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Multiple Perspectives on Te Anau

Thursday 12th November 2015

sunny 16 °C

Sadly it was our last day in Fiordland today and with the help of our host we had already decided to make the most of it. She was very helpful when we went to check out and arranged to have our bags taken up the the Real Journeys office later in the afternoon while we were on another boat trip. Once this was all sorted we made our way to the offices of Takitimu Tiki Tours and met Heath our guide/ driver for the morning. He initially showed us round the town and the edge of the lake and explained a bit of the history. We then went to a lookout from where we could not only see the whole of the town, but also the lake and the mountains beyond.

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He is a really lovely friendly guy and as well as talking about the history and geology of the area he also spoke about his family, his children and his English wife. Once we had finished admiring the view at the lookout we went to the river, the same one we had got on the day before with Luxmore boats but much further up near the dam.

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The water was a real emerald green but very clear and because it was shallower at the waters edge than it had been further downstream you could really appreciate the colours. We looked for trout, but there didn't seem to be many in that spot this morning. We then walked for a fairly short distance through the beach forest, which was at the end of a very heavy flowering year and so there was lots of pollen about.

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Once we had finished, Heath very kindly walked back and got the van. Whilst we were waiting I was listening to the sound of some of the beach trees creaking in the wind. Nigel then saw some discarded fishing line and as we were concerned about this hurting the wild life we wound it all back up and gave it the Heath once he arrived. We then made the fairly short journey back to the town. One of the crew on the Doubtful Sound trip had told us about a film that had been shot from a helicopter over the Fiordland National Park and that this could be viewed in a cinema in Te Anau. It turned out that Heath's uncle was the primary pilot and the person whose idea the film was, and so Heath played a short trailer of the film in the van.

We had time to go and have some lunch at the delicious if not so deliciously named Sandfly Cafe. We then went to watch the film the cinema specially built by the guy that made the film. It made stunning viewing and really gave a sense that you were up in a helicopter. It was so impressive that we bought a copy so that we could watch it again once we were back at home. It was then only a short walk to the lake from where we were catching the boat that would take us to the glowworm caves. The journey across the lake gave us another perspective on Te Anau and also up one of the fiords that leads off the main lake.

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The boat was pretty full and so once we arrived at the caves we were split into four groups and while some went straight into the caves the rest of had to wait a short while. We were in the second group and as soon as we entered the caves we could hear the loud sound of rushing water. As we continued along the raised metal walkway we were along side a fast flowing underground stream and several quite spectacular underground waterfalls. We then reached the small landing stage were we got on board a small boat and continued a little further along the river. It was here that we saw most of the glowworms. There weren't as many as we had seen in Waitomo and the experience wasn't as special but the cave itself was probably one of the most dramatic I had ever been in. We then went back into the visitor centre where we were given a cup of tea and had a short presentation on glowworms by our guide.

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Before long we were back on the boat and making our way back to Te Anau. Much to my relief our bags were waiting for us and we had just enough time to go and have a coffee before we needed to catch our bus. It was very full and we were quite lucky to be able to get seats together. It was a couple of hours back to Queenstown, and although there was a film showing our seats were too far back to see it, so Nigel listened to his music while I read my book with one eye on the scenery beyond the coach.

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It was about 7:30pm by the time we got back to Queenstown so it was quite a relief that we knew where to go, and our way around the hostel. So we just got some food and then settled in to watch the film The Fastest Indian (about a New Zealand motorcycle fanatic and starring Anthony Hopkins) that we hadn't been able to see properly on the bus.

Posted by Gill's Travels 00:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains trees queenstown rivers new_zealand te_anau Comments (0)

The Ancient Kauri Tree

Thursday 1st September 2015

sunny 17 °C

We had nowhere pressing to go today so we decided to have a relaxing morning at the lodge, catching up with bookings, emails and this blog. We had considered going out on the bikes provided for guests, unfortunately when I took a closer look they where mountain bikes with a cross bar and even with the seat lowered there was no way I was going to be able to ride them. Nigel would also have found them a bit tricky as well, now that his hip is playing him up a bit. In the end we decided to drive up through the Kauri forest and go to the Waipoua Forest Visitor Centre that we had seen yesterday. It wasn't a great distance once we had got from the lodge onto the main coast road. Initially we were driving through farmland and pine forests. We had noticed that when logging takes place in New Zealand it seems to happen on a massive scale so that a whole hillside will be stripped of trees. This leaves a massive scar on the landscape before it is either replanted or some vegetation grows back.

As we drove further north the road became steeper and more winding as we entered into the beginnings of the kauri forest. We saw a sign for a lookout and so Nigel turned off so we could have a look. The track was gravel and quite steep but we were hopeful that it wouldn't be very far. In the end it was probably about a kilometre until we reached a clearing with what was more like an old fire lookout, now open to the public. Once we went up the steps on out on the balcony we had good views over the forest.

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We then made our way back down the track and drove the remainder of the distance towards the Visitor Centre. This was also down a narrow gravel track and it seemed that we were destined to have to drive down them at least some of the time. When we arrived at the centre we were hoping to have some lunch, but they were about to close, I think because it had been quiet all morning. We were still served coffee and a panini which we were able to eat outside on the picnic tables. Once we had finished we went for a short walk so that we could look at the Waipoua river.

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It was ironic that having closed the visitor centre there seemed to be a constant stream of people driving up in their cars, however that wasn't really our problem. Ruby had mentioned another bit of Kauri forest further south at Trounson Park so we decided to take a look there. The most direct route was via a dirt track called Donnelly's Crossing but we had been advised the day before that this was was a difficult bit of road so instead we approached the park from the other direction. The forest was really special with dozens if magnificent kauri trees including some that seemed to have fused together in twos and in one place four together. They were quite hot on bio-security and so you were encouraged to disinfect your footwear on entering and leaving the forest. There were also lots of stretches of boardwalk in order to protect the delicate Kauri roots. There were a couple of places where trees were either diseased, had fallen or been blown down and it was interesting seeing how other plant matter quickly started to take over the rotting wood.

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Once we had finished our walk and returned to the car we decided to drive further south, past where we were staying and go to a place called Baylys Beach. This is part of Ripiro Beach which at 66 miles is longer than Ninety Mile Beach. When we arrived we could see that most people had parked on the beach, so Nigel bravely followed suit.

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We went for a short walk along the sand. I was keen to look at some of the rocks that were further up so I carried on, looking out for the vehicles that were being driven along the sand. It turned out on closer observation that there were some rocks but also a large number of tree stumps (probably ancient kauri stumps and lignite).

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There was also a large natural semi submerged pool on the beach. It is a lovely place and I could have easily spent loads of time there. I was just starting to walk back to meet Nigel when I became aware of a car driving in the sand in my direction. I didn't take much notice at first as I had seen quite a lot of cars going back and forth, but then I recognised our hire car. I was surprised to see Nigel driving up the beach, but it saved me walking to meet him.

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We both felt like we were ready to go back to our accommodation and we happy to just have a snack when we got back. As we were relaxing later in the evening Ruby popped by and I said that I had checked our paperwork and that we were definitely meant to get breakfast. As she didn't really have any food for us, and we did, she said she would give us some money off our bill when we checked out tomorrow.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:14 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trees ocean new_zealand kauri Comments (0)

The Last Few Hours in Oz

Thursday 24th September 2015

sunny 27 °C

Sadly today we were having to leave the Daintree and drive back to Cairns in preparation for our flight to New Zealand tomorrow. We had time for breakfast at the lodge before checking out and getting on our way. The drive to Cairns was only about a two hour drive and 75 miles in distance. We had talked about visiting the Daintree Discovery Centre previously but had not had time, so we decided to spend a couple of hours there before lunch. It was another raised rainforest walkway, but despite having visited a couple of these further south, it was worth visiting as each one is different depending on the local flora and fauna. It is also on a cassowary corridor so there was the potential to see more of them. The centre gave out audio guides which gave lots of information about the plant life and animals and you could also select an indigenous commentary which told of how aboriginal people interact with nature, the use of plants for food and medicine and the like. The centre has a large tower that takes you high up into the rainforest canopy and it was fascinating seeing the different types of flora and fauna at each level.

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Once we had finished walking round the centre we had a light lunch before continuing towards the Daintree ferry. Whilst we were waiting to board a guy approached the car and said that there was a crocodile on the far bank, but much as I looked I wasn't able to see one. It was a reminder though of the potential presence of these dangerous animals. From the south bank of the river it was a straightforward journey towards Cairns. The scenery was beautiful and we were a little more able to appreciate it given that we were under less pressure for time than when we drove north a few days earlier.

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We stopped briefly at Rex Lookout a few miles short of Cairns, which gave beautiful views of the coastline.

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Once we arrived in Cairns we managed to find our hotel and checked in and got our bags up into our room. We needed to do some washing and fortunately there was a laundry room so we loaded up a couple of machines which did the job quickly, and whilst the stuff was drying we went to explore the seafront and the town. We were so surprised and disappointed to see that there was no real beach to speak of. Reading an information board it was apparent that the white sand that fringed this bit of coastline was destroyed by over dredging early in the 20th century. Now the beach is replaced with a boardwalk, a tiny town beach and an artificial beach/ lido.

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We were so pleased that we had decided to spend three days a few miles north a Kewarra Beach rather than in Cairns. As we walked along the sea front it was clear that the whole resort was a bit tacky, with soulless restaurants and bars and gift shops. We decided to go back to our hotel and eat there ordering from room service.

Once we got back to our hotel somebody had taken our laundry out of one the dryers, and another person was moaning because our clothes had dried quicker than the standard time and we hadn't taken it out of the machine. Nigel said the man looked even more disgruntled when I took each piece out and fold it before putting it away, he clearly thought I should have just pulled it all out a once and stuffed it in the bag. Just one of the minor irritations of doing your washing in a communal laundry. Dinner was pretty good though, and we got a few bits ready for our departure in the morning and had a reasonably early night.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches trees australia cairns daintree Comments (0)

Stepping Out

Wednesday 2nd September 2015

sunny 16 °C

Breakfast at Tara Guesthouse was a bit more of a sociable affair this morning, and we were able to chat to the two other guests (who were both in the area on business) as well as talking some more to Julian and Brom. They had kindly offered to take us to the airport to pick up our car, so after a bit of checking to clarify exactly where the car hire company were based and the last few bits of packing done, were soon on our way. When we arrived at Avis the guy who served us was very friendly although it all seemed a bit vague in terms if who was having what car. In the end we were given a bit of an upgrade and came away with an automatic Toyota Corolla so we were pretty happy. We had decided to leave the city on the motorway and with the sat-nav this turned out to be quite straight forward. We didn't have any maps for this leg of the journey so once we were right out if the city we stopped at a petrol station and brought a road atlas.

We continued in the motorway for a few more miles before the road turned into the Great Western Highway just after a town called Penrith. The road was very good, and quite fast if a little featureless. I searched in the map for somewhere were we could venture a little bit into the National Park, and also where we could perhaps get some lunch. In the end we pulled off the highway at a town called Wentworth Falls. I directed Nigel towards some lookouts (these would be termed as viewpoints in the UK) at a place called the Conservation Hut which was essentially a cafe and visitor centre. We went and had lunch of toasted sour bread sandwiches and coffee and then decided to go on one of the shorter walks graded as moderate. Initially this went to the Queen Victoria Lookout, down quite a steep and slightly muddy path.

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Beyond this it continued down to the Empress Lookout and further still to the Empress Falls. We didn't walk the whole way to the falls as it started to get very steep and hard going with a number of ladder sections.

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We went down a way and then decided to turn back which involved going back up the ladder sections and then the long incline up to the Conservation Hut. It was a long climb and I estimated that there were well over 500 steps, so by the time we got to the top we were both pretty tired.

Nigel then drove the short distance into Katoomba to our new bed and breakfast. We could see as we pulled up that the view was amazing and so after dropping our bags off we decided to go and have a look at the Three Sisters rocks over the road before settling in properly. We took in the amazing view of the rocks and the mountains beyond and took quite a few photographs.

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Perhaps rather rashly given the walk we had done previously we went to have a look at another lookout nearer to the Tree Sisters. Initially this was an easy walk of less than half a kilometre but there was then a short but steep stretch down to Honeymoon Bridge which connected the escarpment to the first 'sister'.

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This involved going down about 100 steps some of which were on a steep ladder section, hard going down and equally tiring coming back up. It was interesting to see the way some of the trees had their roots barely hanging on the the ground. Whilst we were walking back to the car park we also saw a number of small sculptures representing some of the local indigenous animals.

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Once back at the B&B we got settled in and had a cup of tea but both decided that we fancied another quiet night in and that we weren't really hungry enough to go out for a meal, and so we went with that.

Posted by Gill's Travels 03:42 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains trees animals australia katoomba blue_mountains Comments (0)

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