From the heat of Queensland and Victoria, I came home to rain and wind and the flax in full bloom.
Flax flowers bring about peak tui season and the rain deters them not one bit. In fact I suspect that the rainwater assists in the extraction of the nectar from the flowers.
The earth was still moving regularly, though from my perspective, the tremors were small and of of more interest to the seismographs than to real life. The consequences of the big shake on November 14 are still being felt in Wellington and elsewhere. Many thousands of city workers are unable to return to their normal places of work because they are deemed unsafe, or are yet to be proven safe. Some are already being demolished including the movie theatre complex and the Eastern half of the car park at the Queensgate shopping mall in Lower Hutt. This is unfortunate for the owners of the New World supermarket across the road. Though their store was undamaged, they were not allowed in because of risk posed by the weakened building and the mandated demolition process. A large marquee has been erected in their car park behind the shop and they have created a “pop-up” supermarket to tide them over for the next week or so.
Mary and I are in Waiheke at present, to attend the wedding of a niece. We decided to drive to Auckland and then catch a ferry across to the island. but to have a day’s stopover in Tokaanu, just to the North of the mountains. The wet weather persisted and we caught no glimpse of the mountains from the Desert Road. However, as we neared Turangi the weather started to improve and I saw the spectacular cloud above through the windscreen.
Mary is a great walker, so she wanted to do the walk around Lake Rotopounamu on the South side of the Ponanga Saddle. Early on our layover day, we drove up the saddle from where I paused to construct a panorama if the view to the North over Lake Taupo.
Then we reached the walkway to Lake Rotopounamu. Put this on your bucket list as one of those small jewels to see before you pass on. It sits inside the Tongariro National Park which is itself a World Heritage site. The track to the lake climbs steadily for twenty minutes through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful bush I have ever seen. Mighty trees and beautiful ferns are made more special by the unceasing birdsong all around.
Down at the lake all was still and peaceful. I set about making images while Mary set off around the 5 km lakeside track. As you can see, the weather had significantly improved.
Since we were on the South side of the saddle, we decided to visit the mountains. There is a Maori proverb or whakatauki which goes “Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei!” …. seek what is really important and let nothing but a mighty mountain get in your way. There in front of us, were three mighty mountains, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. But out here the wind was bitter and there was moisture in the air. We went up the mountain past Chateau Tongariro to the “Top of the Bruce”. Since the ski lifts were running for tourists, the restaurant was open, and we were told the ride on the lift was $35 per adult but quietly advised “don’t go, it’s too darned cold”. We agreed and settled for our tea, coffee and hot scone and then headed back towards Tokaanu.
Just past the junction with the mountain road and highway 47, we came to an unspectacular bridge across the Whakapapanui River and the quite spectacular Mahuia rapids which is apparently popular with people in kayaks with a death wish. It was lovely to look at but nothing on Earth would persuade me to get in.
Yesterday we set out early from Tokaanu bound for Auckland and Waiheke. From Karapiro onwards, the roads are so changes since I was last in the North that I felt like a foreigner in my own land. We followed SH1B (whatever that is) and emerged at Taupiri Mountain beside the Waikato river without ever sighting Cambridge or Hamilton. The GPS in my smartphone guided us through an Auckland that I never knew, to Half Moon Bay and an unmemorable trip on the vehicle ferry to the island. The greyness and the wind did not offer the welcome I hoped for but the sunset was a delight.
I had gone to bed but chose to look out the window back towards the city and decided I needed one more shot.