Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Train, A Waterfall, A Jacuzzi

Nov. 25, 2012

We left the Animal Farm and drove back to Kawakawa, and hopped aboard Gabriel, the steam locomotive.  This lovingly restored original steam engine is run by a group of volunteers, all of whom are about as old as the engine, which was built in 1927.  There are two cars attached, one a closed carriage with cushy seats and a gift shop, the other an open carriage with benches – wonderful for watching the scenery, but full of smoke from the engine.

It was a short, 20 minute ride down to the end of the line.  There’s an old wooden trestle bridge, we were told this is the longest curved wooden railroad bridge in the southern hemisphere – but it is currently not steady or strong enough to hold the train, so it isn’t used.  However, this is the route the train took way back some 100 years ago, carrying coal from the hills to the river, then boats took the coal out to the coast for the steamships.  So it was all very interesting.

After spending some time in Kawakawa again, we headed south to Whangarei – another old town on an inlet with interesting activities all around.  We went to Whangarei Falls – the river comes over a lava flow that came across bedrock, and the water now plunges some 85 feet or so.  It was another beautiful, magnificent waterfall, and this one completely natural, no hydroelectric power or river diversion or anything like that.  I followed the path, which included scenic overlooks cantilevered out over the gorge; downhill switchbacks through the woods to the base of the waterfall, where I could see the columnar basalt all around the bottom (thanks, Dad!); climbing over a rather high but solid curved bridge over the pool; hiking back up the other side of the gorge; and then crossing the river on a rickety and dented metal grill bridge that sat nearly on the water, some 15 feet upriver from the fall itself.  Quite the thrilling hike!  I stayed on the path, as opposed to the woman I saw who climbed off the bridge and stood on a rock maybe ten inches from the drop.  It was gorgeous, and absolutely worth the trek!

At the car park, we tried to figure out where to stay – our guide with accommodations mentioned a holiday park adjacent to the falls reserve, but it was nowhere in sight.  We asked an older man who was walking his dog (a cute little fox terrier) – he chatted with us a bit, told us maybe around the corner because there was a backpacker’s lodge there, and we played with the cute doggie for a while.  Then we drove off, and there was the holiday park – we checked in, Richard was completing the paperwork, and Mr Doggie Guy showed up to invite us to spend the night at his house!  We thanked him profusely but both just felt it would be imposing, despite his saying that he and the dog get tired of each other’s company after a while.  We felt bad, but, well, it just didn’t seem like the right thing to do.  

Anyway, we’re plugged into the power, we had a dip in the hot tub, and we’ll figure out tomorrow’s direction.  

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