Tag: Rock

Maori Carvings

Maori Carvings

Taupo, New Zealand – February 2, 2018

Our drive from Napier to Taupo took just under two hours. It was cloudy and rainy, nearly the entire distance.

Taupo is a city at the north end of Lake Taupo. With a population of roughly 24,000, it is about one-third the size of Grand Junction, Colorado. As one may have noticed, Taupo is a Maori word. The full Maori name for the town is Taupo nui a Tia, a reference to the cloak of Tia, the person that discovered the lake.

We stayed at the Acacia Lake View Motel in an apartment at the front of the motel. We had a lovely view of Lake Taupo from the living room. The scene included the hole-in-one challenge. There were several tee boxes with artificial turf from which one could try to get a hole-in-one on a floating platform anchored out in the lake. There were three different holes on the platform, each of various sizes. Discretion was the better part of valor; I did not even try the challenge.

After breakfast the next morning, we drove to the marina.  While we waited for our boat to take us to the Maori Rock Carvings, I walked away from the marina to the lake’s edge.  There, I stumbled across two black swans and numerous ducks.  At that time, the weather was stunning, allowing for a beautiful landscape photograph.

Lake Taupo as seen from near the marina.

When we boarded the boat, we initially sat on the upper level.  Just before we departed the marina, we moved to the main level.  On that level, there were tables with fixed bench seats.  At the rear of the seating area was a small bar from which they served muffins, tea, and coffee.

The other three travelers…

Moored in a slip nearby was the Ernest Kemp. It is another of the vessels that daily transports tourists to see the carvings. It is a unique looking vessel. I had initially thought we should have reserved space on that boat. It reminded me of the T.S.S. Earnslaw we had enjoyed while in Queenstown about two years ago. However, after seeing how small the Ernest Kemp was, I was pleased with our selection of transport.

Another of the boats that take tourists to the Maori Rock Carvings.

As we departed our slip, the weather was variable. At times we enjoyed brilliant sunshine. Then, just moments later, we found ourselves in an intense downpour. We were pleased the boat seating area was enclosed. The Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather was with us throughout our trip.

Once underway, one of the attendants shared details and tidbits about the area as we slid along through the water. The surface area of Lake Taupo, 236 square miles, is nearly the same size as the country of Singapore. The average depth of the lake is 110 meters (360 feet). At its deepest point, the lake reaches 186 meters (610 feet).

For those friends in Colorado, it is worth comparing Lake Taupo with Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest body of water in that state.  The surface area is a mere 14 square miles, about twice the area of Fruita, Colorado.  The maximum depth of Blue Mesa is 104 meters (341 feet).

Shortly after departing the marina, the attendant directed our attention to Mount Tauhara, referring to it as the “pregnant woman mountain.” It was easy to see why when looking at the profile of the mountain. Mount Tauhara is a dormant volcano. Its summit is at 3,569 meters (11,709 feet) above sea level.

Mount Tauhara, the pregnant woman.

A little over an hour into our trip, we stopped in Mine Bay to view the Maori Rock Carvings.  The attendants opened the front hatch on the boat so we could stand on the bow and take photos.  Standing was quite difficult.  Our weather stirred up the lake such that the bow was severely bouncing around.

The carvings were spectacular. The largest of the carvings was about 10 meters (33 feet) tall. Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and John Randall made it and the other carvings, completed in 1979.  Ngatoroirangi, a Maori navigator who allegedly led Maori tribes to the area some 1,000 years ago, is the basis for engraving. The only thing that could have made the carvings any more spectacular would be if they were carved some 1,000 years ago.
This is the main and largest carving.

On the route back to the marina, I found it stunning just how crystal clear the water appears. I can only wonder what it would be like to dive into the lake.

Walking from the boat back to our vehicle, we saw a family of black swans enjoying a meal.  I do not know if it was a male or female, but the older black swan pulled water plants to the surface so the five cygnets could easily partake of the meal.  They did not seem to be bothered at all by the parade of humans coming by their dinner table.

Family meal.

The following morning, as we departed Taupo, we stopped at Huka Falls. The fall is more of a horizontal fall than a vertical fall; but, none the less, it is impressive to see the clear blue water rushing north. This is the beginning of the Waikato River. Huka is the Maori word for foam.

Huka Falls looking to the north.

From there, it was on to Ohope Beach.

Huka Falls looking to the south, toward Lake Taupo.
The boat we took to look at the Maori Rock Carvings.
Two black swans among the ducks.
Ducks on the very clear water.
Two ducks near the shore.
The cockpit for our boat.
Departing the marina.
Maori Rock Carvings.
Some additional, smaller carvings. The largest is the lizard near the waterline at the far right.
Enjoying the ride.
View of the shore.
Lake Taupo is huge.
View of the shore.
Typical homes near the marina.
Boathouses across from the marina.
The Marina.
Crystal clear water.
Part of the business district.
Street sculpture.
Tiki sculptures.
Mana Island

Mana Island

Plimmerton, New Zealand – August 5, 2017

Earlier in the workweek, Leslie sent me a photograph of a crazy looking bug she found in our garage. I had never seen anything like that bug. I showed the picture to several colleagues at work. They instantly replied, “Weta.”

That crazy bug found in the garage.

The weta is an insect indigenous to New Zealand. Think grasshopper with ferocious-looking mandibles and spines. My colleagues said they are a protected species. Having not known that, had I been at home when the weta arrived in the garage, I probably would have dispatched the beast. However, Leslie was somehow able to coax the creature out of the garage and into the plants outside. One of my colleagues told me there are large wetas, up to 10 cm (nearly four inches) long on Mana Island near Plimmerton. I had no intention of setting foot on an island which is home to monsters, but I did want to see the island from a “safe” distance.

So, early in the morning, Leslie and I set out for Plimmerton, New Zealand. We chose to drive Grays Road along the north side of Porirua Harbour to get to Plimmerton. What a beautiful day! The water was smooth as glass.

We drove through the small business district of Plimmerton without stopping. That is because we had already had breakfast and coffee. Just beyond the business district, we made our first stop. Much to our surprise, the Tasman Sea was every bit as calm as the harbor.

The rock formations lead the eye to Mana Island.

I think we were at the beach at low tide because the sea did not cover some fascinating rock formations. The birds loved the rocks. In the distance, we saw Mana Island, and beyond we saw the South Island. It was such a beautiful day.

Back in the car, we drove along Moana Road. It skirts alongside the beach. We were ready to continue driving along the coast when we spotted a sign indicating only foot traffic was allowed beyond that point unless one was visiting someone or on business. Since we were neither, we parked and walked along the beach, looking across the water to Mana Island.

The sign at the Hongoeka Marae.

We found the sign at the Hongoeka Marae. A marae is a religious place primarily used by Maori Iwi (tribes). They equate roughly to a church. One of the signposts was carved into an unusual shape.

Our beachcombing is oddly relaxing for us.  You would think we find gold nuggets as excited as we get when we find that perfect shell.  As I have written before, it does not take a great deal to entertain us.

The hand-carved signpost.
A seabird on the rocks.
Gulls playing in the rocks.
Mana Island is directly behind the gull.
A rather panoramic view.
Mana Island is on the right in the distance. Farther away is the South Island.
View of a tidal pool.
Mana Island in the distance.
A shell was visible in the tide pools.
A building at the beach.
The South Island is visible in the distance.
Enjoying the very calm Tasman Sea.
The Hongoeka Marae at the beach.
A bus in the Iwi area.
It actually looked more like a windbreak.
The chromed address numerals at the Hongoeka Marae.
Home of the “ferocious” weta.
An incoming ripple from the Tasman Sea.
A portion of Mana Island and the South Island in the distance.
Standing by the Tasman Sea.
Back over the Mountain

Back over the Mountain

Fruita, CO – April 3, 2017

Leslie and I left Colorado Springs on April 3, a day earlier than we had planned. Our trip back to Fruita, Colorado included four mountain passes; Ute Pass, Wilkerson Pass, Hoosier Pass, and Vail Pass. The weather forecast called for heavy snowfall beginning the afternoon of April 3. We did not wish to end up stranded in a snow storm.

We were on the road by about 06:00. It was a cloudy, dreary day. Alma, Colorado is at the foot of the eastern side of Hoosier Pass. That is where we first encountered snow. It was not heavy, but it was snowing. The storm continued until we reached Breckenridge, Colorado. That town is at the foot of the western side of Hoosier Pass. The snow was never bad enough to impact the road conditions.

At Frisco, Colorado we merged onto Interstate 70 west, beginning our ascent of Vail Pass.  We encountered a little bit of snow near the summit of Vail Pass; but, just as before, it was not bad enough to impact the road conditions.

We made it to Fruita with no problems. Later that evening, we discovered that the State closed many of the roads through the Rocky Mountains because of the heavy snow. We were glad to have made it through unscathed.

From many places in Fruita, one can see the Colorado National Monument. It is one of my favorite places to visit and photograph. I discovered there are some petroglyphs within the boundaries of the Monument. I tracked down the location, drove to the trailhead, and walked the very short distance to the petroglyphs. My disappointment was immense. I did find the rock and petroglyphs; unfortunately, vandals have chiseled names, initials, and drawings onto the rock surface. It was quite challenging to determine which were authentic petroglyphs. I did take some photographs; however, I have not included any here because I did not like them. On a side note, I did take some other pictures, such as a unique hole in the sandstone.

A unique hole in the rock in the Colorado National Monument.

One morning I decided I wanted to find a road that leads up into the Book Cliffs. I remembered the way from a previous trip, but I did not remember how to get there. I took a stab at finding the road. Leslie and I ended up at the North Fruita Desert. Even though there were a lot of people camping in the area, it still had an empty feeling.

Looking toward the Book Cliffs near Fruita, Colorado.

Since I could not find the road for which I was looking, we decided to go to the Colorado River.  I selected the Kokopelli Trails area near Loma, Colorado.

Leslie and I walked a portion of the Kokopelli Trails. The sandstone formations there are stunning. While we were there, we saw dozens of people on mountain bikes. On the lower trail, I stood beside the path, waiting for a mountain biker to pass by. With so many cyclists around, we did not have to wait long.

A mountain biker descending on the lower trail in Kokopelli Trails.

One of the unique things we saw was a house carved into a sandstone cliff. It was unique; however, we both agreed there was no way we could live in such a home. We were sure the rooms at the back of the house would be quite claustrophobic.

A cliff house near the Kokopelli Trails area.

One of the last things Leslie and I did before we returned to New Zealand, was a hike along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument. The views were stunning. One of my most favorite views, although it was not on the trail, was that of the Balanced Rock. The Colorado National Monument is a must-see for anyone traveling to the Fruita/Grand Junction, Colorado area.

The Balanced Rock in the Colorado National Monument.
Layered sandstone in a dry creek bed in the Colorado National Monument near Fruita, Colorado.
An ancient tree and some prickly pear cactus in the Colorado National Monument.
Looking west in one of the canyons in the Colorado National Monument.
Layered cliff in the Colorado National Monument.
Some of the wilderness in the Colorado National Monument.
View of the upper and lower trails at the Kokopelli Trails area near Loma, Colorado.
Looking east from Kokopelli Trails toward Grand Junction, Colorado.
The upper trail at Kokopelli Trails hugs the top of the cliff in the distance.
Looking across the plateau in the Kokopelli Trails area.
A sandstone cliff in the Kokopelli Trails area.
A panoramic view of an area in Kokopelli Trails.
A sandstone tower in the Kokopelli Trails area.
The cliff edge along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.
An old cedar tree in front of the Pipe Organ formation in the Colorado National Monument.
A sandstone overhang in the Colorado National Monument.
The Pipe Organ formation in the Colorado National Monument.
We stopped for photo along the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.
An ancient cedar tree in the Colorado National Monument.
In the very center of the photograph, one can see Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument.
Some of the sandstone textures on a cliff face in the Colorado National Monument.
Looking along the edge of a canyon at the Canyon Rim Trail in the Colorado National Monument.

No Air Show

No Air Show

Castlepoint, New Zealand – February 18, 2017
I was up early because I was excited.  I had a ticket for Wings Over Wairarapa, an annual air show held in Masterton, New Zealand.

By about 06:30, I was in my car, on my way to Macca’s (McDonald’s) for a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee. The weather was unusually dicey. It was cloudy and lightly raining. Regardless; I thought the weather might clear up once I got on the other side of Rimutaka Range. After finishing my brekkie, I got back in the car and headed north on Highway 2.

Crossing the Rimutaka Range, descending to Featherston saw no letup in the clouds or rain.  So much for wishful thinking.  I continued toward Masterton.

Approaching Masterton, I began to see electronic signs providing directions. The signs designated the preferred lane for use by those driving to the airshow. I followed the instructions. Shortly, near what appeared to be the entrance to the Hood Aerodrome, I ended up in a queue of about six cars. Each car stopped, and the occupants talked at length with the lone man directing traffic. When I arrived at the traffic director, he told me the promoter canceled the airshow for that day. That was so disappointing. I did wonder why none of the electronic signs displayed the closure information.

I turned around. As soon as I found a safe spot, I stopped and assessed what to do next. I remembered recently reading an article in the newspaper about the small town of Castlepoint. I realized I was only about an hour away from the town. I dialed in TomTom and headed east. Like so many other drives in New Zealand, the scenery was spectacular. However, clouds and rain dogged me all the way.

On the road to Castlepoint, the views were stunning.

At Castlepoint, I stopped at a parking area overlooking the bay and lighthouse.  The rain was heavy.  Regardless, I snapped a few photographs.  From there, I drove to the trailhead parking area for the Castlepoint Scenic Reserve.  I could see the lighthouse; but, because of the weather, I opted to not walk out to the lighthouse.

The Castlepoint Lighthouse as seen from the sandbar.

I did see several boats on trailers on the sandbar.  They launch the boats by tractors or other similar machinery that allows the boat to back into the water.  The weather was disappointing, but I vowed to return with Leslie to spend a weekend at Castlepoint.

Two of the pieces of equipment used to launch boats at Castlepoint.

My next plan of attack was driving back to Featherston, having a wood-fired pizza at my favorite restaurant, drive back over the Rimutaka Range, and go home.  I set TomTom for home.

Before I departed Castlepoint, I stopped at the Castlepoint Store. I wanted a bottle of water and a snack for the drive. Walking inside, I saw several of the reach-in freezers assembled in the center of the store. The woman that owned the store began to apologize for the inconvenience. She told me the store flooded the night before because of all the rain. That surprised me.

I drove back to Masterton, fully expecting to turn left, heading south on Highway 2.  However, TomTom kept trying to get me to turn toward the north.  I found a place to pull off the road and took a closer look at TomTom.  From Masterton to our home is about 83 kilometers (51 miles).  Under normal conditions, the drive is about 1:20.  That day, TomTom continued to show my trip’s distance was 232 kilometers (144 miles), with an estimated travel time of nearly 3:30.  The plotted route would have taken me to Palmerston North, over to the west side of the North Island, and then south to home.  I tried resetting the device several times.  Regardless of my attempts, the results were the same.

I decided I knew how to get home. After all, I simply had to head south on Highway 2. As I got to the outskirts of Featherston, I could almost taste the pizza. The road curved to the right. When I rounded the curve, I immediately found myself in an endless line of vehicles. As quickly as I could, I made a U-turn and parked. I grabbed my phone, so I could get on the internet to try to find out what was going on. Suddenly, I understood why TomTom wanted me to go the other way. Officials closed Highway 2 because of an accident and diesel spill on Rimutaka Hill.

There was no reasonable way to get to my pizza restaurant. Even if I could have gotten to the restaurant, I am sure it would have been a mob scene. My hunger demanded satisfaction. I remembered hearing about a place to eat at Lake Ferry. It was only about 35 minutes away. I apologized to TomTom for doubting and set my new destination. Until this trip, I had no idea TomTom was “tuned in” to local traffic conditions.

It was no longer raining, but the cloud cover persisted. I arrived at Lake Ferry and parked in front of the only business; the Lake Ferry Hotel. I went into the café and found it was surprisingly full. I ordered the seafood chowder and a beer. It was so hot inside; I opted to sit at a table on the covered terrace. Before coming to New Zealand, I was not a fan of chowder. But here, they are amazing.

I ate my lunch looking out onto Lake Onoke. Feeding the lake is the Ruamahanga River. The river and the lake drain directly into Palliser Bay. Because of this draining and the tidal action, the area is hazardous for swimming. A sign not too far from the hotel warns one of the dangers.

Ominous warning sign. The browner water is Lake Onoke. The bluer water in the distance is Palliser Bay.

After lunch, I drove a little way out onto the beach. From where I parked, I walked to the edge of the beach, which was a small cliff of about eight or ten feet. I was there as the tide was going out. The water was angry. It was easy to see why there are so many warnings about swimming in the area.

When I got back in the car, I checked TomTom.  I could see the route home was now direct.  That meant the road over the Rimutaka Range had opened again.

When I got home that afternoon, I was tired. Without really trying, I had driven about 385 kilometers (239 miles). No wonder I was exhausted.

A different view of the machinery used to launch boats at Castlepoint.
Yet another view of the tugs at Castlepoint.
Looking across the bay to the Castlepoint Lighthouse.
A cut alongside the beach road at Lake Ferry reveals layers of sediment.
The beach road back to Lake Ferry.
Lake Onoke shore near Lake Ferry, New Zealand.