24 February 2017

Tame Birds & Volcanoes - To Taupo and Ohakune

Location: Ohakune, New Zealand

Heading Inland & South & Up ...

We woke to a  stunning Whitianga sunrise ...

volcanic     end-of-the-earth    apocalyptic

... then drove south towards Lake Taupo; the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand

I've been enjoying the driving immensly in New Zealand. We've stayed off the major highways as much as possible and used many of the alternate routes that drop down to the coast; afterall that's where the nicest scenery is!

These secondary roads just seem to have been constructed for anyone who 'loves to drive'; cars with sport or rally suspensions, a motorcycle would be fun, a manual transmission would be best. Cruising in a straight line at 100 to 130 kms/hr and eating, drinking or texting with the cruise control on is not driving ... THIS IS

The terrain and flora near the coast in the North Island reminded us of the Costa Rican landscape. As we headed inland, the roads straightened somewhat and got wider, views opened up and the scenery was reminiscent of the Alberta foothills in Canada.

Pron. [Toe - paw]

Here's a stock aerial photograph. The townsite (bottom) overlooks Lake Taupo. The lake is the caldera of the Taupo Volcano. What's a caldera? ... click here. 


The Reef Resort - a nice 1 bedroom apartment, clean and serviced daily, well appointed, balcony overlooks the lake, small pool, thermal spa, kitchenette, wifi, some street noise, A/C, coffee plunger, close to the beach and several urban walks, nice evening views.

Taupo ... is a very busy, highly developed 'outdoorsy' tourist town; like Jasper or Banff in Canada is in low season. If adrenalin sports interest you, several are here; white-water rafting, jet boating, sea-doos, bungee jumping, para-sailing, tandem sky-diving. Water sports on Lake Taupo; sailing, kayaking and SUP, fishing, power boating. Some cycling trails and there are also several nearby walks and hikes from easy to moderate and a couple of hikes that would rate as difficult. 

Restaurants range from corner kiosk operations to familiar fast food chains to all those that offer the typical, expected array of International cuisine; nothing traditional representing Maori culture or cooking styles, that we could find.  We did visit a couple of restaurants ... and food was always tasty, always well-prepared and usually expensive (compared to CDN$) but offerings weren't much different than what could be expected just about anywhere.

Huka Falls & The Craters of the Moon

Both easy walks ... along the Waikato River, hot streams, turquoise waters, geothermal landscape, steam vents, femaroles, mud pots, some mild grade, cloud covered Mount Taupo in the distance, sub-tropical vegetation, Australian Magpie


This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (with dual status); for it's Maori cultural significance and for the presence of several active volcanoes . Want to read more; click here.

Lake Rotopounamu

Located near Mt Pihanga, this is a lovely walk. Cool sub-tropical forest, massive nurse trees, quiet during early morning, friendly birds, loud cikadas, some moderate grade that levels off then drops to encircle the lake. Once at lake level the trail stays fairly level until a slight return up , then a long downgrade to the car park. This is an easy to moderate walk.

We've been observing very tame birds on many of our walks and hikes. The reasons for this and the history of the bird species in New Zealand is quite interesting.  

Many birds evolved without a requirement for flight. There were no predators on the islands and all birds in general had no fear of humans because they had never been exposed ... but that would eventually change

I shared the trail/track here with a nosy Grey Warbler. I'd move, it would move and it kept an eye on me ... it wasn't looking for handouts, it just wanted to make sure I was OK! ... in the end I was allowed to pass!

From Wikipedia 
When humans arrived in New Zealand about 700 years ago the environment evolved quickly. Several bird species were hunted to extinction, most notably the Moa (Dinornithidae) and Haast's Eagle (Harpagornis moorei). This eagle species was the largest known to have ever existed. Its massive size is explained as an evolutionary response to the size of its prey - the flightless Moa, the largest of which could weigh 230 kg (510 lb). Haast's Eagle became extinct around 1400, after the Moa were hunted to extinction by the first Māori.

But, the most damage was caused by habitat destruction and the other animals humans brought with them, particularly rats - the Polynesian rat or kiore introduced by Māori and the brown rat and black rat subsequently introduced by Europeans. Mice, dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, pigs, goats, deer, hedgehogs, and Australian possums also put pressure upon native bird species. The flightless birds were especially sensitive. Read more here.  

Many areas in the country, including where we hiked this day place poison traps to control predators that rob bird nests of eggs and chicks.

This photo series includes 
... my favourite hiking partner, some really massive canopy trees (red, black & brown pine ... not the Canadian varieties), NO biting insects, New Zealand Pigeon, nurse tree trunks & logs and some epiphytes, a Tomtit, giant 12-14' fern fronds, lake and mountain views, Brown Trout (up to 5 lbs in this pool), Hydrangeas, Grey Ducks and 100's of New Zealand Swans.

Te Porere Redoubt & Whakapapa Ridge Walk

Photos ... apparently, the Whio (Blue Duck) is endangered; we saw a couple of them. We hiked to the site of one of the last great battles of Te Kooti's War; fought between the Maori and colonizing European settlers. Did a long 'up' hike to overlook the Whakapapa townsite and Helen found a new mask for our collection; from local Maori carver Ted Barham.


We moved a short distance to Ohakune Village, located near the southern boundary of Tongariro NP. From there we are close to many of the parks' hiking trails.

Mt Ruapehu Summit Trail & Taiwha Falls

A chairlift ride that featured views of Mt Ngauruhoe (7503 ft), hiking the volcanic landscape near the summit of Mt Ruapehu (9177 ft) and a snack on the deck of Knoll Ridge Cafe, NZ's highest. A strenuous hike and an easy water falls walk later, on our return drive. You could spend many days hiking at the top; trails go off in multiple directions as multi-hour and multi-day tramps. This is difficult walking over loose, sharp rock; take walking poles and good, supportive boots; knees and ankles should be strong. Much of Lord of the Rings was filmed here in the volcanic plateau.

Photos ... volcanic gravel, scree, rubble & rock; waterfalls, a chalet above the clouds, daisy-like flowers, snow, a cormorant fishing in a rapid

We head to the SOUTH ISLAND. It will be a few days before we complete the ferry trip between the islands, drop the rental car off and meet LOAF's cousin Van Kiwi (our camper van rental). Our tentative plan is to drive the west coast and stay in as many of the National Parks there as our time will allow. We've been told internet service could be sketchy; it may be awhile before we publish again ... See You Then!
Follow us by opening TRAVEL MAP 2016/2017 on the right sidebar ([view larger], zoom +/-, pan around).   
Click on any photo (some stock) in this post to launch a slideshow gallery of all the photos. 
Wikipedia provides some content. 

Crusty ... 

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TEAM: LOAF, Crumby, Wry & Crusty