Day 10/35

Tarawera Falls

This morning, I wake up a little bit too late to my taste: 07:30. This night I have had another fight with a refrigerator that was quite noisy here as well. Luckily I found the off-switch after a while. The weather outside is perfect. The sun has already risen and there is a clear blue sky, finally, after all these cloudy days.

For one reason or another I can find only left socks this morning.
All the right ones are gone. (-;

I depart for Kawerau, a village to the east of Rotorua. Here, you can by a permit to visit the Tarawera Falls which is located in an area where trees are logged. The road to the falls runs through the forest and you have to keep a really sharp lookout for logging trucks; large long trucks carrying trees. Especially the back side can sweep across the other side where the road curves.

On the way I notice a large bird feasting on a pray. When I arrive, it departs swiftly. I do not know exactly what it is, but it is quite large with a wingspan of at least one meter. I recognise the long legs of the pray immediately: a Wallaby. I have read earlier that there are Wallabies in New Zealand. Most likely they have been imported from Australia.

A couple of kilometers further I suddenly see something move along the road. A bit later I see even more: 6 Wallabies are basking in the sun, but quickly disappear when I pass by. One of them doesn’t and I manage to photograph him. In fact, the cute little thing is lighted from the wrong side, but I think it will disappear like the others as soon as I move. This photo is therefore more ‘nice’ than ‘beautiful’

Wallaby in Tarawera Falls area, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

A bit further there is another bird of pray sitting in the middle of the road. These are really too shy to pose for a photo. They are very keen to keep their distance. Another species of bird that is quite abundant here is black and white. From a distance they look like Magpies but a closer look make me think of Killerwhales, strangely enough: round shapes with black and white areas.

After a while, I arrive at a small parking lot and again I am the only one here. The path to the waterfalls runs through a nice forest for some 40 minutes. This waterfall is a special one. The river goes underground and continues through an old lava tunnel, that was created around 11.000 years ago during an eruption of Mt. Tarawera. The water reappears from the middle of a rockwall, to plunge 65 meter back into the river in a fume of mist.

The first time in New Zealand, I have been here as well. This time, water erupts from 4 tunnels and the complete drainage area is overgrown. The last time this was all open terrain. The light is quite worthless: bright sunlight and the waterfall itself in shade. I try to shoot some photographs but the difficult light and the thick vegetation make things rather complicated. Here is one for the record, although I had something else in mind before coming here.

Tarawera Falls, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

On the way back I pass the area again, where I have seen the Wallabies earlier. This time I see all of them again and they immediately disappear in the forest. So, I turn off the engine and wait for a while. Soon they reappear. Apparently they like being in the sun. They look a bit suspicious at me and keep a sharp lookout. One is nicely lighted by the sun and I manage to photograph him.

Tarawera Falls, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

Soon they seem to feel comfortable again. It is just a case of sitting still and being quiet. For both photographs I have to cut a large part off, because the forest behind the animal is very dark compared to the sunlit areas. Apart from that, there are many out of focus bushes in the image that do nothing more than distract. A large telelens would have been more easy here, but I am not carrying one of those currently.

Tarawera Falls, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

Lake Tarawera

Hereafter I continue to Lake Tarawera that is in the same area. Arriving there, I notice two black swans, which feels quite special. They are far away but I shoot already a photograph of one of them, hoping for a closer look, later.

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

Suddenly a boat appears and comes in at great speed. Some people leave the boat and disappear in the forest. The swans peddle in the direction of the boat.

All this morning I have been looking around for Mt Tarawera, the volcano that must be here somewhere. Then, finally I see it. It is much lower than expected. One can see the red colours on the top very well.

I walk in the direction of the boat to figure out where the swan pair has gone and start talking with the boatowner. He tells me that Mt Tarawera are actually three volcanoes. They are sacret for the Maori. Some years ago, two boys raced to one of the tops with a motorcycle and crashed right into the crater. Both were dead. That has been one of the reasons to close the whole mountain for tourists.

The man himself is married to a Maori woman and lives in one of the two geothermal areas close to Rotorua. There are no coloured pools or geysers overthere, only mud pools and steam. The parks show the daily live of the Maori. Women baking bread on a bubbling mud pool is not my kind a thing. That one I am going to skip.

We are standing on a little bridge over the Tarawera River, which looks more like a stream than a river to me. The river drains the lake and continue to Tarawera Falls. From here you can take a 3.5 hour walk to the place where the river disappears underground.

Fishing is prohibited in the first part of the river because a lot of young trout are living here. Somewhat further downstream, two men are walking through the river poking into the riverbed with long sticks. It is totally unclear for us what they are doing.

He further tells me that Mt Tarawera currently does not show any activity. The hill behind us does. That one grows and is building up pressure. On GeoNet New Zealand all quakes in New Zealand can be followed. All volcanoes here are of the Mt St Helens type. They contain very sticky lava that barely flows, but only builds up pressure. The last eruption of Mt Tarawera only lasted 5 hours, causing a lot of devastation. Lake Tarawera was lifted 12 meters as a result of the event.

A large earth quake has been expected for years in Wellington. The one in Christchurch was completely unexpected. After chatting for an hour I remember that I have to continue. Time is pressing.

The swans are now a lot closer and I shoot some photo’s.

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

I think of some cookies that are still in the car and get them. I crumble them and throw the pieces in the water. The swans approach and…

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

…do not really know what to do with it.

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

Then I throw some small stones in the water that seems to attract them…

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

…but soon after they know that there is nothing there for them and they peddle away.

Black Swans, Lake Tarawera, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.


According to the GPS, Waimangu Volcanic Valley is only 15 kilometers away as the crow flies, but via the road it will take one and half hours.

I arrive around 15:00. 2 hours should be enough to see everything…but is not. This area is much larger than anticipated. The walk takes one and a half hours and you have to return by bus. The last one departs at 16:40 which leaves very little time for photography. Also there is the possibility to take a small tour with a boat. Taking all into account, the available time today is just too short. I decide to return tomorrow. It’s a pity for the lost time, but there is nothing to it.

But now what? It is too early to call it a day.

I return to Rotorua en start looking for the gondola I have seen somewhere this morning. I just can not remember where. The GPS knows it. In the end it sends me up a mountain, but this road ends up in a restaurant. GPS coordinates of attractions are all wrong.

The only other thing to do is to go to the Whakarewarewa Forest with the Sequoias. I am really looking forward to that one. Yesterday I already found it’s location and this time it is very easy to find. This is a nice varied, open forest. The first thing to attract me is the canopy of some giant Sequoias.

Sequoia Canopy, Whakarewarewa Forest, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

The sun can be excluded by zooming in. I am still not clear about which one I like more.

Sequoia Canopy, Whakarewarewa Forest, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

There are several walks here and I choose one with an average length. That will give me enough time to stop and shoot.

The next photo is taken from a narrow wooden pathway running over a shallow stream. Vapour is arising from the water and when I stick my hand in, it appears to be comfortably warm. The stream flows further into the forest in the direction of the Sequoias in the background. The foreground is covered with tree ferns and reed. My own shadow emerges softly in the left bottom corner.

Whakarewarewa Forest, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

A bit further I have a nice view on the canopy from under a tree fern.

Whakarewarewa Forest, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

At the end of the walk, the sun is approaching it’s lowest point, sprinkling nice warm light on a Sequoia trunk.

Sequoia Trunk, Whakarewarewa Forest, late summer, North Island, New Zealand.

The trees have been planted in 1901 and are already 110 years old. Some trunks have a diameter of well over 2 meter. It is very difficult to estimate but I think that these trees are more than 40 meters high. These Sequoias can live for 1800 years. The largest (in California) is 115 meters high having a diameter of almost 8 meter. Thus, this forest has juveniles only.

In the end, I have been walking here for more than two and a half hours. Many people are hiking and jogging here. It seems like they all go to the forest directly after work. This is a very pretty forest. I would really like to have one close to my home.

Back to the Hotel

Around 7 the day finally comes to an end. Time for food, and lots of it. Yesterday I ate a healthy salad. Today I will return to the Indian restaurant, which claims to be the best.

Returning in my hotel I notice with a smile on my face that the gondola departs some 200 meters from my hotel.

Tomorrow I will return to Waimangu Volcanic Valley for a proper visit, to continue to Taupo afterwards.

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, New Zealand Late Summer 2011, Day 10

Download the original gpx file gpx file here.