Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Round the North Island with Pictures

Slightly later than I had planned, but as promised - pictures of my last couple days in New Zealand running around the coast on the North Island. First up the surfing town of Mt. Maunganui and it's new 250m artificial reef: The picture above was taken from on top of the mountain for which the town is named. In addition to being a popular morning walk for the older retired set - actual quote: "You get kind of sick of the view when you walk up here every day," it's also a launch point for hang gliders and paragliders. Those are both on my life todo list, but I guess it was too early for the adrenaline junkies to be up as I didn't get to see anyone actually take off.
Next up was the Cormandel Peninsula and an overnight hike to Pinnacles Hut. I reserved the last bunk for the night at 3:40 and the ranger told me I should hurry up before dark. After a short but bumpy drive to the trail head and some repacking to drop weight, I was headed up by 4:20. The hut warden was shocked to see me roll in at 5:50 since the walk up is supposed to take 3 hours. But after Tongariro it was a piece of cake! I mean there are several flat sections even. I hung out that night with some lawyers from Auckland and in the morning scampered up the Pinnacles. They have a nice viewing platform with guard rails that I promptly climbed above to get to the tippy top. Pretty impressive to see all the work they did to put a virtual staircase in to the top, but unfortunately it didn't look like the fog was going to lift so I headed down the mountain.
A couple hours later I'd reached Paihia in the Bay of Islands. A beach town that was pretty dead in early fall except for open mic night at the local bar which was a lot of fun. In the morning I boarded the Gungha II for a day sail. The weather forecast was mixed, but it did give us a nice rainbow on the way out of port:
And we spent the rest of the day dodging the showers, including a long stop on Robeson Island. Apparently it's about half privately owned and boy do those houses look nice - that little white dot at the top of the grassy area.
Next I headed to the west coast where you could see big sand dunes and the wind was whipping up the waves. The captain of the sail boat was telling us about the Beaufort Scale of wind speed. This looks about a 7 - some foam in streaks and walking was tough.
I headed further down the coast to the shelter of the Kauri trees - a native New Zealand species prized for it's amazing wood and slowly recovering from extensive logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They're similar to redwoods in size - this picture below is somewhat deceptive as you have to stay 20m from the tree on the path. This tree, Tane Mahuta, is the largest living Kauri tree and I couldn't come close to actually spanning its 13.8m trunk girth.
Afterwards I stopped by the Kauri museum where they have the relative sizes of several large trees on a side wall. Tane Mahuta is the second innermost ring:
Finally I reached Auckland and met back up with the lawyers for drinks. Afterwards Jacqui and I headed to Devonport to check out the night skyline.
The next day I poked around Auckland a bit and discovered the train station is nice and shiny and new and makes good abstract pictures
All too soon I headed for the airport, turned in my rental car, and hopped onto the 12 hour flight to SFO. There I got a double double animal style and caught up with Gary before finally making it home about an hour after I took off from Auckland!


Heather said...

Woah! That train station really does make some cool abstract pictures!!!

btw - I've noticed that you didn't blog about your stay in Blenheim... was it really that dull of a place?

dlott said...

I did blog about Blenheim! http://safety3rd.blogspot.com/2008/05/lamb-and-wine-in-blenheim.html Though I must admit the company not the city was the best part :)