|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
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
| 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
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
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
|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.
||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.
TO MARCH 13~16
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