Waihi, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand 2017
In November Sophie arrived from Hobart. Ocean Child was resting quietly in the Town Basin Marina at Whangarei.
My "tennis elbow" injury was still causing trouble.
We decided to take the Honda south to the Bay of Plenty to visit friends Wyn and Chris near Tauranga, then later Martina and Willy in Auckland.
Wyn and Chris own an orchard north of Tauranga, where they grown macadamia, kiwi-fruit and avocados. Their farm is situated by the shore of a large estuary which extends to the northwest of Tauranga. Tauranga was a rather larger city than I had expected, with a busy industrial port, and several 'boutique' sea-side suburbs.
Tsunamis, although very rare, present a threat, and education and warning systems are in place. The notice above was situated on the beach-front near Mount Manganui, a small extinct volcano at the entrance to the harbour.
One of the striking features of New Zealand orchard areas is the use of windbreaks like these below. I have never seen anything like this in Australia.
My car... a 1997 Honda 'Logo'... so pleasant to drive.
The coastline, away from the shallow estuary, is a mixture of ocean beaches and rocky headlands.
This (below) is a typical view looking east to the Pacific Ocean.
The range of hills to the north of Waihi still retains large areas of native forest, although generally without the original trees (especially Kauri) which were harvested for timber. There are many walking tracks, often beside beautiful streams, like this one.
In a few places, kauri remain.
.... and tall ferns, which by Australian standards assume the height of palm trees rather than ferns.
Waihi, as a town, is conscious of the need to protect the heritage of its mining past. A hundred years ago, major gold mines and processing plants were constructed, and the surrounding forests striped for firewood. Apparently a tonne of firewood was needed for each ton of ore processed. Many relics remain, which now form Waihi's primary tourist attraction.
Here is a building, once a general store in Waihi, now a beautifully painted residence.
There are many walking tracks through the mining areas. I have always loved ruins...
Ferns adorn an old stone wall.
I loved the many suspension bridges, which have of course been maintained over the years to ensure safe passage.
Many of the original mining shafts have been used as rubbish dumps, and others sealed to prevent access... as you might expect. What did surprise me was that some tunnels have been left open to public access. We followed one tunnel hundreds of metres into the mountain using our phones as torches. This tunnel was in good condition, with only one area obviously recently reinforced.
We took a walk called the Windows Walk, which is a circuit, returning via an impressive gorge.
Before leaving, we bought macadamias from Wyn and Chris's stall at the Tauranga Saturday Farmers Market.
In the early days of European settlement, massive efforts were devoted to turning the native forest into farmland. As well as fertile river flats, steep country was cleared. Below... a common scene: here hilly country was cleared of native forest. Part has been converted to pine plantation, while regrowth is slowly reclaiming 'unused' areas. The tall timber which was once so prominent is now noticeably absent.
The pine plantations, while obviously without the biodiversity of native forest, do have a special atmosphere about them... largely from their darkness and silence.
Below: a photo taken at a mountain pass north of Wellington (the administrative capital city of NZ) in 1915. Vast areas were cleared of native vegetation in the period 1870 to 1910. Even ridges and streamlines were cleared in many places.
Below: here is the same area today (taken with a different camera!).
While many farmers are clearly doing well financially, which of course spills over to the rural towns, some farms seem a little run-down...
Once the humans move out, the garden moves in...
National highway 1 took us past Lake Taupo: a huge lake in the crater of an ancient volcano...
Lake Taupo's fresh waters were once crystal clear. However, with its catchment largely made up now of agricultural land, nutrients are building up, promoting the growth of algae. Polluted groundwaters draining to the lake are a 'time bomb' for future generations.
Highway 1 also passed the impressive alpine landscapes of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro, both active volcanos, for the moment sleeping quietly.