back jump.  The morning finished off with stripping off the wet suits, having a hot shower and visiting each other over bagels and hot tomato soup.  All in all a great experience. 

Terry and I proceeded to a museum that documented the history of the caves and viewed a film on the lifecycle of a glowworm.  Interesting.  

Accommodations in the house and cottage (shown) are "vintage country" . 

From there we went back to Big Bird B&B where we had decided to stay a second night ... but this night we would be staying in a little self-contained cottage.  As soon as we were changed from the cozy clothes we had taken for the morning into summer wear for the sunny afternoon we were off down the road again ... this time to see the Billy Black Kiwi Culture Show.  

For sheep friends, Billy Black (in real life known as Barry Wood) spent some time on Saltspring (believe he said in the 1980s) shearing sheep.  For the past few years, he has been working hard to develop this tourist show.  Along with demonstrating antique logging equipment, he also brings on stage a pig, sheep dog, sheep, rooster, possum and steer.  He says he has the first computerized farm in the region and demonstrates how he can pull ropes to open paddock gates behind the stage.  You can see them because the stage, for the most part, does not have a back wall.  The sheep dog goes and collects the sheep from the top field and brings them down, through the gates and onto the stage all in view of the audience.   He is a one man show so he uses audience  

members to help him out.  It's entertaining, a little silly in parts, but he doesn't take himself serious ... nor does his audience. I did not get a picture of him, but the caricature on his brochure is close .... except not such a notable chin.  Beside this venture, on the same property he has a banquet room (done in country style); plus a railway car and an airplane (grounded but real) he rents out for accommodation.  He is soon expecting to add a boat to the bed and breakfast accommodations.    We wish him well.


Terry put on his running shoes and ran/walked the trail starting with the part Ross does in the evening, and continuing through what some publications described as "the best short walk in New Zealand".  On his trek he came across some fellows repelling off the side of a cliff (formed from the collapse of a once cave).  They offered him a turn, but he said "perhaps later".  While he was off getting some good exercise, I treated myself to some down time ... spent mostly on putting more words and pictures on to the website pages. When it started to rain, I helped Ann pull in the laundry.  It would appear many country households still hang their laundry out to dry.

Later that night Kyle, our host's son, came over and introduced himself... it was the beginning of hours of conversation about his Harley Trike and his other dreams for area development.  While Terry and Kyle continued their talking, I went on Ross's Trail Tour and, with his permission, this time I took along the tape recorder.   As he did the first night, he pointed out the Southern Cross Constellation that us folk north of the equator don't get to see.  He also shone his flash light in the direction of the two pointer stars that can be used along with the Southern Cross to determine due south.  Looking to the heavens, without interference of bright city lights, we could see clearly the Milky Way and two galaxies.  When I got back to the B&B Kyle and Terry were still talking and I joined in for another hour or so before I told Kyle it was time to pack it in.  It's hard to shut down so much enthusiasm!


MARCH 10, 2003

Before we had finished breakfast in the main house, Kyle came by to give us a spin on his Harley Trike before he left for work. 

It's Monday.  While our host family went off to their day jobs, Terry and I packed up at a leisurely pace and started on our next leg of this wonderful trip.  Next stop ... Raetihi (pronounced Rat-a-hee).   If you are following along on the map, look on the North Island.  See Lake Taupo in the centre?  Below that it says "Mount Ruapehu 2797" and just to the south-west you will see Raetihi.  It is about the size of Lytton ... a tiny little place ... in about the same condition. 

 Surprisingly we found a lovely and unique bed and breakfast there called the Log Lodge run by Jan and Bob Lamb -- as with all New Zealanders, they were friendly and hospitable.  It is a busy bed and breakfast during New Zealand's winter months and used by skiers taking advantage of nearby Mount Ruapehu .... which by the way is an active volcano -- last eruption 1995.  We had the whole end of the house to ourselves (sleeps 8) including table area, lounge and sleeping loft.  Pictures describe it best.  First two pictures taken of the main floor and the others of the loft.  They served our breakfast on the table (first picture).  The picture of Terry reading (fourth picture) shows Mount Ruapehu in the background, unfortunately with the top covered in cloud.
Now that we had secured a New Zealand internet server (Xtra), we were anxious to get online and let everyone back home know that we were safe, enjoying ourselves and thinking of them.  Bob took a cord off a phone line and we hooked up the computer.  When that didn't work, he let me tap out a short message on his computer.   With plans to find someone to fix the problems... we went to bed.


MARCH 11, 2003

Today was not the best of days weather wise but enjoyed just the same.  We drove a total of approximately 135 miles around Tongariro National Park - in addition to its three active volcanoes it has the only permanent snow and ski slopes on the North Island - and made two side trips up  Mount Ruapehu (the tallest one) We didn't need to pack up because we were staying a second night at the Log Lodge.  We took the computer with us and enquired at a real estate office in Ohakune if they knew of anyone that might be able to look it over and fix it if necessary.  As we have come to realize, New Zealanders are most hospitable and helpful.  They called around and gave us the name of a fellow, Dave Greene, that worked as a computer programmer at the local mill ... but it was Monday and he was at work.   They sent us down the road to an Art Gallery where we met Murray ... a local artist who works with metals.  Murray wondered if it might be the cord, but decided it would be best to call Dave Greene at work.  After talking to Dave we arranged to leave the computer with Murray, Dave would pick it up and look at it, keep it over night if need be and take it to Murray's house, Murray would bring it to work and we would pick it up.

Leaving Ohakune we drove south-east to Waiouru where we turned north through the desert and past tracks made by army tanks during training.  We were told of wild horses in the area but did not see any.  We came out of the desert and into the bushlands of Kaimanawa Forest Park.  Turning west we skirted the south end of Lake Rotoaira and saw the steam rising from the Ketetahi Hot Springs.  Proceeding south we turned towards Mount Ruapehu and went up to Whakapapa Village which has a population of 200 .... and at 3697 feet it is the highest settlement in New Zealand.  
The offices of Tangariro National Park are located in Whakapapa Village with a very informative Department of Conservation Center to help the public enjoy and preserve this World Heritage Site.

Back down to the circling roadways, we continued south back to Ohakune.  Going through town, we decided on a whim to stop by the Art Gallery and asked if there was any news about the computer.  Murray had it ready for pickup.  Dave had driven down to Ohakune during his lunch hour, checked

it over and  found we were using the wrong cable to connect between the computer and telephone line ... it looks like a normal telephone cable but apparently lap tops can be fussy about such things. Happy to have the computer back in working order,  we drove up the Ohakune Mountain Road up the side of Mount  Ruapehu to the Turoa Skifield at 5250 feet. On the way down we stopped for a quick and cool peek at Mangawhero Falls before having dinner at Sassy's and  heading "home" to Log Lodge and getting connected to family and friends through the internet.  A most pleasant way to end the day.


MARCH 12, 2003

A BIG day.  A LONG day.  A FULL day.

We left the Log Lodge as soon as we finished our breakfast and headed south out of Raetihi towards Wanganui (pronounced Wang-a-new-ee) along the Whanganui River Drive ~ that is not a mistake in spelling ~ the town's name lost the "h" -- both are pronounced the same.   

We had been traveling on gravel road for quite some time when we joined up with the Whanganui River near Pipiriki  where Ted had his picture taken.   

 Whanganui River, the South Island's second longest river (50 miles), has wound it's way through New Zealand's history as well as through forests, old remote farms and beside once thriving but now forgotten industries.  Many of the places along the river bear biblical names given by the missionaries in the 1840s and have been translated into Maori. Names such as Jerusalem (Hiruharama in Maori) and Corinth (Koriniti in Maori).  


Our next stop was at Jerusalem (Hiruharama) where a peaceful Roman Catholic church and small convent overlook the river.


The old nuns go quietly about their chores of gardening and laundry as tourist roam about the grounds and into the church.  

The first church on this site was built in 1885 but was destroyed by fire in 1888.  The current church as built in 1892 and dedicated in 1893.  

On the walls just below the ceiling and as panels on both sides of the alter is painted the traditional Kowhaiwhai pattern of  the Whanganui River flowing around each bend .  The distinctive Maori alter is carved from wood and symbolizes the Christian trinity and was erected at the time of the Church's restoration. 

From Jerusalem we passed through London (Ranana) and on to the Kawana Flour Mill.   This site is free (donations accepted) and  unmanned but inside the Mill there are pictures of it's productive days as the most successful flour mill in the valley.

Beside the red and white mill building with its large water wheel, mill stone and grading bins, there is the Miller's Cottage completely equipped on the outside with troughs and barrel to catch rain water and on the inside as though awaiting for the miller to complete his work and come home. 

We continued down the Whanganui River road and stopped when we saw some activity at a shearing shed.  When we were given permission to enter we grabbed the camera and watched the young Maori gentleman shear a sheep.  We asked permission to photograph while he sheared the next and he said, "Oh, that was the last one!"  He kindly took the time to talk with us and explain some of the sheep raising practices that they use.  Perendale crosses are popular sheep in this rugged, scrub area of the North Island.  He had done his major shearing earlier in the month and these were "just a few" that had slipped by.  Market lambs range from NZ$90
when market is strong to NZ$70 "when the market is flooded" as it currently is.  With the all-year-round mild weather and no predators, barns are not necessary and at lambing time they make the rounds every two to three days to see if things are progressing smoothly.  Other than that they see then when shearing and separating the market lambs and selecting replacement ewes.  Each year this farm cull 100 older ewes and replace with 100 ewe lambs.
Later we passed tall cliffs imbedded with oyster shells, some whole, some in pieces .... a keen reminder that this valley was once a sea bed.  The gravel road became a paved highway and we were soon in Wanganui, one of the oldest towns in New Zealand -- and like the places we just passed -- settled in the 1840s.
 We have made a practice of making our first stop in any town the Information Center ... a good source of local information including pleasant places to have our picnic lunches or dinners.  This time they directed us to beautiful Victoria Park where we found a picnic table right beside the pond and a goose persisted in letting Terry know she should have been invited to dinner.
To have a bird's eye view of the city, we headed for the Durie Hill Elevator.
   This unique form of commuter service began in 1919 so that the population of the Durie Hill suburb would have easy access to the city.  At the bottom of this steep hill, engineers bore a 699 foot tunnel into the hillside.  At the end of the tunnel an elevator rises 217 feet emerging into daylight at the top of the hill.   If you are energetic or do not have the NZ$1 to pay the elevator operator for a one way fare, the other choice is to climb the 194 stairs.   Once on top of the hill (we paid the money and took the elevator) we went to the nearby Durie Hill Memorial and climbed the 176 stairs (no elevator) to the top and enjoyed the 360 degree view.
It seemed that we had already had a full day of driving and seeing, but we pushed southwards from Wanganui through Turakina and Bulls where unusual signage gave us a few laughs.  To promote the town of "Bulls" some shops have adjusted their names.  For example we saw "Transport-a-bull" in front of a trucking firm and "Const-a-bull" hanging over the police station and "indispens-a-bull" for the drug store.  With smiles on our faces we turned south-west onto Highway 1 by Sanson, down through Himatangi, Foxton and Levin to Otaki where we found a B&B (pictures below), had a quick and light dinner from our picnic basket and went to bed .... exhausted but with smiles on our faces from the many sites we had seen throughout the day. 


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