Mokoroa Falls 2: Fall Harder

I’ve been to many places on the North Island. It feels good to have spent so much time exploring my new home! But that also means that there’s going to be some repeats. Mokoroa Falls is no exception!

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Photo Credit: Jordan King

This was a holiday weekend, so Taylor, Jordan, Brendon, Hilly, and myself set off to the Waitakeres to experience Mokoroa Falls. That’s not to say that this trip resembled my previous one. While we started in the same place, we branched off pretty quickly to do the Mokoroa River Walk instead.

Setting the tone for the event, we found a sturdy-looking vine hanging from a tree very near the start of the trail. Of course we took turns playing Tarzan!

This is one of the cool things about traveling with friends; I probably wouldn’t have bothered doing something like that if I were just by myself.

The path to the river walk includes a suspension bridge.

Before you ask, yes. Hilly and Brendon did carry that ridiculous cooler the entire way.

The path was super, super muddy and slippery. It had been a rainy weekend, and it’s a pretty wet area already. There were definitely some treacherous bits!

Taylor decided that the best strategy was just to commit to getting wet at the very beginning.

Hilly demonstrates the more cautious technique (after having passed the cooler to Brendon).

I preferred the higher routes to the lower ones; although there is further to fall, the trees provide handholds and the ground tends to be firmer.

This is the real reason we did the walk. Jordan and Taylor are really into cliff jumping (for some reason). Yep, those three figures at the very top of the rock are my friends.

Yep, they jumped off.

I was completely content to watch this part. Nothing about that seemed appealing to me. Seeing the bruises that Jordan in particular incurred just from his impacts with the water did not change my mind on any of that after the fact, either!

Anyway, though we spent nearly half an hour there, let’s press on.

You can see here the complete muddiness of the trail even on the good parts.

As is common, the rain had made some tiny waterfalls leading up to the big one.

The river walk path criscrosses the river so many times I lost count of all the fords.

I photographed this one because it really isn’t even a ford; hikers just have to wade across.

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Photo Credit: Jordan King

Thanks to Jordan, I’m able to include some photos of myself as part of this adventure! Jordan, if you ever get your website sorted I’ll link to you here ;)

You can see that somewhere along the way Taylor found himself a hiking stick, which is a really good strategy for muddy trails and fording rivers. It gives a third point of contact with the ground. As you can see from this shot, I’m upping the ante with four points of contact on this muddy slope.

After far too much mud and slipping, we finally saw our objective: Mokoroa Falls.

You may recall the cool ladder rock from last time. My friends chose it as a picnic spot. I guess after jumping off that big rock, something like this seems like nothing!

Afterward, Taylor decided he needed a shower to get all the mud off.

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Photo Credit: Jordan King

I was pretty muddy as well, so I got under the falls too (I don’t know what Brendon is doing).

My previous post has plenty of pictures of the falls, so I won’t bore you with too many in this one.

I will say that although the rain had made the track very treacherous, it also made the falls even more impressive!

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Photo Credit: Jordan King

The climb back up to the top of the falls is pretty easy; thankfully, we didn’t have to retrace our steps! Jordan even took a glamour (?) shot of me sitting in the river above the falls. Hello, ladies.

So that was our revisit to Mokoroa Falls. Hopefully the River Walk (or at least the shenanigans of my friends!) was enough new stuff to make it worth the extra post!

Starting next post: the South Island! The posting schedule will go up to three posts a week so it doesn’t take two months to get through. I hope that’s not too much, because these photos are fantastic!

Duder Regional Park

Duder Regional Park is one of those places I found just by scrolling around on a map. It’s on the Eastern coast of the Whakakaiwhara Peninsula and has great views of the Tamaki Strait and the Hunua Ranges. It also has a funny name.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, so Taylor and I saddled up in the Alfa and drove on out.

The view immediately recommends itself. The park looks out onto Waiheke Island to the North and Chamberlin’s Island to the East.

There are a number of tracks running through the park. I had planned a route which would take us along the North coast, to the point, and then back along the South coast to a beach. As with Shakespear Regional Park, the terrain covers some rolling hills and the tracks are fairly well marked, with a notable exception I’ll cover later.

One thing about Taylor is that he fancies himself the Cow Whisperer. This was the first time I got to see him communing with his bovine soul mates, but shockingly the cows do seem to congregate around him when he starts mooing at them.

We stood there for, no foolin’, about fifteen minutes while he made moo noises at the cows. By the time we left, he had quite the herd assembled.

As we moved on from there, we noted an achievement at the top of one of the far hills! You might need to Zoom and Enhance the center of the photo in order to see it. This will also become relevant later.

We found this cool-looking tree. Not really apropos of anything else, but there it is. One nice thing about hiking with a professional photographer is that he will often point out cool shots that I would normally miss.

If I had known that lunch would be provided, I wouldn’t have packed one! I need to create a chickens tag.

If you tear your eyes from the scenery for a moment, notice the blue blaze. We took the South branch of the Farm Loop up to the Whakakaiwhara Pa Walk, which went out to the top. My plan then was to then make our way to the South coast (Wairoa Bay) and enjoy the beaches there. The Whakakaiwhara Pa track is the one marked with blue blazes.

Another blue blaze. As you can see, the path is narrowing enough that we can see the Hauraki Gulf to the North and Wairoa Bay to the South at the same time!

As we reached the point, it had narrowed so much that it was really like a point!

It’s like standing on the bow of a ship! (Taylor and I didn’t do the Titanic thing, thanks for asking).

On the way back, Taylor had (what he thought was) a brilliant idea: why not just climb down the cliff here and go to this beach? We should be able to walk along the coastline and then take the Coastal Walk track up to where it rejoins the farm loop.

Taylor is a young, fit skateboarder with a mountain goat’s sense of balance, and he hopped right down the cliff face in what looked like about three jumps. My descent was…less graceful, and could best be described as a semi-controlled fall. I lost a decent chunk of skin on my left hand, which I will spare you the picture of, but I made it down as well.

The area down by the beach was, admittedly, lovely. We sat down and had lunch, then went for a swim. Salt water on recent cuts is not the most pleasant of experiences, but I convinced myself it was good for it, hoping that by sheer force of will I could repel any nasty bacteria intent on eating my flesh.

The shade where we ate our lunch. You can see my trusty green backpack under the tree.

Before departing, Taylor decided he was going to climb the tree.

So I’ll spare you a bunch of pictures of long, rocky coast. We walked for a while (and found heaps of garbage, which we put in a trash bag Taylor found). Taylor even found a straw hat to wear!

Looking at the map, we walked about three kilometers of coast. Which is a problem…we were really supposed to walk a little more than two. We arrived at the stream that showed us we had gone too far. I guess the Coastal Walk trail isn’t very well marked (we never did find it).

Taylor ran up the side of the hill to do some scouting (as he does). He came down and said that he saw the achievement (and I felt happy that I have apparently convinced him to call them achievements too). I think this may be the first time I used those trig sites for something approximating their intended purpose.

Anyway, we walked up, found a red blaze for the farm loop trail, and reunited with the path to walk back to the carpark.

So, that’s Duder Regional Park. Definitely a beautiful place to check out on a pretty day! Just be careful when climbing down the cliffs!

Next post is another fun little adventure, this time with a lot of people! See you then!

White’s Beach

Ahh, Piha. Ever since my first visit to its popular beach in 2014, I have considered Piha to be one of the most beautiful areas on the North Island. So when Taylor found a trail that would take us to a secluded beach slightly North of Piha, I was in. The two of us and his friend Elise jumped in his old Toyota Cielo Sprinter and headed out into the Waitakeres.

The Marawhara Walk, which leads to the White Track, is not the easiest to find. You have to just park on this random bit of grass here.

The path starts out by this small stream. There’s some nice flowering plants nearby.

There’s a lot of climbing involved on this track. You’d think walking from a beach to a beach wouldn’t require so many elevation changes, but when there’s a mountain in the way…well…good luck with that.

There’s also some wooded areas, where Taylor stopped to have some fun with a fallen palm frond.

The trail does require a couple of fords. I’m jealous of Taylor’s Vibram foot-gloves, as they seem to protect the feet and allow better grip than my sandals while still providing nearly the same amount of freedom.

The trail actually takes us over and around this peninsular bit. The elevation changes are absolutely worth the view you get! (I took the same photo with my phone camera, which does not do as good a job but does manage to make a bird appear, which is a pretty cool feature).

We’re pretty high above and North of Piha Beach at this point.

A bit more walking and we can see our objective! Here is half of White’s Beach…

…and here is the other half. Not particularly big, eh?

Part of the descent brings us through this cool and slightly creepifying copse of trees.

Upon reaching the beach, it’s already difficult to see the path back.

Yes, White’s Beach is a black sand beach. New Zealand’s place name style guide apparently declared the apostrophe as persona non grata some time ago, hence Bucklands Beach for the beach belonging to Alfred Buckland rather than Buckland’s Beach and Whites Beach for the beach belonging to Francis White. It’s inconsistent , though, as Piha’s own website calls it White’s Beach. While I wait for them to get their punctuation house in order, I’ll call it White’s Beach so it doesn’t sound like it’s an artifact of segregation from the 1960s.

There’s a lot of caves and crevasses in the rock surrounding the beaches. Taylor and I stuck our bags in this little hole to keep them out of the rain. It wasn’t pouring, but it was drizzling on and off and we didn’t want our things to get wet.

Having protected my pack from the light rain, I then waded out into the surf to take some pictures of the sea caves in the rock wall. I did not realize quite how deep the water got, so before I knew it I was chest deep! This was problematic because I hadn’t emptied my pockets first and my car keys were still in there. More on that later.

Taylor and I also walked around the South edge of the beach to explore the terrain over there. It was super rocky and not at all pleasant to walk on, to be honest, but it was cool to go exploring. I didn’t get any photos of that because after the previously-mentioned debacle I put my phone in my backpack and did not bring the Nikon. (Elise spent most of her time chilling on the beach; that’s her in the photo, not a corpse that washed up for Weekend at Bernie’s style shenanigans).

Eventually all good things must come to an end, so we got ready to head back. Taylor had planned this hike quite well and we had an alternate route back that would keep us from having to regain all the elevation we lost. But we still had a hill to cross, so up we went.

That hill did give us a great parting view of White’s Beach, however!

I also Zoomed and Enhanced a bit to check out the sea caves in the North rock wall.

The trail then goes into what from the outside appears to be a goblin hole, but is actually just a tree-covered walkway.

And as we emerge from the other side we are treated with this startlingly beautiful view of Piha Beach. I still maintain that it is one of the most gorgeous places on the North Island.

White’s Beach, thanks for the memories.

(The promised end to the car key story: My car has an alarm system which, when enabled by the key fob, can only be disabled by the key fob. My spare key fob doesn’t actually work to disable the alarm, annoyingly. After my keys took a drink, I was sure I’d be stranded with my car at Taylor’s place. But, miraculously, my key fob worked one last time before giving up the ghost. When I got home, I was able to disassemble it, clean it out, replace the batteries, and get it working again! But the state the old batteries were in was utterly dreadful, making me so grateful that the fob worked that one last time.)

Hope you enjoyed this trip! Join us next time as Taylor and I go hang out with some cows, find another beach, and I fall down a cliff to my death. See you then!

Musick Point on Bucklands Beach

Ahh, Bucklands Beach. The name has entranced me for some time due to the fact that Buckland is a fictional location in the Lord of the Rings books. Bucklands Beach, however, is named after a man called Buckland who used to farm ostriches there. Musick Point is, similarly, named after a pilot named Musick who was lost at sea in a seaplane some decades ago.

I had occasion to go there a couple of months ago, and I liked it so much I went back the next day. Sometimes I take one trip and make it into two posts; this time I am going to try my hardest to make two trips into one post. The first trip was on a slightly overcast day and was with my friend Kali; the second was on a brilliantly blue day and was with my friend and hiking buddy Taylor.

Spoiler alert: this time I might actually learn how tides work. Mostly by trial and error.

Bucklands Beach juts out into the Hauraki Gulf and is bordered to the West by the Tamaki Estuary. Half Moon Bay (not the one in California, obvs) is located on this side of the peninsula.

Musick Point is at the tip of Bucklands Beach. You can see an interesting building with many antennae peeking over the trees. This building turned out to be a maritime radio center.

The path to the point goes around the building, and is nicely landscaped with cool flowers.

Beach access is down a semi-hidden set of stairs, which uncharacteristically I completely failed to get a picture of (me failing to get a picture of something is characteristic, but me failing to get a picture of stairs is not).

Once down the stairs, there’s a rocky beach area. These cliffs seem to my untrained eye to be some sort of sandstone, but whatever they are they’re definitely soft and crumbly.

There are some trees hanging desperately to the stone (and here is another, not inline for brevity).

Out along the rocks is this little stone island.

It’s riddled with holes and great for exploring and climbing.

It’s not very large or high, but it’s fun to mess around on.

Kali and I both climbed atop it. Here she is demonstrating the nice vantage point at the edge. That’s Brown’s Island there in the background (and of course Rangitoto in the far background). More on that in a moment.

When I told Taylor about this spot, I said, dude, you’re going to love it. I told him all about this rock you could climb up and jump off of and all the great photos I took. He was in. So we drove out, and when we climbed down the steps, I was gobsmacked.

The tide had come in, turning the rock ledge into a true island. The water was almost up to the foot of the stairs.

Rounding the cliff face to the North, there are some beautiful miniature bays (note the change in weather from the previous day). We explored the bays and tide pools for a while.

Taylor had some neat ideas for photographs — he is, unlike me, a professional photographer. He’s also perpetually wearing board shorts, so he’s always ready to get in the water.

We also found some tide pools and got some photos of the critters and flora therein (mine are of course rubbish, and not included here).

We spent a few hours exploring around to the East end of the peninsula…

…and gradually the tide came out, revealing the rocky beaches again.

Though the ground was a bit moist, we were able to go out to the island and climb around a bit.

Taylor also jumped in several times. I used his camera to get some pretty decent action shots of his jumps.

Anyway, that’s Musick Point. It’s a super beautiful place that’s fun for exploring. But before I go, here’s some scenery photos I took from the rock:

Rangitoto and Brown’s Island being island bros.

Zooming in on Brown’s Island.

There’s no commercial ferry service to the island, but it’s all technically public land. I’d love to borrow a boat or sea kayak at some point and head out there to explore!

Superzoom of Brown’s Island using the big lens. Just for fun.

Yep, you knew I was going to sneak something Auckland-related in. The Sky Tower, peeking out over the houses (I haven’t been able to figure out what that peninsula is called, so I’m going to call it the Orakei Peninsula and hope it catches on).

Thanks for joining me and my friends on a trip to the lovely Musick Point. It’s a great place for a picnic or to spend an afternoon. Just keep an eye on those tides :)

Next post you’ll join Taylor and I as we go on a new adventure in an old favorite spot of mine. See you then!

Waiatarua Wetlands

Whew! I’ve had a ton of adventures in 2015. Honestly, I could not have asked for better experiences. And I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow in a lot of different areas, including photography! But one thing that’s always eluded me is wildlife photography. So in order to improve, I came to the wonderful Waiatarua Reserve to try and photograph some birds.

(It’s called Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time. Don’t make the same rookie mistake that this sign does. *Sigh*)

The reserve is a beautiful park situated in Remuera, a suburb to the Southeast of the city. You wouldn’t realize it to look at some of these photos, but there’s neighborhoods and houses right next door.

I know I said I came here to photograph some wildlife, but can you blame me for getting distracted by the scenery? Waiatarua has a very park-like feel to it when you drive up, but you can walk for almost an hour (or more if you spend a lot of time stalking birds!) on its many well-paved trails.

Accordingly, the first part of this post will be scenery pictures and the second part will be bird pictures.

As expected of a wetlands reserve, there is plenty of water.

A nice picnic area!

Bits of the trail actually go into the woods a bit. I really like this photo :)

I found what seems to be a crude shelter here. My wilderness survival instructor at Boy Scout camp would have barely given this a passing grade, but in the Auckland summer not much more is necessary.

(I believe “Freedom camping”, or camping wherever you please on public land, is generally illegal in New Zealand, and you can get fined anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars if you’re caught. Building fires is similarly illegal. This is unfortunate, but it’s intended to preserve the natural beauty of New Zealand by preventing hordes of campers fouling the landscape with rubbish and fire pits and stripped trees and whatnot. I’m not sure what this wooden tipi is all about, but hopefully its occupant didn’t find himself on the wrong side of the law).

When I tramp through leafy woods or along dirt paths I often think of Robert Frost. Not the subtle, tricky Frost of the poetry scholar, of course, but the rugged, individualistic Frost who gets Ford commercials put to popular interpretations of his verses.

(I must really be reluctant to post these wildlife photos; I had to delete a paragraph about literary deconstructionism here.)

Instead of talking about authorial intent, let’s talk about how much I love hydrangeas! They’re all over the place in East Auckland, and I think they’re some of the coolest and prettiest flowering bushes around!

There is, at one point, a small spillway emptying into a reservoir!

I don’t know how much is man-made vs. natural, but the birds don’t seem to care!

The ducks enjoy the reservoir either way.

I realized after coming here that bird photography would be difficult because dogs are allowed in this reserve. All the birds are much more skittish than I think they would otherwise be.

I’m not sure how I completely failed to center the duck in this shot. I think I was too entranced by the cool ripple effects on the water!

This tui annoyingly refused to present his good side to my camera.

They seem black at first glance, but especially in flight their shiny blue undertones become evident. I, of course, captured none of this.

Pukekoes are often seen in wet or swampy areas. They’re not as iconic as the kiwi, but they’re definitely much better at not going extinct.

The ducks are more chill than the other birds here, likely because the dogs are not allowed to go in the water.

Birb.

These little guys are hard to capture, as they don’t sit still for very long at all!

This complete fail of a shot is so bad it’s comical. I think this is what I’m going to end this post on :)

See you next time as I explore a cool little spot I found by utter accident!

New Year’s Bach, Pt. 4: Mount Doom!

Last time, we left off in the shadow of Mt. Ngauruhoe, Amon Amarth, known to filmgoers and Tolkien fans as Mount Doom. If you want the full story you should check out the previous post first, and if you’re wondering why this post is titled New Year’s Bach, you should head back to part 1 of the series.

We just finished eating our lunch at the base of the cone where the Tongariro Alpine Crossing branches off. We had climbed the Devil’s Staircase, and were ready to tackle the summit.

You may notice that the ground alternates between almost a fine sand and rough rocks. The cone is entirely covered in a sort of volcanic scree called tephra. The smaller bits of tephra are classified as lapilli, and these little guys are one of the reasons why climbing the mountain is so tough.

At first glance, it may appear that there’s a trail running up the mountain. This is actually not correct. Climbers must make their way up the side of the cone with care, being aware that ever-changing slope conditions can make a previously viable path nearly impassible. We had heard that just yesterday three hikers had to be helicoptered out because they were hit by falling rocks. This was not especially encouraging news. But we sallied forth!

(The long exposure on this shot makes the white post look almost like a photographic glitch. Those white posts were the only things marking the path to the mountain, until those too finally stopped and climbers are left to their own devices).

The first bit of the climb was actually quite hard, simply because so much of the tephra has slid down. Every step up involved sliding back about half a step. It was easy to fall down, bruising hands and knees and sliding back a meter or more.

From here, we could see the crossroads. This is a phone photo; I had put the Nikon in my pack by this point, as I didn’t want it knocking about while climbing. Taylor took a photo using his big lens at full zoom and said that he could see our friend Kali down at the base, where she had elected to hang out.

It’s difficult to convey with photos just how utterly steep the side of the mountain is. My brain finds it difficult to process views like this when the ground is at such an angle; not only was I battling muscle fatigue, I was also fighting vertigo!

As you can see, we were climbing into a pretty thick cloundbank. My fellow adventurers were sad that they wouldn’t be able to get epic photos from further up the mountain, but I was glad in that the cloud cover obscured the view and made the climb less chest-tighteningly terrifying!

This picture, I think, illustrates pretty well what I’m talking about. This may also be the closest I was to the rest of the group on the entire climb!

Once we got up the first 1/3rd or so of the climb, the terrain became much more rocky. This was easier going because we weren’t sliding around all the time, but it was still quite treacherous because even a rock that seemed firmly secured could pull loose and fall when climbing. It’s not uncommon to hear a yell of “rock!” from above and have to stop the climb to make sure you don’t get hit. We tried to spread out laterally rather than climbing in a straight line to avoid konking each other with falling projectiles!

We took occasional breaks to catch our breath and try to enjoy what bits of the view we could see. I have to admit that it was very difficult for me to enjoy the view, as all I could think about was how terrifying it would be to climb back down!

If you zoom in over Taylor’s left shoulder you’ll see a climber on the descent. Going down involves a technique we dubbed scree-walking where you sort of surf the gravel down. I saw some people almost leaping down, making amazing time. I cautiously picked my way down, falling a lot and looking much less graceful. But we’ll get to that later!

Even though it’s a hot summer, there’s still snow at the top! Fortunately there’s a narrow path through the snow, as trying to climb on it would probably be even worse than the scree.

And huzzah! We reached the summit! There was a German hiker who made it up about the same time we did and kindly took a group photo of us using my phone.

The volcanic crater is quite steep, and it’s full of noxious gasses. They say if you climb down there you might suffocate before you can climb back out! We didn’t do that.

Rob, however, decided to demonstrate his fearlessness by sitting on the rim and dangling his feet in. I felt brave enough just taking this photo!

Here’s a view back down the last bit of slope. As a hint of how steep this is, that wide patch of ice and snow looks like a narrow strip!

As we prepared to hike back down, the clouds lifted a bit…enough to give a glimpse out. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of hours could bring us this high up over the landscape. Just another testament to how steep the slope really is.

Looking out toward Tongariro.

And here’s what we had to climb down! If you’re doing this, I recommend gloves. I fell backward and caught myself with my hands so many times that my palms and wrists were scraped and bloody by the time I got to the bottom.

We did all make it back down to the bottom though, where we reunited with Kali and then all shared some Lembas bread (really shortbread made by Rob and Kate’s aunt) before making the 6km hike back down the staircase and to the carpark.

So that’s how we spent New Year’s Eve! After getting back to the bach, we took turns showering and spent the rest of the day re-watching The Return of the King. Whenever Mt. Doom was onscreen we pointed and said “we did that!”

I realize it’s well into 2016 by this point, but that’s the end of 2015. Thanks for following along with my adventures, and here’s to an eventful and adventure-full 2016! I don’t know if I’ll be able to top this, but 2016 will cover falling down a cliff, swinging on a vine like Tarzan, not doing a cliff jump (but photographing other people doing it), and going to the South Island! And that’s just the first two months. I have even more crazy stuff planned for the rest of my time here, so stick around :)

New Year’s Bach, Pt. 3: To the base of Ngauruhoe

For those just joining us, this is the story of the week I spent down South on the shores of Lake Taupo with some friends over New Year’s.

On the day before January 1st, we decided we were going to see 2015 out in style: by climbing mount Ngauruhoe. Perhaps that name, which to those in other hemispheres might look like an attempt to use up a bunch of leftover Scrabble tiles, doesn’t mean much to you. But this is the mountain used by Peter Jackson to portray Orodruin, Mount Doom.

(People climbed Mt. Ngauruhoe before The Lord of the Rings was put to film — after all, this is New Zealand, home to Sir Edmund Hillary and thousands of other climbers for whom “it exists and is somewhat hard to climb” is sufficient motivation to scale something — but its appearance in the movie has certainly bolstered its popularity).

Just getting to the carpark required some driving, and unfortunately some of that driving involved my favorite: gravel roads. I should make my friends chip in to have my car detailed once this is all over ;)

Once parked, getting to the mountain requires walking about 6km along the Tongariro Crossing, a very popular trail on the North Island. The Crossing is part of the larger Tongariro Circuit, which is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.

The road to the summit involves three stages. From the carpark to the base camp is 4km, about an hour. Then there’s about 2km of steep ascent up a bit of trail colloquially known as the Devil’s Staircase. Finally there’s the climb up the mountain itself. This post will cover the first two parts, leaving the summit to the next post.

The weather for that day was pretty Mordor-ish, as appropriate.

The crew were on point, of course. Rob (yellow hat) and Taylor (faded blue hat) both found their headgear at the bach, but I think we can agree that they were absolutely rocking it. Chloe and Katie brought their own headwear, and I of course was wearing Ol’ Faithful, my battered Virginia Tech hat.

The first bit of hike is fairly level, giving us plenty of time to admire the mountain peaks we were effectively surrounded by.

There’s also a bit of boardwalk fairly early on. As you can see, on this holiday week the trail is quite popular! The further up we got, of course, the more people dropped off. Not, er, literally. You know what I mean.

As you walk along, keep your eye out to the left for this waterfall. Rob made the observation that elsewhere, people would be willing to hike this far just to see that waterfall.

We had a date with Doom, though, so we didn’t go to investigate. I did pause to Zoom and Enhance, though, because it is a quite satisfactory waterfall.

Partway up the Staircase, I took this photo just to show how far up we had climbed. If you enlarge, you can see the Road wandering off toward the trailhead.

Here again you can see bits of the Staircase wandering off out of frame and then back into the picture much further down. In this photo you can even see the very distant carpark just at the base of that far hill.

I tried to Zoom and Enhance on the carpark, but apparently I was too tired to change to the big lens so this is only the small lens at full zoom. It’s far enough away that I doubt even full 200mm zoom would reveal much of interest. That’s ok; this picture is still fantastic.

Once you get to the top of the staircase, the path splits. Don’t get so caught up that you forget to enjoy the view behind you :)

Even just getting up to the base of the mountain is quite an achievement. The trail up is steep. The first 4 or so kilometers went pretty quickly, but I felt every one of those 2 uphill kms.

The view from the crossroads is completely majestic.

We sat down to eat our lunch in the shadow of the summit. No matter how steep the climb we had done, we knew the hardest path was still ahead.

Join us next time as we throw some jewelry in the lava. Or something.

New Year’s Bach, Pt. 2: Taranaki Falls

As you might recall from last time (if not, what are you doing reading part 2 first? Go back a post and read that one!), I and five friends were staying in a lake house (or bach) over New Year’s.

On our second full day in the bach (December 30th) we drove out to Tongariro Park to see Taranaki Falls. It’s about a three-hour hike to see the falls, and as it turns out I’d already done this hike once before, in 2014! I was glad to do it again with my friends, though, so off we went.

Tongariro Park is utterly beautiful, with snow-capped mountain peaks and lovely trails. Presiding over the landscape are Mounts Ruapehu (the first photo) and Ngauruhoe. The latter is best known for playing Gimli Mt. Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies! We shall see more of Ngauruhoe in a later post.

Despite looking a bit Mordor-ish in places (which makes sense, as many Mordor scenes were filmed here), Tongariro has a big variety of terrain, including forest.

These are not Taranaki Falls. But they are some pretty cool falls!

I take a picture of Kali taking a picture of Kate taking a picture of Rob. Chloe and Taylor take pictures of the scenery. Rob is content to stand there and be photographed :)

Ooh, I see some white in the water. I think those cliffs might be relevant to our interests! If only I hadn’t been distracted by Ruapehu and had gotten a proper shot of them!

Ahh, there we go! Yes, these are the falls we came to see!

Based on the activity in the lower left, it appears I was too busy photographing the falls to get my mug in a group shot as taken by Taylor. No regrets.

Funny story about those red shoes of Taylor’s. Apparently when they get wet, the red dye bleeds out onto his feet. He told us that the first time he wore them and they got wet, he took his socks off and momentarily thought his feet were all bloody!

Taylor and Rob walked behind the waterfall and got quite wet. I decided to avoid that fate.

I did, however, manage to catch a rainbow in the falls. I love this shot!

After climbing up to the top of the falls, there seemed to be a competition over who could strike the most vertigo-inducing pose. Here’s Chloe and Kate’s contribution. Don’t get so distracted by the lovely ladies you miss the lovely scenery stretching out in the background :)

Kali and Chloe check out the top of the falls (and more beautiful scenery).

I decided to climb around to the other side of the falls so I could take a group photo of my daring friends. It gave me a good excuse to not dangle over the cliff myself.

For those who don’t want to make the exciting leap over the river above the falls, there’s a nice bridge with a nice view of Ruapehu in the background!

So that’s Taranaki Falls. After having done this hike solo, I have to say that it’s much more pleasant with friends (as most things tend to be).

Next post will cover how we spent New Year’s Eve, which will bring us back to Tongariro for one of the year’s biggest adventures! Stay tuned!