Last of the Summer Flowers

hamilton gardens

It’s a frightful day. The rain’s so loud I can barely hear myself think. I look outside and see a slush of autumn leaves. The last surviving flower in our front garden, a perfect pocket of beauty in a stack of ragged stems, is finally defeated. Winter is coming.

I miss the beautiful flowers of summer. I miss them more than I ever have, because this year I’ve taken more notice of them than I ever have. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas, you see, and flowers make great subjects for practise.

Consequently, I’ve got lots of photographs of flowers that I’ve been looking for an excuse to share. Well, this is it. I hope, therefore, that if you’re sitting somewhere murky and rain-lashed, they help to brighten your day.

And… I guess I shouldn’t go crazy. Here’s hoping the weather clears up so I can explore somewhere new…

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More Photos from the Goblin Forest

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

The Goblin Forest of Taranaki really does have to be seen to be believed. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But I’ve already waxed lyrical about it in a previous post, called The Goblin Forest, so I’ll leave the talking now to the photographs. (Even though I know I’ll probably never again get a photo as good as the one from that first post!)

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

I thought this branch kind of looked like the head of a dog, or a dragon. You know, in that stylised Celtic sort of way…

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

And see how this tree has grown over its own sign?

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But now we must leave this enchanted forest. Pass through the archway and return to the real world… I hope not too much time has passed and your loved ones are still alive.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

The Goblin Forest

POMS AWAY!

Before I went to Hogwarts, I spent my childhood exploring Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood. A few weeks ago, on the slopes of Taranaki, I felt like I’d returned.

Taranaki is a dormant volcano on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. When the clouds clear, it’s truly spectacular to behold. I went there with my family this summer – my mum, my dad and my grandpa, who’s visiting us from England. We didn’t want to actually climb the volcano, also known as Mount Egmont, but we drove up to the visitor centre to look around.

Though we were standing right below the peak, it was completely invisible, shrouded by stubborn clouds. Disappointed, we entered the building to see if there were any short, easy walks we could do. There were plenty to choose from, of course, and there were many mentions of a ‘goblin forest’ – apparently the bush…

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Photos from Our South Island Campervan Trip

POMS AWAY!

The South Island of New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. My mum, dad, nana, sister and I travelled around much of it in a campervan; it was the best family holiday we ever had. (And yes, I am including our fortnight in Florida, visiting all the theme parks.)

The Christchurch Tram The Christchurch tram

We picked up our rental campervan in Christchurch, having flown there from Auckland. I’ve already written an article about the trip – if you haven’t read it, you can do so here – so I won’t repeat myself. I just wanted to show you these awesome photos my dad took.

(If you read last week’s article, you’ll know that I’ve been going through my dad’s old pictures!) Enjoy.

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch Punting on the Avon, Christchurch

Castle Hill, New Zealand Castle Hill

Kea A cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot

Weka Pass Railway The Weka Pass Vintage Railway

Bungy Jumping, New Zealand Watching a bungy…

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The Blue Spring

The Blue Spring

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Well it used to be.

A river that sauntered between rolling hills and bush, so clear as to seem invisible and thick with flowing greenery, it had a swimming hole that was straight from a fairy tale. On the opposite bank to the path, overhanging trees and rocks created a small, circular dell bubbling with water of the purest sapphire blue. It looked like a magical portal; a sacred pool in a sorceress’s cave.

Imagine swimming in that.

The Blue Spring

Unfortunately, imagine is all you can do these days. The Blue Spring used to be a local secret, but then the media discovered it. Tourists flocked to it. Within weeks, the greenery was disappearing. The natural serenity was gone; the magic was choking.

So the authorities did the only thing they could: they banned swimming in the Blue Spring.

It worked to a certain extent. The greenery was given the chance to regenerate, free from being crushed by so many feet. It’s now almost as luscious as it once was. The same cannot be said, however, for the magic.

The Blue Spring

The river is wide between the path and the dell, and there’s a barrier in the way. There’s still magic there, but you can no longer touch it. You can only squint to see it from a distance. It’s diminished.

There are so many other tourists crowded at the barrier that the serenity is all but gone.

The Blue Spring

It’s still worth visiting the Blue Spring. It’s still a pretty sight, after all. It’s just outside Putaruru, an hour’s drive from Hamilton, just over halfway towards Rotorua. I recommend stopping at Putaruru’s Over the Moon, a boutique cheesemaking factory and delicatessen.

That’s what Tim and I did; we took a picnic to eat overlooking the spring.

We were lucky to find a parking spot. The Blue Spring has a car park at each end of Te Waihou Walkway, but it’s far closer to walk to the spring from the Leslie Road end. (Ten minutes, as opposed to an hour and twenty minutes.) Of course, everyone wants to park at the closer end.

The Blue Spring

In my opinion, Rotorua’s Hamurana Springs is a more beautiful walk that the Blue Spring, if only because you can get a closer look at the magic. (You can’t swim at Hamurana either, but there are platforms right above the pretty bits, close enough to touch the water.) Maybe if you were still allowed to swim in the Blue Spring, it would edge out Hamurana, but you can’t, so…

Then again, the Blue Spring is free. Hamurana used to be, but they’ve just started charging $18 per adult, which is outrageous.

Sigh.

Okere Falls and a Wonderful Bookshop

Okere Falls

I got a new camera for Christmas. Keen to practise using it, I persuaded my family to visit one of the few easily accessible waterfalls in the Bay of Plenty I hadn’t already seen, Okere Falls.

Okere Falls

Okere Falls can be found just outside Rotorua. They’re by no means the best waterfalls I’ve been to, but they’re popular with kayakers and rafters.

Kayakers at Okere Falls

Word of warning: don’t visit Okere Falls during the Christmas holidays. I found it difficult to get a decent photograph partly due to the lack of room on the viewing platforms!

Okere Falls

(The other reason, I found out later, was because I didn’t have a Neutral Density Filter. I’m new to this “proper” photography stuff, okay.)

Okere Falls

One part of the path to the falls is a narrow tunnel with steps carved into the rock. With so many people there, getting up and down the steps was a nightmare, so just beware.

Okere Falls

There’s not really much more to say about Okere Falls. Afterwards, we drove into Rotorua, parked at Government Gardens and walked into the city centre in search of lunch.

I hadn’t explored the city centre itself in years, so I was surprised at how pretty it’s become. We made our way to Eat Streat, an avenue of fashionable bars and restaurants.

Eat Streat

The main reason I’d wanted to visit Rotorua, aside from Okere Falls, was to go to a certain secondhand bookshop my dad had found whilst geocaching. (Don’t ask.) It didn’t disappoint.

It’s called Atlantis, and I was in love with it even before I’d seen the Art Nouveau-style Firefly posters on the wall! It’s got two floors, and the selection is quite impressive, although I was slightly disappointed by the history section. By time I’d finished, I had six books in my arms, including a really old copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So, there’s somewhere to look out for if you’re a bibliophile visiting Rotorua.

Kaiate Falls

If you’d like to read about another waterfall I’ve been to in the Bay of the Plenty, check out my article on Kaiate Falls. They’re much more magical than Okere Falls, I reckon.

The Craters of the Moon

The first time I saw the Craters of the Moon, I was crying. The hot, white, sulphurous fumes mingled with my tears, which made my face feel very strange indeed.

I was crying because I was tired, and because my family had just had an argument. I don’t remember what it was about. Perhaps my sister and I hadn’t wanted to visit any more tourist attractions. It was late and we were hungry, but here Dad was, dragging us around yet another site of supposed interest. I didn’t know or care what the place was. I was determined not to enjoy it.

The funny thing is, though, I enjoyed it immensely. I enjoyed it so much I was eager to go back years later. I couldn’t even remember it properly, but I knew it was special.

Craters of the Moon

The Craters of the Moon are just outside Taupō, the last stop on the campervan trip I recently took with my partner. I simply had to see them again. If nothing else, I remembered the feel of walking amongst them. I’d stomped off alone, half-running along the boardwalk, and suddenly I was entranced by the mystical landscape around me. Such wonder made the anger I had for my parents seem insignificant. I was lost in the billowing fumes rising from the muddy craters.

The mud was an odd colour. In fact, the whole landscape was a bit off, as though someone had sat down to paint it, but hadn’t had the right pigments.

Craters of the Moon

My partner and I paid the entry fee – $8 each – and set off along the boardwalk. I could still feel the tears on my face: cool and fresh when the wind licked them; hot and tingly when the fumes did. Of course, I wasn’t crying this time. I was an adult and I had chosen to come. I just hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed; that I hadn’t built it up too much in my mind. (Or my partner’s.)

“It doesn’t look much like the moon,” he said.

He was right, of course. But it did, I thought, look like a Victorian artist’s rendering of the moon. Picture a cartoon featuring the adventures of an intrepid space missionary reaching out to the lunar inhabitants; perhaps planting a Union Flag atop one of the larger craters. Very steampunk.

Admittedly, it’s not one of the best geothermal attractions in New Zealand, but at $8, it’s worth checking out. You can spend an hour wandering around it – more if you allow yourself to become mesmerised by the craters. My partner and I didn’t have time, unfortunately, as we had to return our campervan. I could have gazed into a few of them for ages.