Tonight it has rained constantly and when I wake up this is still the case. After a it’s raining a little less and the sky is getting lighter as well. I pack everything immediately and prepare for departure. Soon after, it stops raining completely. The waterfall I tried to go to yesterday evening (Rainbow Falls) is the first subject for today. I return to the same parking lot, but by ignoring the GPS and following my instinct instead, I end up close to the parking lont, but only on the other side of the river quite unexpectedly. Here I find out that the waterfall takes a walk of 4 kilometers.
This can not be right, because according to my notes, the waterfall can be reached from Kerikeri with a 5 minute walk. Now that I take a closer look, there appear to be two waterfalls. From the parking lot, Rainbow Falls is the second waterfall to reach when you start walking from here. From the center, Rainbow Falls is the first one you come across, and you can continue to the second one. So, there must be another, more direct way to the falls. After driving around for a while I kind of give up and go for a refuel of the car.
After having payed I notice a schoolbus. The driver most certainly knows how to get there. And indeed she does. I have to go back in the direction of the parking lot but then left instead of right. Found it after all! Road markings in New Zealand are a complete disaster at times. Either, there is one signpost somewhere and after that they are missing, while you still have to make some turns to get there or there is only one signpost right at the entrance but it is not clear how to get there in the first place.
Rainbow Falls can only be photographed from above…
…and from the side or you have to make a scary descend to photograph from the bottom.
Not far from here is Haruru Falls. Very easy to get to and only a few minutes walking, away from the parking lot. The weather is reasonably good for waterfall photography: clouded.
The Kawiti Glow Worm Caves are on the route southward. I have seen these caves on a previous visit, so I will skip them this time. There are so many other things to see. They should be on the wishlist for a first visit to New Zealand, however. In a few days I will discover that I have not seen these caves before and that I have mistaken them with the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The Waitomo caves where exceptionally beautiful and really worth seeing. For me it was a very special experience at the time. The caves here a different and therefore they will be on my wishlist for the next visit.
The drawback of commercial glow worm caves is, that you are not allowed to photograph them, because everyone else is using flash units. If these worms are exposed too often to light or to too much light to stop emitting light. As a result no insects come to them anymore and they die. The last time I told them that I do not use flash units, they told me they make no exception, because if they permit one person, everyone else think they are allowed to. Of course there is also a commercial factor. They rather have you buying their photographs.
While I am writing this, my neighbours are practising a kind of false Karaoke. Really awful to listen to. They have been doing this all evening already.
Whangarei Falls is the next stop. One can walk around this waterfall completely via a path. Lighting is difficult though. The only good place to photograph it today is from the bottom, but then you are looking right into a bright white sky. The reflection on the falling water is also quite horrible and difficult to get right.
I shoot a couple of photographs, but these are no toppers. Here is a vertical one.
I continue a bit along the river. I meet a couple along the way and they tell me that they have seen a big bird in the river. Only 5 minutes further I see a kind of Cormorant sitting. He is really at ease, me photographing him.
On the way back to the car it starts raining heavily. Within a few minutes I am completely soaked. It does not really matter that much though. If you move a little, you sweat like an Ox here. The climate north of Auckland is subtropic and I think that humidity is close to 100%. The rain is a welcome cool down, only a little bit too much for fun.
The landscape is more common today. There still are hills but the views are wider and there are much more trees. Completely unexpected I find a couple of lollipops in the car. Yes! (-;
The Waipu Caves have glowworms as well but these caves have not been commercialised. These are on my wishlist for this trip. Maybe here I do have a chance to take photographs of the little lights. At home and on paper it all looked like a cunning plan. But the closer I get, the less I am feeling like it. I do pay them a visit, because they are kind of on route. First have a good look and then decide what to do. This one is also difficult to find. The GPS knows the location but appears to miss it with a couple of hundred meters and sends me on a narrow road with a dead end. I have to go back all the way in reverse because turning is not an option here. Back at the main road I spot a car a bit further back and there is a small sign indicating ‘caves’.
I already know that to see the glowworms, you have to proceed 100 meters into the cave and you will get wet feet doing it. In the car I already had my doubts because I have only one little headlight with me and am unsure how good the batteries still are. It is only a few minutes walk to the caves, so let’s check them out first. Arriving at the caves, uncertainty quickly turns into certainty. It is a stinking dark hole, with a small stream entering or exiting it (the water is not moving now). The water is kneedeep and next to it in the cave is a lot of brown, wet clay. I enter the cave and walk a couple of meters, just to taste the atmosphere. Lot of buzzing noises here and the clay is very slippery.
I think I would be able to keep things dry for the first tens of meters, but I would have to walk through this water inevitable for the other part. After the first 10 meters you have to turn left and then continue for another 90 meters into the dark. Images of the two “The Descend” movies slip into mind, uninvited. Entering the cave on my own, does not seem to be a very sensible thing to do. A reconnaissance expedition with a minimum of two people and a couple of well charged flashlights would not be a problem at all. But alone…, no thank you. It is also quite unsure whether the glowworms are as spectacular here as they are in the commercial caves. I think they are not.
The Karaoke noise has stopped finally. You really do not want to be exposed to this for too long. It is quiet not, except for the cicades that is.
Rock and Water
After this I continue to Te Arai Point. This one also appears to be difficult to find. I drive around for a couple of hours before I find the right road to it. This time the GPS is a few kilometers off target. A lady with dog is able to point me into the right direction. The sight is not spectacular, but there a couple of photogenic rocks on the beach.
Apart from a single fisher man and a couple of beachcombers a few miles away, the beach is empty. I am barely in time to make this last photograph, because the water is rising and covers the stones partly, soon after.
View from Above
Wenderholm Regional Park is the next stop. This park is packed with birds and you see and hear them really everywhere. I take a short but firm hike to a viewpoint and shoot a couple of overview photographs. The grass looks unbelievably fresh green here.
Back at the car I play with some 20 ducks for a while. I have a half loaf of bread in the car. First there is only one duck. I rest myself on the ground and keep a piece of bread before his face until he is ready to eat from my hand. It is really unbelievable how much a duck can eat. I feed him a complete slice of bread and he is still asking for more. Every few seconds or so, he has to swallow to keep everything in. Soon after, another one sees that food is available. Shortly after that the whole bunch is running and flying in. Some of them dare te eat from my hand. They become less and less afraid and even walk over my legs for a bit of the bread. After this, I let them jump for it. Just keeping the bread a little higher every time and ‘jump’ (-; There is also a Takahe, which poses for a nice picture.
Unbelievably, they continue with it again. Who wants to listen to this crap? It is really unbareable.
In the end I also have Okura Bush on the list for today. A nice area with beautiful flowers. This one again is difficult to find and I decide to let it go, because it is already getting late. I find a motel, somewhere south of Auckland.
Karaoke and Cicades
It is time to make some decisions. In total I will be here 31 days and even that is not enough to see everything. The north island is for me particularly interesting because of the ancient forests and Rotorua, the volcanic landscape that is somewhat comparable with Yellowstone National Park. The south island is offers much more variation with the Alps, the glaciers, the Moeraki Boulders, glider flying, whales, fur seals, penguins, the sounds (fjords) and maybe a train ride. Because of that, I intend to reserve 2/3 of the total time here to the south island. I try to plan the route as efficiently as possible in that I have to drive as less kilometers as possible while seeing as much as possible. But only in the last few days I have already covered 1600 kilometers.
So, I will have approximately 20 days for the south island and a maximum of 11 on the north island. Amazingly enough, only that small piece of land, north of Auckland has taken 4 days already. Much more than I planned on forehand. If I compare the part on the map I have covered so far, with the part that still have to be done, it is totally clear that it does not going to fit in the 6-7 days left on the north island. Making choices is the only thing that is left to do.
Sometimes it is better to just ignore a particular part. Next time you visit, there is still uncovered territory to explore, making it more attractive to return. Otherwise you will tend to drive the same routes, seeing the same things again. I want to see Mt Egmond in the west in any case together with the volcanic landscape in the centre. The area south of Hamilton in the west and north of Wellington are interesting as well. With a bit of phantasy, the rest of the route comes into being: Rotorua, Taupo, below Hamilton, Mt Egmond, Wellington. The eastcape is quite off route and would take a lot of time and kilometers to cover. That one I will ignore completely and save for the next time.
I have been having doubts about Coromandel Peninsula (to the right of Auckland) for days. Meanwhile I have decided to visit it. It is only 1.5 hours driving from Auckland and I can visit a waterfall on the way there as well. It is somewhat on the route to Rotorua. I do know that Coromandel will take a complete day to visit, but curiosity is a bit too strong to ignore it.
Now that the Karaoke-noise has finally ended, there are only Cicades left, but I can live with that.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.