Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Last New Zealand post!

Tiritiri Matangi Island is an amazingly successful ecological restoration project. The island itself is one of the Hauraki Gulf Islands off of Auckland. It used to be farmed, but beginning in 1984, rodents on the island were killed off and replanting was begun — the beginning of an immense volunteer project. Today the island’s vegetation is mostly native, and is home to many native bird species that thrive in the absence of introduced pest and predators.

Both Ron and I are interested in conservation, and we were told multiple times that we must visit the island — but we almost didn’t go. The weather during our last few days in Auckland was cold, windy, and wet, and a visit to an offshore island where we would need to remain for most of the day was not all that appealing. But we gathered our courage, and went anyway on our last full day in the city. And we were so glad we did!

The western side of the island, where we docked, was cold, a bit wet, and very windy as expected, but once we left the shore and entered the shelter of the bush, the weather wasn’t bad at all.

The island itself is beautiful, again with those amazingly well-kept New Zealand trails! The walks are guided by volunteers, which is wonderful for learning about the island’s history and having help sighting the native birds, which were very active during our visit. So yes! If you’re ever in Auckland, consider a visit. This is a wonderful conservation project, a great way to spend a day, and the hiking is easy.

Here’s our transportation, docked at Tiritiri Matangi Island.

The western shore, a photo that does not communicate the fierce wind that was blowing and an imminent, if passing, shower!

An oystercatcher nesting on the beach. This is my only semi-decent bird photo, and only because the subject was considerate enough to hold still!

Taranaki Lookout

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

The walk to Taranaki Lookout was our second New Zealand hike. This one was much, much shorter than the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but very different and fascinating. We did this one the day after Tongariro… well, actually, in the last half of the afternoon. It was only about 6.5 kilometers total, round trip.

This one was a rainforest hike. We walked from the hotel, through the little village of National Park, to a gravel road in a forest reserve. Just walking on the road was fascinating. The tree below is, I believe, a native cypress. Note the epiphytic ferns where the trunk begins to divide.

And this is what the road looks like… on our walk we saw only one other person on the road, a young woman on a bicycle who happened to work at our hotel.

We were following a map that was part of a brochure given to us by the hotel. Here’s the map. Note the distance through the town. Note the distance on the road and then the trail. As it turns out, this was not to scale. I admit I did not actually read the brochure…so before long as we were walking on the road I started to wonder aloud, “Did we miss the trail? We must have missed it. It’s not nearly this far on the map!” As it turns out, the brochure clearly states it’s two kilometers to the beginning of the trail, but the map makes the distance look much, much shorter!

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Background: Ron and I arrived in Auckland on a cold spring day, when the sun was dueling with rain squalls that swept across the city at frequent intervals. I had a bad feeling about our upcoming hike. We were planning to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a 12-mile day hike in Tongariro National Park. It’s one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand, and described as “among the top ten single-day treks in the world.” But it wasn’t going to be a lot of fun if it involved constant rain, wind, or even snow. And in fact, snow fell the day before we arrived. But in an immense stroke of luck, the weather turned in our favor and we had an absolutely perfect day for hiking.

Logistics: we did not rent a car in New Zealand, for which, I believe, most Kiwis were grateful: American tourists unaccustomed to driving on the left side of the road evidently cause a lot of serious accidents. So we took a train — Kiwi Rail’s Northern Explorer — from Auckland to a little village called National Park, that’s just outside Tongariro National Park. We stayed at The Park Hotel at Ruapehu, which offered a hiking package. They picked us up at the train station and dropped us off at the trailhead early the next morning, along with a packed lunch. At the end of the day, they picked us up at the opposite end of the trail.

Geography: There are three active volcanoes in the center of Tongariro National Park. They are Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro. The Crossing passes between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro over mostly volcanic terrain. The highest elevation is just over 6,000-feet. Here’s a map of the track.

Here’s Mount Ngauruhoe on the day we arrived. How’s that for a classic volcano profile? Summit elevation is 7,516 feet. I call this shot “The Road to Mount Doom” since Ngauruhoe served as Mount Doom in the LOTR movies.

And this is Mount Ruapehu on the same day, a much larger and taller mountain, standing at 9,177 feet.


How Not To Plan A Trip

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Ngauruhoe_early_morning_500pxRon and I returned from a ten-day trip to New Zealand today — our first visit to Aotearoa. The trip was a little ironic for me because I’ve been wanting to visit New Zealand for thirty years — but despite all that potential prep time this was a very last-minute affair.

Here’s the guilty admission: we’ve found that the only way we ever get it together to plan a trip is to buy the airline tickets first. Since the tickets are nonrefundable, we are then forced to sit down and plan things to do, or all the money spent on the tickets will go to waste. So several months ago we decided that we were going to fly to Auckland. Hawaiian Airlines has good rates and the flight from Honolulu only takes eight to eight and a half hours. The other advantage for us is that Hawaii and New Zealand time zones differ by only one hour — oh, and one day! Kiwis are nearly the first to greet a new day, and here in Hawaii we are nearly the last.

So we purchased our tickets and then…did no planning, nothing at all, for weeks. And weeks.

What can I say? We both get caught up in our day-to-day work, and we’ve both been extremely busy, but suddenly we had only about three weeks left before the trip. It was time to get serious. So we patched together a fairly simple itinerary, staying on North Island and splitting our time between Auckland and Tongariro National Park.

As those of you who visit my blog regularly know, I love to hike, and we did three truly amazing hikes while in NZ. I want to write about those over the next few days. We are thinking of visiting South Island next year, so if you have great hikes to recommend in that region please let me know!

More soon…