(back to Tongariro - Part Two)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 (continued)
When I left Tongariro I had decided to go to the Coromandel Peninsula - even though I didn't have a specific plan in mind. I almost got all the way there, but not quite. Late at night, I pulled into Te Aroha and found a campsite.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
In the morning I treated myself to a big breakfast in Te Aroha, and then drove the remaining hour to Thames - the major town on the Coromandel Peninsula. The plan was to find a campsite and then go hiking, but I stopped at three campgrounds and no one was behind the counters... just signs saying they would be back in the afternoon. Strange... but not a big deal. I just decided to go hiking first and sort out a campsite afterwards.
Once again, I stopped in the Thames iSite with no plan and walked out good-to-go. I asked about where I could see the kauri trees. They are the largest native trees in New Zealand - kinda like redwoods in California, but not quite THAT big. They were lumbered quite a bit by the Maori settlers and even more by the European settlers, until now there are almost none. There aren't many groves of kauri trees, and the remaining groves are pretty small. But the woman knew of two hikes where I could see at least a few kauri trees... I chose the Waiomu Kauri Walk and set off.
It was supposed to be about two hours round trip to hike up to the kauri grove and back. I took my time and lingered here and there and it ended up taking closer to four hours. It was so easy to linger on this hike. I didn't see anyone on the trail until I was almost back to my car. The trail went through rainforest the entire way (like in the photo to the left), and crossed a stream numerous times. So it was easy to find places to sit and hang out a bit. I thought quite a bit about the trip in general - had I met my trip goals? how had I changed? things like that... it was a really nice hike.
Eventually, I got to the grove of kauri trees. I only saw about five mature trees, and about twenty younger trees... it was a small grove... kinda sad actually. The trail went right by a particularly large tree and a bench. This photo to the right is me in action - hugging the largest tree in the grove . I finally took some time here to figure out how to do the self-timer on my digital camera - as I said, it was easy to linger here. This tree was so old, and so beautiful. I couldn't get the entire tree in one shot, so the photo to the left is of the top of it.
This hike was much less rugged than all the other hikes I'd done. There was evidence of logging, and there were warning signs about poisonous traps to catch non-native animals, and there were signs warning about abandoned, unstable mining shafts and tunnels. This was one of the northernmost parts of the country (the warmest) and therefore the most populated historically and currently. But as I got closer to the kauri grove it became more rugged... I imagine that's why the trees were never cut down... it was probably too much hassle to get them out of the rugged hills to make cutting them worth it.
After the hike I drove back into Thames and found a campsite relatively easy. I didn't like this campground much because there were a half dozen teenagers that were really loud - shouting... and some girl kept letting out blood-curtling screams. A tent has walls, but they're only cloth and all noise goes through them - they're not like RV walls, or building walls. I easily heard enough to find out that one of the boys kept hiding around corners and purposely scaring the heebeegeebees out of her... adolescent flirting, but it was annoying. But that stopped eventually and I slept pretty well.
The photo to the left is of my final campsite in New Zealand.
Friday, March 31, 2006
In the morning I packed up, and started on the drive to Auckland to catch my 1pm flight. I started taking the scenic route, but soon realized if I took this longer route I wasn't going to have time to dry everything out, pack it properly and get organized for the flights. So I got back to the highway and took the more direct route. Eventually, I found a parking lot to dry out in. It was a place where people come with binoculars and watch the planes take off and land. Eventually, I had myself all together and soon was sitting at a gate waiting for the flight. Good Bye New Zealand...
Flight back to the United States
The flight from Auckland to L.A. was pretty non-eventful (again it was really hot in Tahiti)...
(go to general thoughts)