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sept 30, 2000
Rotorua sights and smells... (more)

sept 28, 2000
Coromandel Town... (more)

sept 27, 2000
Mercury Bay Beaches... (more)

sept 25, 2000
Coromandel beaches at Kuaotunu... (more)

sept 21, 2000
UNITEC farewell... (more)

sept 20, 2000
Critters at the Auckland Zoo... (more)

sept 18, 2000
Visit to Auckland University of Technology... (more)
october 02, 2000
Sunday morning came but the sun did not and as a large weather system sat on the entire country, today had little promise for nz ocation mapKodachrome blue sky photography. Since it was wet out there, I thought it would be a good plan to drive west and go underground in the Waitomo Caves.

"Waitomo" translates as "water falling into shaft". This is an area of limestone where underground rivers have carved a large network of caves, and houses the curious glow worms, which emit light to attract bugs, but also light up the walls and ceilings of the darker caves. One can do "blackwater" rafting, putting on a wet suit and floating through the caves on tubes. And then there is abseiling or rappelling, into some of the dark shafts.

It was about a 2 hour drive through steady rain from Rotorua to Te Kuiti, the closest town to the caves. I stopped for a cup of coffee. It rained some more. I drove to the visitors center near Waitomo photo here and found out that most of the trips were cancelled because of flooding underground! The cave tour was only half available and lacked the boar ride into the glow worm cavities. I still did the tourist tour, and saw the Cathedral, a large underground room where Christmas carols are sung and concerts have been played by the likes of UB40 and Rod Stewart, and got a quick peek at some glow worms. They glowed, indeed!

Lacking options of things to do in this area, I decided to head farther west to the Tasman Sea coast, where there was a small town some in Auckland mentioned-- it is called "Marokopa", so i considered it a mission to visit this sister to where I come from, "Maricopa" County.

today's photos
- all photos   o o o o

o o Rotorua
starting photo 23

The road twisted up and down through a few farms, a lot of forest, and yes more rain. In one section, I pulled off just into a gravel road to look at something that could have been picture worthy (it was not). When I returned to the car, I had to back out back onto the road, and backing out left I heard a clunk and the car leaned left. Changing gears, I found I could not pull forward. Getting out of the car, I found that the left front wheel was off the edge of the road into a ditch, the front of the car jammed against the lip of the road, and the right rear wheel was 15 inches off the ground!

The front wheel drive of this Honda had no chance of grabbing enough traction. Piling rocks under the stuck wheel did not get me out. I had managed to get myself stuck on a remote road in the forest!

So it was apparent I had to walk for help, but could not remember how close the last farm was that I passed. So flipping a coin, I decided to walk forward. Oh yes, the rain was coming down pretty steady.

But luck happens. About 10 minutes after walking down the road, a car approached, and when I waved them over and explained, the couple inside invited me to hop in and offered to drive me to the nearest farm. They were "Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver" (no "Ward" and "June" jokes ok?) This was not so near! About 5 miles down the road we pulled into the driveway of a sheep farm. When I knocked on the door and explained the situation to Claire and David, they immediately offered to help, no hesitation. According to them, as the first farm after a long stretch, it happens often.

David threw his tow rope into his "ute" (pick-up truck) and drove me back to the spot. When he saw the perched car, wheel in the air, he let out a huge laugh! Attaching a tow rope from his truck, he pulled me onto the road in about 5 seconds. End of disaster. I cannot say enough praise about these people today that helped a stranger without question.

Oh, something must have happened to my camera as I do not seem to have a photo of the predicament ;-)

photo here What else was there to do except continue the tour? The rain eased up (to a slow drizzle) so I took a short walk to see Mangapohue Natural Bridge. The path is built on an elevated wooden platform attached to the walls of a narrow dark canyon. The natural bridge is actually a double one, a small lower one that covers the creek and a larger, higher one that arches over the top of the canyon. Claire from the farm that helped me had said this is another place you can find a lot of glow worms, but it was not dark enough.

photo here The next stop was "Marokopa Falls" a short trail that leads to a water fall. This was a few kilometers from the town and the coast but was worth a stop. The short trail descends through dense bush and in a few minutes you can hear the distinctive loud roar of large amounts of crashing water.

photo here This was no trickle! The falls are at least 30 to 50 feet high. The water was rushing so much it was frothing out across the viewing platform and partly up the trail. This was just an added bonus to the water falling from the sky.

So it was on the road to Marakopa and the ocean. But 10 kilometers short of this goal the brown river that had been parallel to the road had decided to flow up and over the road. It may have been passable, but I felt I had pushed my car luck enough that day, and retreated.

So it was a quiet, uneventful drive back to Rotorua. In the rain...

Sunday morning came and it was still raining. So it was a morning of washing laundry in town. In the afternoon Roger and I took a trip to Waikite Thermal Pools, a developed hot spring (meaning hot water diverted into a swimming pool) but far enough off of the beaten tourist track so that it was not busy. The warm water was delightful and it did not even matter that IT WAS STILL RAINING!

photo here Later, Roger gave me a tour if his not so miniature world, his model railway. It is quite an elaborate and impressive structure winding its way around his garage (and no Mom and Dad, this is no expression of interest in getting my old train set back!).

Finally, the strangest thing happened on Tuesday morning. There was this strange blue color in the sky and this bright round yellow source of light. Oh! It was the sun! Roger joined me for a morning trip to Wai-O-Tapu, the geothermal area that marks some of the youngest volcanic activity in this region. This area opened up after the dramatic 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera.

photo here In some ways like Yellowstone National Park, in this area are many steaming pits, some geysers, and bolling mud set in a forest. There are yellow mounds, green lakes, pastel blue lakes, and thumping spitting mud. Just for fun, we got sprayed with a rain shower for the first half; fortunately the park provides umbrellas in appropriate locations. This is typical of th ekiwi trails and parks- they are invariably extremely well maintained, well-marked, and trees are trimmed at the right bends in the trails to provide panoramic views.

photo here There are all sorts of strange colored rocks, mineralized iron, arsenic, sulfur, manganese, and more dissolved from the heated ground water.

With a clearing sky, I said goodbye to Roger, and headed south for Taupo. I am very fortunate to have had such a nice place to stay in Rotorua with Roger and Laraine (you both can stop apologizing for the rain, it happens!)

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