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Touring and Sailing in New Zealand 2010 - Part 2

This is largely a series of pictures taken on a journey round some of our favourite places in North Island with a few new additions. The first stop was Rotorua for the thermal areas including the Craters of the Moon which has been becoming steadily more active. It was then on to Napier. This year we were too late for the Art Deco Festival but we did visit Sue at the Esk Valley Winery, had lunch at the new Elephant Winery before going up the Te Mata Peak, We finally dropped in at the Stonecroft Winery.

One of our Firsts this year was a visit to the Botanical Gardens sited high above Napier on the hill - they merit a write-up. The gardens can be traced right back to the creation of Napier - the Crown purchased the site of Napier (640 acres) for £50 in 1855. From the very start 18 of the 640 acres was reserved for Botanical Gardens, and another 4.5 acres was set aside for a cemetery which was expected to be linked to the Botanical Gardens. Such foresight was rare and provisions for “Botanical Reserves” were only made in Wellington, Napier, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Hospital Hill site chosen seemed to lack promise due to difficult hilly terrain but extensive use was made of prison labour for the planting of trees and the laying out of paths and terraces. To combat droughts during those early years, use was made of the wells that were sunk in the lower gardens for the 65th Regiment. Each season the caretaker Mr Burton planted more decorative trees and shrubs, many of which are still present today. Many of the today's fine trees come from seedlings brought by captains of visiting ships to the Napier Port. In later years elaborate patterned flowerbed displays were developed within the Gardens. Although never intended to be a true representation of an “English” botanical garden, the Napier Botanical Gardens became a source of great civic pride. However the family car led to progressively fewer people visiting so an aviary was built and a duck pond was added at the main entrance to the gardens. A tree identification programme was initiated so the specimens could be named - in keeping with the concept of a botanical garden. It has recently had an even more extensive restoration and is beautifully maintained and well worth a visit.

 

We stayed in a cabin at the Westshore Holiday Park out towards the airport, we have stayed there several times and already have a booking for next years Art Deco festival. From Napier we travelled South for an all too brief visit to see our friends at the Tokomaru Steam Museum and then found a nearby campsite the Himotangi Beach which was new to us and turned out to be excellent and very friendly, one we definitely recommend and will return to. It was then on to Wanganui - we arrived early enough for a trip on the Steam paddle-wheeler the Waimarie that was so magnificently restored for the Millennium and caught up with all the gossip from David, the manager of the Riverboat centre and restorer of riverboats.

The next target on out whistle stop tour was another favourite - Mount Egmont where we started with a short walk round Dawson Falls before going to stay at the Anderson's Alpine Lodge with Berta who used to own Mountain House.

The next day had our first walk on the York Loop Track with an exploration of the Egmont branch line which brought ballast down from the Manganui River. The York Road Loop Track follows part of the old Egmont Branch Railway Line - access is from the end of York Road which turns off SH3 between Stratford and Tariki and the small car park is right on the boundary of the national Park. The line was first proposed in 1901 to provide a source of metal for Taranaki roads, rocks for Port Taranaki and ballast for the railways. The quarries, crushers and railway were in full operation by 1908. Typically 25,000 tons per year were extracted over the next twenty years. The number of crushers was reduced in 1928 and operations steadily ran down until the quarries and line were finally closed by 1951. The original York Track was created to access the various sections of the railway, crushers and quarries during the construction phase. The current track is in the form of a loop and we passed about 10 sites of interest which had information boards. It took us a little under 3 hours with a lot of time investigating and taking pictures.

We started in the car park where there was an exhibit of one of the side tipping railway wagons. We folowed the track and came to the Bunk House and Cottages Site, now just a green area with some foundations. The Bunk House was also known as the Barracks and housed 20 men and had a large kitchen and living rooms. The barracks sold for 15 pounds and moved to provide a hall at the New Plymouth Railway Settlement in 1930. Six small cottages were also on this site to accommodate the married men. The main artifacts remaining are at the Crusher Site where there is still a massive retaining wall, 100m long and 7m high which was part of the building that housed the crushing machine and other works. Side-tipping rail wagons brought rock to the two crushers via an upper siding. The crushed and screened metal was then fed into wagons below for transport to Waipuku junction. The crushers were operated by water turbines. Although heavily overgrown one can still identify many of the remains.

We walked up the old line of the water supply which was over 1km long and in a 500mm diameter pipe made of rolled steel pipes. It was used to carry water to the sandtrap and crushers. Some of the rusting pipeline was still visible from the track. The Sandtrap is still intact and the valves look operational. It was used to filter any sediment from the water before use in the crusher turbines. We walked across to the River Quarry where the railway lines gave access to the river where rock could be easily found. A few remnants of the line can still be seen. We continued to the Middle Quarry Station - a site on the Manganui River which provided poor quality rock which crushed easily although it had the advantages of being plentiful and readily available. As we continued we could see of the flumes and culverts that diverted water away from the Foot Station into a man-made river. We reached the site of the Foot Station located at the end of the rail line from Waipuku. Only a large clearing remains where the rail yard was located. This was also the site of the proposed Rope Way Station which was never built as the Upper Quarry development ceased in 1916 from here on the original track is heavily overgrown and now closed. We then returned on the York Road Track which was constructed to allow access for work at both ends of the railway line.

We followed up with one of our favourite walks, a whole day walk from Mountain House on the lower around the mountain track to the Dawson Falls road end, up to Wilkies Pools and then back on the high track to the Plateau. We left Berta after three very enjoyable nights, on one Berta did a Raclette and another we cooked a barbeque for her and the other guests. We left on the Forgotten Highway, the SH43, to Taumaranui where we stayed. The Forgotten World Highway cuts across the grain of the land and has some magnificent scenary with exception views from the various saddles - we have written about it and the small nation of Whangamomena one passes through many times before.

From Taumaranui we had a walk in the Tongariro Forest at the end of the 42 Traverse which was a new area to us so merits some background. The 42 Traverse is within the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area which stretches from National Park in the south to the Waituhi Saddle in the north and lies between Tongariro National Park and Owhango. Between 1903 and 1978, State Forest 42 supported 43 timber mills. Hundreds of millions of board feet of timber were extracted before a dwindling supply of accessible trees saw the decline of these mills. The area is now preserved as a park for conservation and recreation as well as protection of Owhango’s water supply catchment following the transfer of all remaining native forest to the Department of Conservation in 1987. The forest is a favourite hunting area for many and also offers exciting mountain biking and four wheel driving over old forestry roads and tracks. There is also excellent fishing in the rivers and streams in the forest. The 42 Traverse is an old logging road that cuts through Tongariro Forest and is popular with mountain bikers for its challenging terrain and suberb views. It gets it’s name from the original State Forest 42 as well as being 42 km long. It is popular with mountain bikers because of it’s challenging terrain and superb views as well as its many river crossings and the awesome Canyon valley. We are not into Mountain Biking [yet] but will eventually try the Tongariro Crossing which is known as one of the great all day tramps in New Zealand although it now so popular that there is no privacy left.

We stopped at National Park station for some of their superb cakes timing it so we had our food in hand and could then watch the Overlander train arrive. The Overlander runs daily in both directions on the Main Trunk line between Auckland and Wellington. They used to both stop at National Park for an hour for the passengers to eat as their were no buffet cars. There is only one platform and new regulations prevent crossing the lines so one now stops at Raurimu at the bottom of the spiral. The land rises too steeply on stretch between Raurimu and National Park for a direct rail route - a direct line between these two points would rise 200 m in a distance of some 5 km, a gradient of 1 in 24 whilst 1 in 50 is the steepest which can be achieved by normal locomotives and trains. Surveys during the 1880s had failed to find a route with a lesser grade without a 20-km detour and nine massive viaducts. This led to the unique and world famous Raurimu Spiral we have written about in previous years when we took a train from Taumaranui through Raurimu and the spiral and then changed at National Park for the return to Taumaranui.

We took the side trip from National Park (town) to visit Chateau where we had the most incredible light for pictures. We did the short walk round the Te Porere Redout and later in the day had our first walk round the old Pa at Opotaka.

Our final night before our return to Auckland was at Dickson Holiday Park in the Coromandel at Thames and we looked round the attached Butterfly farm.

It was then back to Auckland for packing and planning our next adventures.

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