Monday, June 24, 2019

Avec Video: Taranaki Falls Walking Track, Tongariro National Park

 (If you're reading in email, click here to go to our site to view the videos.)

One last hike before leaving this magnificent park. On a sunny Monday, we went after this 6 km loop track in the wonderland that is Tongariro.

Remember this volcano from our other walk? Now it's fully shrouded in snow.

Let's let the pictures do most of the talking...


It's a lovely day, but that sign still feels ominous


On the way to the falls, Wairere Stream in action.

Taranaki Falls coming into view

 The return started with a steep upward climb, quickly leveling out to a glorious stroll.

Shout out to the NZ Dept of Conservation (DOC) for spending god only knows how much time on these tracks to keep them not only passable, but tidy. Remember, one million people visit annually, most in summer because these hikes are a serious draw.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rainy Day at Tongariro + Some Park Facts

We welcomed a rainy day after our exertion-filled walk. In fact we did another shorter trek (the Ridge Walk) the day after and halfway up Art turned around and asked: why are we doing this? He does not look happy to be at the viewing point, does he.

Bodies need to rest and recover and yesterday's rain day provided. We strolled over to the visitor center, where they had some cool dioramas that put these volcanoes in perspective. (Did I mention we also paid for a few more nights in this beautifully-located campground? We depart tomorrow after five days--still not enough to see the park.)

Cribbing from Lonely Planet...
Tongariro National Park's landmark features are its active volcanoes. Three of them--Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe (with its symmetrical cone), and Tongagiro--lie at the southern end of a volcanic chain that extends northwest through the heart of the North Island, past Taupo and Rotorua and, finally, Whakaari (White) Island.

Mt Ngauruhoe 
(or as I call it "Mt Unpronounceable," the symmetrical one you seen in all our pix)

Via the Dept of Conservation website...
Tongariro was the first national park formed in New Zealand, and the fourth in the world. It was the first national park in the world to be gifted by a country's indigenous people, on 23 September 1887.
When established the original size of Tongariro National Park was 2,640 hectares. It has gradually increased to its present size of 79,596 hectares (ed note: nearly 200,000 acres).
Today, approximately one million people visit Tongariro National Park each year. Despite the popular ski fields on Mount Ruapehu (ed note: which are rockin' right now), there are more visitors in summer than winter due to the excellent hiking opportunities.

Mt Ruapehu at left, Ngauruhoe at right

Mount Ruapehu

  • Mount Ruapehu's eight named glaciers are the only ones in the North Island. The summit region has a permanent cover of snow and ice. 
  • The volcanic vent in the top of the mountain contains a warm, acidic crater lake. The lake passes through regular warming and cooling cycles, which may result in small eruptions of ash and steam.
  • Mount Ruapehu is the highest point in the North Island and, like Tongariro, its history began before the last ice age.
  • More than 60 eruptions from the Ruapehu crater have been recorded since 1945.
  • During the 1995 and 1996 eruptions, the Crater Lake disappeared completely, then refilled over several years. 
 Volcanic eruptions
  • The Te Maari craters on the northern slopes of Mount Tongariro erupted on 6 August 2012 and 21 November 2012
  • Traditionally Ngauruhoe has erupted at least every nine years, although the last eruption was in 1975
  • Mount Tongariro's active Red Crater last emitted ash in 1926
  • Mount Ruapehu's last eruption was 25 September 2007. Prior to that there were large eruptions in 1995 and in 1996.
Time to seek out a flat white. We walked to the other hotel in tiny Whakapapa, called the Skotel, apparently a mash-up of Ski + Hotel (mildly annoying, that name, but cozy inside). The place was virtually empty but a friendly host said she could make us a coffee. Yes, please. We warmed our damp toes by the fire.

Tramping is walking multiple days and sleeping over in huts sprinkled across this grand landscape. 

I almost forgot. At the visitor center they had an exhibit on goodnature stoat/rat/possum traps. Regular readers know that mammals of the order rodentia devastate bird populations in this country, resulting in traps, poison, and all manner of eradication efforts.

Seems someone has devised a quick and painless death for the interlopers. From the site:
Get more bang, bang, bang... for your buck. Our A24 rat & stoat trap resets itself 24 times per gas canister and comes with a pump that refreshes the lure automatically for six months. Our A12 trap for possums resets itself 12 times per gas canister.

Here's a video of how it works (click here if you can't view vid). "Possums killed humanely and instantly when they bite and pull on the lure-filled bite block."

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Kiwi Finds Food Parcel, Does Happy Dance

Late-night happiness at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in Dunedin when a kiwi discovers a food stash. Happy Sunday all...

The secret night-time habits of a little kiwi at Orokonui Ecosanctuary have been captured on tape.
Footage of a kiwi apparently "dancing" around a feeder has been posted online by staff at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, near Dunedin.

It shows one of the Ecosanctuary's little birds hopping around a feeding station just before 7am, "right before this little kiwi would have gone to bed for the day".

"Clearly being up all night hadn't tired this bird out!" the post said.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary head ranger Kelly Gough said the kiwi was most likely a bird called Rawiri, who had been at the sanctuary since May. He was born in December last year.
Gough believed it was one of the best videos the sanctuary had captured. She did not think the behaviour was too unusual for kiwis, which did " tend to bounce around a lot" when they were young. They were very good jumpers and sometimes jumped right over the feeders, which they often hung around.
Gough thought this little kiwi might have been "practising his fight moves" or just had a lot of energy to burn.

Mountain Camping + Yesterday's Hike to Silica Rapids

We're warm and toasty in our caravan despite the cold mountain temperatures that ultimately deliver days of perfect clarity. With the winter solstice upon us, we take mornings slowly, enjoying coffee and internet updates before making a big first meal.

Dijon + rosemary crusted lambchops for the big walk

The caravan has double glazed windows and two heaters, so we're always warm. When we finally set out on a trek, the sun is higher in the sky, the air incredibly clean and sun-warmed.

The track first meanders through a beech forest, but I like these trees too.

A bubbling stream ahead, with orange-gold bottom, courtesy of the iron-oxide clay from upstream swamps.

Soon the landscape shifts dramatically.

Our path shifts to a boardwalk over a swampy area of tangle fern, red tussock, and wire rush.

Ponds next to the boardwalk are home to freshwater crayfish.

Now we're in a dense forest beside a stream tumbling over ancient lava flow. Walking uphill to Punaruku Falls, which provides big audio, though we only catch a glimpse of it and I never get a shot of the falls themselves because the trail veers off.

The trees give way to sun-loving alpine growth. In the distance are two of the three people we saw on this four-hour walk.

Finally we reach Silica Rapids. Where the stream emerges from the lava cliffs at the head of the valley the water is rich in silicate minerals and aluminum. As it moves, the water aerates, laying down deposits on the stream bed rocks.

An into-the-sun shot to show the landscape behind us.This place is a treasure.

Now the route climbs to a tussock covered lava flow.  It's easy to look down all the time to avoid a stumble, but well worth pausing to view the path ahead (although sometimes this is also exhausting).

The last portion of the loop track winds through sub-alpine shrubs to the Bruce Road--the only road in this part of the park--which leads back to Whakapapa Village. and our camspsite. But we have a way to go before we see the road.

First a deep deep staircase down to another bridged walkway. Art's glad to have his homemade walking stick with the sheep horn handle.

After three and a half hours of multi-terrain hiking I thought we'd seen it all until we came to these high steps going up, the path secured with small boulders. Gently, carefully...keep those ankles secure.

Whew, another bog.

Magnificent, with its own weather system.

The sun is fully out and we are warm. Also joyful.

Last leg before the road (see Art down there?). If you made it this far, thanks for walking with us and looking at too many volcano pictures.

After four hours, Art's fitbit says we walked 16,000 steps and 88 floors. This hike spanned 7 km /4.5 miles (most of them uphill I suspect).

 2.5 km to go

We proceeded to walk 500 yards past our campground and straight into the cafe at the Chateau for a bit of pate and a flat white.

Brilliant trek. We are knackered!