A trip to Te Puia

As part of our overnight trip to Rotorua, my girlfriend and I stopped off at Te Puia. It’s a combination Maori cultural center and geothermal area, which makes more sense than it might first appear because the geothermal pools were a big part of the Maori culture around Rotorua!

We signed up for the cultural performance as well as the entrance fee, so we got to see some quite talented performers show us what it would be like to be welcomed into a Maori village as visitors.

It first involved a fight to the death…or not! We had to choose a chief, who was given some words to say. We were then led into the hut.

The performance was varied and quite long and entertaining. We’d seen a similar performance at the Auckland Museum, but this one was much more elaborate. It was cool to see a lot of traditional dances and songs!

We were encouraged to take photos before, during, and after the performance, and I took advantage of that! It was really quite enjoyable.

There were other structures and items around to look at as well. This is a waka, or canoe.

We got a chance to see a whole scale village. Despite being a largely primitive culture, pre-European Maori settlements were still quite elaborate. The Maori people had a rich and varied culture, which is thankfully still celebrated and taught in New Zealand today. It’s places like Te Puia which help preserve that culture, not just by putting it on display but by training people to do woodworking, weaving, and other craftwork just as it would have been done 300 years ago or more.

There is plenty of really cool sculpture and woodwork to see all over the area.

Much of Te Puia is a site of heavy geothermal activity. Walking around the back part of the park really felt like we were in another world!

It almost feels sinister to see holes in the ground belching steam and sulfurous smells!

This mud is actually boiling! Rotorua mud is sold as a cosmetic product; the high mineral and sulfur content is supposedly good for the skin!

Te Puia is also home to the Pohuta Geyser, which erupts nearly every hour. We were there for much of the day so we got to watch several eruptions! Near the geyser are hot stone steps that are like naturally heated seats. As it was Winter, that was one of our favorite attractions!

The minerals and high sulfur content turn the pools into a really neat shade of blue-green. I think this is a really nice color!

The sulfury, yellowish tinge around the outside of the pool is somewhat less attractive, but you gotta work with what you got.

I hope you enjoyed coming to Te Puia with us! If you find yourself in the Rotorua area, it’s definitely worth the price of admission. Not only are you seeing some really cool stuff, you’re also supporting the continuation of the Maori culture and arts so future generations can continue to see this cool stuff.

Sadly, this is the last post from my girlfriend’s trip here to New Zealand. It’s also one of the last posts I’ll make from New Zealand myself! I’ll be returning to the US soon, but because I’ve been so dilatory at actually writing up my adventures, there’s still a couple of months’ worth of New Zealand content at least!

Stay tuned for more adventures :)

A quick look at Rotorua

After our stop in Hobbiton, my girlfriend and I continued on to the town of Rotorua. We would be spending the night here, staying with a couple of families from our church.

Rotorua’s main claim to fame is all the geothermal activity going on in and around the city — steam vents, hot pools, and even geysers! As you can see from these photos, the town is full of steam.

Rotorua borders a lake of the same name which is in actuality the caldera of a quite large volcano (though dwarfed by the supervolcano whose caldera forms the massive Lake Taupo). The last significant supervolcano eruption in New Zealand occurred before it was settled by humans, so we have reasonable confidence that the whole place isn’t going to get blown to smithereens, at least not while we’re here for our one-night trip.

(The volcanic history of New Zealand is fascinating reading, and not at all something one should share with one’s significant other if she happens to be visiting. A word to the wise, chaps.)

I happened to get the time wrong that we were meeting one of the families, the one my girlfriend would be staying with. This wound up being fortuitous because it gave us a chance to tour Rotorua a bit.

As we were driving in, I noticed that Rotorua Hospital was situated on quite a large hill, overlooking the city and the lake. I immediately thought “I want to take photos from there”. Although it was bitterly cold that particular evening, she graciously agreed to come up with me while I took some pictures, which are the ones I’m showing you now.

We happened to arrive as the sun was setting, leading to some quite pleasant vistas overlooking this small town.

The steam you see is coming up from any opening possible: hot pools and cracks in the earth, sure, but also manhole covers and storm drains! It’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used to it!

My very first time in Rotorua, some three years ago now, I ate brunch in this very Lake Road Tavern before starting my drive to Taupo and, ultimately, Wellington!

After night fell, we drove around the town for a bit. I took her on a drive through the gardens, though we didn’t get out of the car because by that point it had become quite chilly!

These bushes spoiled an otherwise magnificent shot, but it was too cold for me to do my usual awkward clambering around to get good framing :). Rotorua does have some pretty cool architecture though.

Some nice views, too!

The sky was getting darker, so it was time to leave the hospital carpark and head back down the hill to the town.

Rotorua has a lovely pedestrian street, colloquially called Eat Street because many fine dining establishments line the pavement on either side. We went to a quite good Indian place there with the family we were meeting up with, then she went home with them and I went to meet the family I’d be staying with. We’re incredibly grateful for the hospitality we were shown here in Rotorua, and although our time in the town is bookended by much more touristy and more exciting activities, the time we were able to spend with these friends remains a highlight of our trip.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at Rotorua! Next time, not just the final stop on our trip to Rotorua but also the final post from her visit! It’s a fun one, so do make sure to come back for it :) Til then!


This is it! We’re making a journey Southeast to Rotorua. On the way, we stopped by Hobbiton!

I’ve been to Hobbiton before, pre-blog, but I was glad to have the chance to go again. My girlfriend is not a big Tolkien fan (or really a Tolkien fan at all), but she still wanted to go see it. She didn’t have to ask me twice!

(She asked very astute questions about some of Tolkien’s writings and geography so I thought for a moment she might actually be showing an interest in the Legendarium, but unfortunately no dice. She’s quite content to have me tell her what she wants to know and remain blissfully ignorant of the rest!)

I was worried that traveling further South would mean it would be colder (because that’s how it works in the Southern Hemisphere), but thankfully we got a warm and occasionally sunny day for our Hobbiton exploration. (I hear my girlfriend’s voice in my head correcting me that it was not a warm day, just not as cold as it might have been. I happen to like the cold more than she does.)

Hobbiton is many things. A tourist center, certainly. But it’s also a movie set, as well as part of a functioning farm! As a side note, the last time I came to New Zealand a few bits of Hobbiton were closed off by New Line Cinemas because they were finishing up work on some of the Hobbit trilogy (this was late 2014 so I’m assuming it was either photography or reshoots by that point).

Coming in Winter means fewer people, but it also means there’s renovations and upkeep going on. Bag End is covered in scaffolding and there’s a definitively non-hobbit-sized stepladder intruding on the shot.

There are two different sizes of hobbit holes: big ones, for the hobbit actors to stand by so they look small, and small ones for the non-hobbit actors to stand by so they look big.

There are also ones like this, small enough to be (pardon the expression) dwarfed by any of the adult actors. I’m assuming that these are just used as part of the background and are sized in such a way as to promote some sort of size illusion or another.

I briefly thought about trying to use forced perspective to make the ducks seem enormous relative to the hobbit hole behind them, but the tour guide was bustling us along and the ducks weren’t cooperating anyway.

This is the Party Tree, which you will recognize if you’ve read the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring or seen the movie. Apparently the presence of a suitable tree was one of the criteria for choosing the location for Hobbiton, and this one fit the bill.

For all their flaws, the Hobbit movies definitely excelled in the set design department. Tourist area or no, Tolkien fan or no, it’s just fun to walk around the set and see how much thought and imagination went into turning Hobbiton into what feels very much like a real community of sorts.

This is my favorite shot of the day, though less because of my skill as a photographer and more because the light actually cooperated and the subject lends itself to great shots.

That’s the Green Dragon there across the lake, home of the finest brew for the brave and true, etc. :)

On the first photo, I love the lighting but don’t love the scaffolding. On the second, the opposite. The struggle is real. Maybe you can combine them in your head into one well-framed and also well-lit photograph :)

Anybody home?!

Hobbiton is full of signs like this pointing the way to various fictional Shire locations. I suspect Tolkien’s Shire was fairly light on such signs, for the same reason that pre-industrial agrarian villages tended not to have them: the presence of people who didn’t know their way around was so rare that making them would be a waste of wood and paint.

A fun piece of set dressing.

Delving & Oatlock is entirely fabricated. There are a few places in the shire with Delving in their name (Michel Delving being the most prominent), so presumably these are place names and not hobbit names. Oatlock is, to be fair, an entirely reasonable-sounding name for a place in the Shire, so clever work on someone’s part to make something plausible-sounding yet original.

I don’t know if this water wheel is connected to anything, but I would not put it past Peter Jackson to have his set designers build a fully-functional barley mill so it can look authentic when it appears in a shot for three seconds.

This cat is called Pickles and has the honor of keeping the Green Dragon free from four-legged pests. Cats are canonically present in Middle Earth, but Tolkien was not a cat person (he admits as much in letter 219 of The Letters of JRR Tolkien) and thus, were Pickles canon, Tolkien would likely have had him belong to the Sackville-Bagginses.

Leaving the Green Dragon, we can see that some hobbits managed to score lakefront property.

Q: How did Bilbo keep in touch with his friends and relatives?
A: He sent them wee-mail!

I’ll see myself out now.

I hope you enjoyed our trip to Hobbiton as much as we did!

Next time, get ready…things are going to get a little explosive!

A Trip Up the Sky Tower

Ahh, Auckland’s Sky Tower. The most distinctive part of our skyline and the tallest freestanding building in the Southern Hemisphere. Taller than the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle, Germany’s Olympiaturm, and many other iconic landmarks.

The Sky Tower is celebrating its 20th birthday this year! I’ve lived essentially (and sometimes literally) in its shadow for long enough. I used my girlfriend’s visit as an excuse to take a trip up to the observation deck.

The Sky Tower is, and this is going to seem pretty obvious but I feel the need to say it anyway, quite tall. This view is facing East from the city. You can effortlessly see Mission Bay, as though it were right there and not a 20-minute drive away. But you can see beyond that, beyond Achilles Point, to Brown’s Island and Bucklands Beach.

Ho hum. Looking beyond that, you can see Waiheke Island and then in the distance the hills of the Coromandel.

Looking out over the city, the pink walking path next to the motorway provides a nice splash of color. Looking out over land it’s a bit more obvious just how amazingly far you can see from up here!

There are some glass floors along the observation deck. Mentally I know that they’re quite stable and safe, but it still takes a quick mental effort to walk across them.

Looking Northeast, Devonport and North Head seem like you could just reach out and grab them. Rangitoto looks uncharacteristically small (as a testament to how far we’re seeing, Rangitoto is actually taller than the Sky Tower), and in the distance is Great Barrier Island.

But there’s something else visible too…what’s that in the lower left-hand corner of the shot?

Why, it would be a massive cruise ship!

I live on Prince’s Wharf, the two buildings on the pier to the left of the cruise ship, and that ship is actually bigger than the apartment building I live in. Crazy.

(And yes, that means “I can see my house from here” is an entirely accurate statement for me in the Sky Tower).

All good things must come to an end, and so eventually did our trip up the Sky Tower. I’m glad I waited a bit to do it because being able to see things I recognized and had visited and knew made the views much more personal and enjoyable.

Come back next time for the biggest trip of her visit!

A Cathedral Cove Sunset

As you recall from last time, despite some setbacks (notably the motorway being closed) we managed to make it to Hot Water Beach before the tide came in.

My goal was to make it to Cathedral Cove before sunset and then view the sunset from the cove. Did we manage that? Those accomplished at reading post titles already know that the answer is yes :)

In fact, we arrived at the carpark just as the sun was starting to dip down below the mountains.

(This post will mostly be sunset and scenery photos; be forewarned).

As you can see, the clouds are just starting to be tinged with a bit of pink!

Cathedral Cove is a great place to take photos, because pretty much everywhere you point your camera is gorgeous!

But it’s a 30-minute walk down to the beach and I estimated that we had about an hour of daylight, so it was time to get moving.

Walking down the trail, the sun kept hiding behind mountain tops and cliff faces, then re-emerging as the trail wrapped around. I really like this shot, lens flare and all.

It’s possible to walk all the way out to the end of this promontory, and in fact if you do so you can look down onto the beach. We didn’t, though. Once you get here, you’re getting pretty close!

I also really like this shot. Green, rolling hills can be just as pretty as water and cliffs!

Finally, down on the beach! And from the look of the sky, just in time!

The eponymous cathedral arch.

The sun gets lower, the sky gets redder!

Cathedral Cove is on the Eastern shore of the Coromandel Peninsula, so from the beach you can’t really see the sun set directly. You do get to see the lovely colors in the sky though!

And now I must leave you, for the last minutes of the sun setting were not spent taking pictures.

Hope you enjoyed our short trip out to Cathedral Cove!

Next time, I use my girlfriend as an excuse to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while! See you then :)

Hot Water Beach

One of the two big trips my girlfriend and I took while she was here was to the Coromandel Peninsula. I’ve been out to the Coromandel¬†before, and it was a pretty epic trip.

Many of the places we went are places I’ve been before. But this particular place took us somewhere that was new for both of us: Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach is a neat geothermal spot on the East coast of the Coromandel where underground hot springs meet the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors bring shovels to dig holes in the sand at low tide, which fill up with hot water from the underground springs. Basically, you make your own spa pool to relax in, and if things get too toasty you can run into the cold ocean surf to cool off.

We were lucky in that low tide was at a convenient time, early afternoon. We stopped in Thames (on the West coast of the Coromandel) for a nice lunch and a look at their local museum. We then had an unexpected and harrowing drive over the mountains on a dirt road since Highway 25A was out due to landslides. We made good enough time that we arrived at Hot Water Beach just within the two hour window of low tide. This gave us the really fun experience of putting our feet in the hot sand and letting the cold water come in over our legs, creating a really weird hot / cold sensation.

I thought I got some photos of my own feet in the hot pools, but it appears I was too preoccupied trying to take photos of my girlfriend as she played in the surf. So that means you get generic photos of the beach as I describe these things, which isn’t too bad because even without the geothermal oddities, Hot Water Beach is fantastic scenery.

Also, unlike Cathedral Cove, which I visited last time and (spoiler alert) we will visit again next post, you can drive basically right up to the beach. The hot spring area is about 200m from the carpark.

Like Piha and most of the West coast beaches, there are lots of breakers quite near the shore, and the tides and waves can be quite intense. Come for the hot springs, not for the swimming.

I took a really long time waiting for just the right wave to crash over this rock and make a good shot. And then when it happened I didn’t get the shot I wanted. C’est la vie; enjoy this one instead :)

There’s some rocks to climb around on, and at low tide you can walk a fair ways along the beach. But the big draw of Hot Water Beach is digging yourself a nice pool, relaxing in the hot springs, and enjoying the view.

Unfortunately my girlfriend didn’t bring any swim gear, but we still enjoyed the view and putting our feet in. It may have been for the best, though, since we had an appointment and the sun waits for no one.

As we were leaving, though, we did get a parting gift: the late afternoon sun reflecting off the wet sand was absolutely stunning.

Hot Water Beach unquestionably lived up to its reputation as a great tourist spot! So glad we made the time to come here.

Join us next time as we travel just a few kms North :)

Back to Piha

Piha Beach is one of my favorite beaches in New Zealand. I’ve written about it before, and visited there several times.

When I first came to New Zealand in 2014, my friend Brendon took me to Piha. I loved it so much that I’ve been back many times since, and when my parents came to visit last year, I took them to Piha as well. It should come as no surprise, then, that when my girlfriend came to visit in late July, I took her there too! Brendon and his girlfriend Elise came along as well.

(She has requested that she not appear in any photos I put out on the open Internet, so you won’t find her pictured here. I promise she’s not imaginary though!)

Being essentially the middle of Winter, the weather was not the ideal beachgoing climate. We made do.

Awareness of the tides is important for exploring Piha, because if the tide is in then a lot of the cool stuff you might want to check out will be underwater. Fortunately, we arrived as the tide was coming in so we had a chance to take the low route over to the Southern end of the beach.

Along the way is this little keyhole. That’s the Tasman Sea on the other side.

The tide wasn’t at its lowest point, so we did have to climb along the rocks to avoid it occasionally. We all made it though!

At the far Southern end of the beach are these breakers, gating the entrance into a big tide pool. I spent a while here trying to catch a wave crashing on the rocks. I think this is the best of the bunch.

There’s an alternate high route from the South end to the carpark; we took that route back to get some high-up views. I keep looking at shots like this and thinking “if I had a drone, I could get these views all the time”. Maybe one day….

We also climbed Lion Rock, the large and easily-recognizable rock formation on the more Northerly side of Piha. Here’s Brendon demonstrating his excellence at sign-reading and direction-following.

I do quite like this shot of the beach I got from atop Lion Rock (my girlfriend made fun of me for busting out the big lens just to spy on some tourists, so I took this shot to justify getting it out. Turned out to be quite a neat shot. Partial credit to her, I guess!).

We also decided to hike to Kitekite Falls, since we were already basically there at the trailhead.

Sometimes on a hike you see things that you just can’t explain and you really want to know the story behind. Why this pram got abandoned in the bushes is definitely one of those things.

It’s always fun to see your objective peeking through the trees as you get closer!

And there it is! The Waitakere Ranges boast some of the most impressive falls in the Auckland region: these, Fairy Falls, and Karekare Falls all stand out in my mind as being really cool. The falls at the Waitakere Dam are also pretty top. Come here if you want to see waterfalls, is what I’m saying.

The stream is that remarkably clear green-brown which seems to be the trademark of most New Zealand streams.

Winter and rain may not improve the trails any, but they do improve the waterfalls!

On our way back home I stopped to take this photo of the rain over the sea.

Piha, thanks for the memories. I’ll be back. I promise.

Next time: I once again try to stitch together a coherent narrative of my adventures with my girlfriend using only photos that don’t have her in them. This is proving surprisingly difficult, but I will find a way :)

Hamlins Hill and Mutukaroa Regional Park

Just East of the city, right off the motorway, is a hill and a park. The name…is a little complicated. Fair warning, I’m going to start out this post with some boring geography nerd stuff that you can skip if you just want to see the pretty pictures :)

Naming things in New Zealand is a bit tricky. Many places and geographical features have Maori names dating back hundreds of years. Often, these places will have been given completely separate names by European settlers which also date back hundreds of years. As New Zealand embraces both its Maori culture and heritage and also its European culture and heritage, official place names are decided in conjunction between the New Zealand surveyors and gazetteers and the local iwi (Maori tribal governing bodies). As a result, many features and locations have official names both in Te Reo as well as in English (for example, the official name of One Tree Hill is Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill — maunga means mountain and kiekie is a native climbing vine).

Which brings us to Mutukaroa.

(I don’t actually know what Mutukaroa means. The scant research I did says that mutu is a type of snare set for a bird and karo or karoa is a verb meaning to evade or dodge, evoking the meaning of a bird escaping or evading a snare. Not sure if that’s the intended meaning, but I like it enough to provide it here in a parenthetical).

The hill itself is officially named Mutukaroa / Hamlin Hill and colloquially named Hamlins Hill (New Zealand, as I believe I’ve mentioned previously, has adopted the trend of dropping apostrophes from place names). Fair enough. But the hill exists within a park named by the Auckland Council, and they can’t seem to figure out what they’ve named it. The website calls it Hamlins Hill Mutukaroa, but as you can see above the sign calls it Mutukaroa Hamlins Hill Regional Park. Not ones for attention to detail, are the Auckland Council it seems.

Anyway, whatever it’s called, I went there.

The carpark is pretty blink-and-you’ll-miss-it and features all of six spots, which to be fair is probably sufficient almost all of the time.

The gravel track and nice signage (complete with color-coded trail blazes) suggest that these trails will be well marked and maintained. Suggest incorrectly, as it turns out, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pretty much all these photos are taken with the 35mm, so prepare yourself for some lens flares.

I caught a flare when taking this photo, re-took it, and still caught a more subtle flare that I didn’t notice. Sigh.

Anyway, you can see the lush green grass and that the previously wide gravel track has already dwindled to a mere strip (it’s actually two strips, one for each tire of a vehicle).

The Hill Track is about 70% under tree cover. As you enter the gate, a sign reminds you to not break branches. I’m sure none of my readers would engage in such ill-mannered behavior, though to be fair (as you will see) the condition of the track might tempt people to break branches for use as walking sticks. Still not a great reason to mutilate a tree, though; try to find already fallen branches to use as a stick.

Though it’s Winter, the bare trees still form a pleasing archway over the path. I really like tree tunnels!

The pathway here is still well-paved and there are stairs when the elevation changes (gravel paths and hills do not mix particularly well, so stairs are important to prevent all the gravel from winding up at the bottom).

There’s even a wooden footbridge over the stream. So far, big props to the council!

I will quibble that the path could be better-marked though. There are points here where it splits, with no indication of which fork to take.

The path I took led me to a mystical portal exit from the trees.

Hamlins Hill lacks the height of say Mt. Eden or One Tree Hill, but there’s a nice view or two even so.

You can also see plenty of muddy grassland. And speaking of One Tree Hill, there it is in the distance!

And there’s the airport and Mangere Mountain.

(Mangere Mountain does not, to the best of my knowledge, have an official name. I believe the Maori call it Te Pane-o-Mataoho, but I haven’t researched it.)

There is a nice picnic bench here, getting some of the afternoon sun. Can’t say I’d consider Hamlins Hill for a picnic location, if only because I prefer not to get muddy on my way to eating.

Moving back under the trees, there’s a supply shed here. Probably used to store bait for pest traps and the like.

The trails in this forested area are much worse. They meander all over the place, split and rejoin with no markings, rhyme, or reason, and sometimes just disappear into mud pits without warning.

If you find yourself having a wander around here, this random metal object / possible crashed UFO is a good landmark.

Wander enough, and you’ll find your way back to Great South Road!

Once you’ve had enough of wandering and of mud, back into the portal you go to find Totoro return to the carpark.

To be honest, I do not think on my trip to Hamlins Hill with great fondness. I went there not just to do a hike but to do some birdwatching, but I found no interesting birds to photograph. The trails were meandering and muddy, and while I was there a minor emergency cropped up via text message that distracted me from my walk and robbed much of my enjoyment of the moment.

Even so, I have to say that although Hamlins Hill is definitely an also-ran compared to most of the other hills in and around Auckland, it’s a pleasant enough place with charmingly suburban appeal. Perhaps I’ll visit again in late Spring, turn my phone off, and sit at that picnic table and see what birds show up.

In the meantime, back to Auckland.

A Waterfall on the North Shore: Lucas Creek Falls

Last time we looked at Oakley Creek Falls, a waterfall just a short jaunt down the motorway from the city center. Today we’ll go up to the North Shore — Albany, to be specific — and check out another waterfall.

Or at least try to *foreboding music*.

There are basically three ways to get to Lucas Creek Falls. The first and ostensibly most scenic route starts in a little neighborhood on Perekia St behind a Super Liquor — an auspicious beginning, if there ever was one.

From the end of the loop, there’s a largely unmarked gravel walkway leading down into the scrub. It’s not at all clear where this walkway leads, but examining a map suggests that it meanders by a stream until it encounters the Gills Scenic Reserve and, subsequently, the waterfall.

Unfortunately, this plan is foiled by the world’s least imposing fence. Walking around the fence would be the work of but a moment, but (very occasionally) these fences serve to actually prevent one from walking into real danger. Additionally (much more frequently) bypassing one of these fences will sometimes lead one to construction workers who are quite cross at having to break their hearty regimen of shovel-leaning and dirt-staring to yell at intrusive tourists with cameras. I was not in the mood to risk either of these fates today; and besides, there are two other paths to the falls.

If you get back on Dairy Flat Highway and then turn onto Gills Rd, you will forthwith pass over this one-lane bridge. Immediately on your left is a dirt path with a tiny sign reading Gills Scenic Reserve.

Taking your car down this dirt path may indeed lead to bad things, especially if your car is a low-slung Italian convertible. A wiser individual may choose to park on the street, though there’s no street parking particularly near the reserve so your choices are the industrial park across the bridge (thus requiring you to cross the one-lane bridge on foot) or a neighborhood well up the road.

There is, sadly, no reason to bother with either (or with driving down yourself), as this route is also closed.

There is, be it known, one more option for accessing the falls. If you walk down on foot back to Dairy Flat Highway (again) and turn to the right, there is a near-immediate concrete pathway leading down, once again completely unmarked.

(This does imply that parking before the one-lane bridge is the wiser of the two options, as it makes this third pathway more accessible should it become necessary).

As is often the case in New Zealand, make sure you’re walking down the correct path and not, say, the walkway to someone’s front porch.

Say what you will about this path, however; it is well-paved.

Quite soon, the path arrives at a single bench and placard.

You can descend this most excellent set of stairs to meet…

Lucas Creek Falls!

Yes, after all that we finally made it.

Looking across the muddy and unappealing stream, we can see the path on the other side that I first intended to take. Unfortunately, this third option is on the wrong side of the stream and, while that means it’s accessible when the other path isn’t, it also means that the nice walk through the reserve I was planning just wasn’t going to happen.

If I really wanted, I could have used this fallen tree as a bridge and gone over to the other side, but if I wanted to go over that badly I’d just have walked around the fence.

I’m charitably assuming that during the Winter work is being done on the path to ready it for foot traffic again in the late Spring or Summer, so I won’t flagellate the Council too badly over this mishap. But I will say that if you would like to see Lucas Creek Falls you certainly can, but don’t expect a nice walk to get there.

Next time we will not only go up a hill but down it as well! Stay tuned!

A Waterfall in the City: Oakley Creek Falls

I like waterfalls. You might have noticed.

I recently discovered that there are a couple of waterfalls quite close by: Oakley Creek Falls in the West City, and Lucas Creek Falls on the North Shore. I visited the closed one first: Oakley Creek Falls.

There are a few ways to get to the falls, but I suggest parking at the North end of the UNITEC campus (it’s not the easiest place to get to; here is where it is on the map) and walking down the walkway.

Due to all the road works in the area, the walkway has seen some construction. It should be open, though. As you might imagine, cyclists obey this sign about as well as they obey traffic signals, but which I mean not at all.

When you get to this part, you will want to stay to the left and not go up the ramp. That footbridge is very cool and useful if you are going that way, but it does not lead you to the falls. It does lead you to a footpath that parallels the motorway for a super long way and eventually winds up at Lincoln Road, which must be quite convenient for bike commuters!

This is what you want!

There is also a map which, in addition to being only moderately helpful, indicates that you are in two places at once. The dot at the top of the map is correct (this map appears in two places, and I suppose rather than printing two different maps with the dot in different places, they put both dots on both maps and left figuring out which one is correct as an exercise to the reader).

The walkway itself is not in great repair, but it’s miles better than a dirt path, which this time of year would really be a mud path.

The path is short but reasonably scenic, featuring some cool trees.

For much of the way, it borders a stream. There’s some interesting debris along the bank.

This impressive bridge goes over the motorway. As always, New Zealand gets high marks for pedestrian accessibility!

Keep following the stream….

If you get to these stairs, go the other way. These go up to, uh, somewhere else (I’m not sure where. I think maybe that bridge over the motorway actually.)

The path remains reasonably paved throughout.

If you see ducks, you’re almost there!

(Using ducks as a landmark is a terrible idea.)

Eyyy, look at that! The falls!

The area near the falls features one solitary bench and a whole lot of mud. It’s a nice little walk (you can also climb up to the top of the falls. I did that the second time I visited here with my friend Brendon, but I didn’t take any pictures of that).

I hope you enjoyed visiting this nice little waterfall tucked away right in the city. Next time we’ll look at the falls on the North shore!