Thursday, May 07, 2015

New Zealand, Part 2: Wairere Falls and More Hamilton

Monday this week was a day off for us, so we drove to Wairere Falls, the highest waterfall in New Zealand’s North Island. It’s a beautiful hike, reminiscent of some California forests, but with extra, slightly tropical, touches. It’s quite steep, even resorting to stairs in a few places, and takes almost an hour and a half of pretty solid “tramping” (as they say here) to reach the top. So it’s very satisfying, both as physical exercise, and for the scenery.

The first lookout point is halfway up, with a gorgeous view of the falls. When you reach the top, you can actually hardly see the falls themselves at all. A very placid river meanders right up to the cliff, and then heads so completely straight down that you can’t see where it lands, even from the little observation platform reaching out over it. The view of the surrounding countryside is stunning, though. The mountains end very suddenly, leaving completely flat plains over which you can see for miles.

After a couple more days of workshops, we had some more free time today, so Dambara, Zebunnisa, Travis and I headed out for a trip to the Taitua Arboretum in Hamilton. The trees were nice enough, but as a tourist destination, it was underwhelming. The chickens were the most memorable part of it, in fact. Tons of them, just all over the place. There were times that we’d hear the crowing of roosters from all sides, as if a vicious pack of wild jungle chickens were slowly circling in for the kill. But we made it out safely. Also in the not-a-tree department, I was rather fond of this baby Stonehenge they have. A few thousand years more of regular watering and I’m sure it’ll be quite impressive.

We had passed signs for the Hamilton Zoo on the way to the arboretum, so we decided to head there next. It’s really quite a nice little zoo, with hardly any people there on a gray Thursday afternoon. We managed to catch feeding time for the lemurs and spider monkeys, which was fun to watch. A lot of the larger animals (tigers, cheetahs, etc.) were being lazy and unentertaining, but the rhinos put on a pretty good show. One of them had a really good wallow in a mud puddle, then started going after her companion like she wanted to push her in as well. Then they both took a fun canter around their whole enclosure. Lots more activity than I’d have expected from them, and very impressive to watch such formidable beasts in motion.

We’ve finished up our workshops in Hamilton, and tomorrow we’re heading out to Lake Taupo for a weekend-long retreat program. Then that’ll wrap things up for the trip and we’ll be heading home on Tuesday. I’m continuing to add photos to the album here as I go.

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