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Entries about waterfalls

Ebb and Flow

Wednesday 14th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

The weather this morning was still cloudy and a little overcast but thankfully better than it had been for the previous couple of days and we could see a little more of the Tongariro peaks on the far side of the lake. We prepared breakfast in our well kitted out kitchenette and then set off towards the Huka Falls for the boat trip that we had booked a couple of days earlier. Although the booking arrangements seemed quite vague at the time, our guide David was expecting us and as there was one other couple on the boat we were going to have lots of room to move around. David introduced himself and explained a bit about the dam which was just beyond our departure point and the river system below that. We then set off up stream and were told a lot about the flora and fauna of the river. We also went past a geothermal power station. The journey up to the falls probably took us about 45 minutes and I found myself full of anticipation each time we rounded a bend.

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There was a hint when we were getting near as the water became a little more turbulent and David had to make use of both the engines on the boat in order to push against the current. Once around the final corner the waterfall was clearly visible in front of us. David expertly manoeuvred the boat much closer to the waterfall than I was expecting, giving us a great view.

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It was quite an assault on the senses; the colour of the river was a bright turquoise blue covered in a bubbling white foam from the sheer force of the water. The nearer we got the louder the noise became until it was almost thunderous.

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The boat was easily pushed back by the power of the water, but two or three times David steered it back in the direction of the falls. We were given plenty of opportunity to take as many photographs as we wanted before the boat was turned around for the last time and we made our way back up the river. At the start of the trip we had been told how the spill gates to the dam were opened regularly throughout the day in order that the cascades on the far side would, albeit temporarily, flow freely.

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We moored up just in time to go and watch the water as it started to flow out from the dam and David had given us quite precise timings in order to maximise our chance of seeing the falls in full flow. Once there, we watched the pool's fill and the water flow at full capacity, and then after about fifteen minutes or so when the gates were closed the water reduced to its former level.

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We had been keeping an eye on our watches and we made sure that we made our way up to the official lookout several miles upstream in order to watch David take his next group of tourists to view the Huka Falls. Not only was it interesting seeing the boat being manoeuvred from a different perspective, but it also gave us the opportunity to see the river above and beyond the base of the falls.

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By the time we left the river it was approaching lunch and so we made our way to a nearby glassblowing workshop that both David and Peter back at our accommodation had recommended. Once there, we watched one of the glassblowers finish off a small vase and then we went into the cafeteria and had a delicious lunch. We then watched some more glass blowing after which we went into the sculpture garden to look at some of the larger objects that have been made by Lynden Over, the owner of the workshop.

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By this time I had already decided that I would like to buy a small piece and have it sent home to England. After a lot of deliberation I settled on a pretty red scent bottle and once chosen all I needed to do was to pay and complete the shipping paperwork. Once we had finished at the glassblowing workshop we made our way back into Taupo and returned to our accommodation. Once there we had time to relax for a while and drink a cup of tea before going out again to walk by the lake. There were several places where small streams of steaming water flowed into the lake and also several places where the fringes of the lake had steam coming off.

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All of this was a salutary reminder of the fact that Taupo Lake is situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. That evening there was a beautiful sunset over the lake and so we looked at this for a while before pouring ourselves a G&T which we drank whilst sitting in the hot tub. It was Nigel's turn to cook dinner, so he did this whilst I spent some time updating the blog. Once we finished eating we both settled down to watch a film.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls lakes rivers new_zealand geothermal Comments (0)

Hiking and High Tea

Monday 12th October 2015

rain 16 °C

We hadn't got any excursions or anything firm booked, but I was keen to explore the National Park a little more, and hopefully get some more views of the volcanic peaks. The weather forecast was predicting some cloud and possibly of rain. The visibility from The Tree House had deteriorated but we were hopeful that it might improve as the day progressed. After a relaxed breakfast we drove the 20 minutes or so to Whakapapa the location of the national park visitor centre and the starting point for many of the walks in the area.

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A quick visit there clarified the distance and the grade of the walk we were wanting to do which would take us to the Taranaki Waterfalls. We were also given advice as to the pros and cons of walking the route clockwise or anti-clockwise (we chose the latter as this made the ascent more gradual). The walk started at the back of the rather grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel with the first couple of hundred metres on a road with lots of holiday/ trekking accommodation. We shortly descended into a valley and through the woods. The ascent the other side was gradual and after about a kilometre or so a sign told us that we were entering the lava flow (long since broken down and covered in vegetation). We crossed a couple of streams and as we did had glimpses of the volcanic craters.

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Despite the fact that we were probably only a couple of kilometres from the visitor centre it felt very wild and remote, whilst the occasional other walker made it feel very safe and gave the opportunity to stop and chat for a few moments. After about 50 minutes we reached the top of the waterfall. It was a spectacular sight with views across to the Tongariro crossing to our right and to the top of the waterfall on our left.

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We stopped and admired the view for a bit and took some photographs and also chatted to a couple with a young baby in a back carrier. The dad looked exhausted having just climbed up the steep steps from the base of the waterfall to the top. The baby didn't sound very happy either and was crying loudly. The mother looked slightly happier as she was bringing up the rear and only had herself to get up the steep incline.

We then started to make our way down the steps as we were going the opposite way round as the young family. It seemed very steep at first with no handrail to hold onto, so I was questioning our decision to do the walk that way round. However the gradient declined slightly after a bit and there were a lot of steps (well over a hundred), so in the end I was quite relieved to have been going down at that point. Near the base of the falls we got chatting to a young woman from Alaska who was hoping to do the 'Crossing' during her short stay in the area. I passed on what I had heard being said about the wether and conditions when we were in the visitor centre. All indications were that the weather was going to be very wet with poor visibility tomorrow. Also I understood that at this time of year the top section required ice axes and crampons, which she had experience of using having come from Alaska, although she didn't have any with her. I suggested she might be able to hire them, and we then we wished her well and we all went on our way, she a little faster than us. The view at the bottom of the waterfall was equally beautiful, and having looked at the photographs since, hard to get a sense of the scale of the thing.

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We carried on walking along the track that had been clearly visible from the top, reaching another small waterfall a short distance away.

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We then followed the river for a while through the woods before having to climb up quite a few steps before reaching open heathland again, with views of the peaks and towards the Chateau Tongariro.

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We were getting a bit tired by this stage but with a last push we were back at the Chateau where we had booked a table for afternoon tea. After our walk we were pretty hungry so we pretty much polished off all the food we were served, although we decided afterwards that this was enough for the day and so didn't have an evening meal.

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Once we had polished off our tea we went back to the visitor centre to have a more thorough look at the information there and I also checked out the status of the road that went up towards the mountain from the centre. I was told that it was metalled to the top and the woman checked the webcam and said that it was a bit cloudy but that there should be some visibility.

On that basis Nigel was happy to drive up the very winding Bruce Road to the top. As he drove it became obvious that the cloud was thickening and that we were unlikely to see any of the peaks. We could see a short distance when we got to the ski chalets and lifts, but the cloud quickly closed in and it became hard to see anything much beyond the end of the car and the odd patch of slightly grubby snow nearby.

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We waited a while hoping that the cloud would lift again but it failed to do so and in the end we gave up and Nigel drove back down the mountain passed the lava field and the heather until we reached the visitor centre again. We continued driving north and then turned west and made our way back to our what had become our home for a couple of days. With no meal to worry about we just relaxed for a few hours. Just after 9pm I was sitting reading in the lounge and Nigel was in the loo when I felt the whole house judder. When he came out we both looked at each other in surprise and agreed that we had just experienced an earthquake. We researched on the Internet to make sure we weren't imagining things and to check out its magnitude. It turned out to be a 5.7 on the Richter Scale and a short distance from a place called Pongaroa, some 100 miles from where we were staying. It caused a bit of a stir for the rest of the evening and we couldn't but help keep checking for other seismic activity of which there was quite a bit that evening. Eventually we both got off to sleep and made it through the night safe and sound.

Posted by Gill's Travels 17:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains tongariro volcano new_zealand Comments (0)

In Hot Water!

Wednesday 7th October 2015

sunny 16 °C

Although our time in Tauranga has been fine, and we had an amazing breakfast this morning, I was looking forward to moving on. It is one of the few places on our trip that I probably wouldn't recommend for those on a limited schedule. I was hoping that we could get away early, but a problem with a tour booking meant a phone call and a quick transfer of money and we realised our everyday account was getting low. The journey to Rotoroa was less than two hours so we had planned to stop at some waterfalls en-route. The scenery was lovely once we got out of Tauranga; some steep hills initially and the into farms and orchards. Perhaps not surprisingly kiwi fruit is grown and we went past a Australian style giant advertising kiwi fruit beside the road.

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The majority of the orchards we have seen in New Zealand have had high conifer hedges around them, presumably to protect the delicate blossom and fruit from the wind and frosts, and this area was no exception. We saw a sign for a honey farm/ museum and decided to have a look. The exhibition was led by a guide and ours was very new to her job and quite nervous. The displays were interactive and it was very interesting and we got the feel of what it is like to have lots of bees around you spinning and shaking as they pass messages to their fellow bees. We also got to taste the honey, which was delicious. Our guide told us about the health properties, especially manuka honey and she told me where there was a manuka bush that I could look at.

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There was also a hive we could look into. After our tour we brought some manuka honey, as they said that one of the things it is good for is digestive problems so I thought it might be good for my IBS. Before leaving we bought some savoury muffins for our lunch and then got on our way.

It probably took us another half an hour to reach the Okere Falls. I already knew that these were well known in the area for guided white water rafting and although neither of us were tempted to have a go, it was certainly worth having a look at others doing so. We were lucky as there was a group of rafts going down just after we arrived. The first rapid seemed relatively straightforward and all got down safely. We then walked down to the second fall and this was much narrower and steeper and two out of the three we saw turned over. The guides respond very quickly and seemed to have a well rehearsed routine but it still looked very scary. It appeared that one girl was a bit shaken up having banged herself on another person's helmet (so we heard later).

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We continued walking to where the rafts finish although there were none coming down at that point. We walked back the way we had come and got our car and then drove down the road, back to the bottom of the falls with the intention of eating our lunch. Whilst we were sitting there some more rafts came in. They all looked very exhilarated but there was no opportunity for them to relax as they all had to help get the raft out of the river and back to the trailers.

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Several local people also walked by and stopped. A woman who lives really near was walking two dogs, one of which insisted we throw sticks for him. Some young girls were doing some serious posing and photography and the two boys with them who were probably their brothers wanted to join in and I took a sneaky photo.

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By then it was really time for us to get on our way and finish our journey. It probably took us another twenty minutes or so to get into Rotorua, and we quickly checked in and got shown to our room. It was lovely to have our own space after the bed and breakfasts and particularly nice to have a hot tub on our balcony. We relaxed for a while and then walked to the local park which had lots of areas fenced off due to geothermal activity.

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We relaxed for a while taking advantage of the communal foot baths, which was slightly strange but great for wary feet. We then walked to the supermarket as we needed to get some food. This was much further than we thought and we were pretty tired when we got back to our room. We had a gin and tonic and went in the hot tub before dinner. We ended the day feeling tired but relaxed and chilled out.

Posted by Gill's Travels 21:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls rivers rotorua new_zealand geothermal tauranga rafting Comments (0)

Kuranda and the Daintreee

Monday 21st September 2015

sunny 27 °C

We are on the move again but a days worth of activities on the Kuranda Railway and Skytrain have been booked before we need to think about making the two hour drive up to the Daintree Rain Forest. We planned to be away from the Kewarra Beach Resort by 8:30am to ensure that we arrived at Freshwater Station in plenty of time to board our 9:50am gold class carriage on the scenic train to Kuranda. When we arrived at the station we were given a complimentary 'mocktail' and then we were invited to board. As soon as we got on the train we could tell that it had been worth paying for the upgrade. The carriages were lovely with individual armchairs and there was plenty of space so we could move around the carriage if we wanted to, although all of the paired seats were on the scenic side of the line. We were given a leaflet showing the scenic highlights and there was also a commentary at key points on the journey.

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We slowly wound our way towards the town of Kuranda passing through numerous tunnels and over a couple of spectacular bridges. The train stopped for about ten minutes or more so that people could look at and photograph the Barron Falls.

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Shortly after this stop we arrived in the town. We found it incredibly touristy and were grateful we hadn't allowed more than a couple of hours there. The high street was full or tourist shops and cafes, ranging from the distinctly tacky to more tasteful galleries. We had decided to go to the Butterfly Sanctuary at the top of the high street. There was a large number of butterflies and it became a bit of a challenge trying to take photographs of them.

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The most stunning was the Ulysses which is a vibrant blue, but this seemed to be the most elusive to photograph because of the speed at which it flitted around.

Once we had finished there having began to tire of the heat, we made our way back towards the station in the hope of getting something to eat in the cafe, although they had little left when we got there. We were booked on the 1:30pm Skytrain, the cable car that would take us back down to near our start point. The times seemed quite flexible so we were able to leave a little early. The ride was a little scary with very high towers, way above the rainforest canopy and it seemed to approach the stations at quite a speed coming to a rather abrupt stop. There were two stopping points, one at the other side of the Barron Falls to the railway station and the other at a short Rainforest boardwalk. The views of the falls was spectacular and in some ways more impressive than before.

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When we got of at the second station we were able to join a guided tour with a ranger who explained a lot about the vegetation during the short walk.

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We spent quite a while at each stop and arrived at the bottom station with about 20 Minutes spare before our scheduled bus would take us back to Freshwater Station. One there we needed to get straight into the car and on our way to Daintree. The drive took about two hours through some very green and attractive countryside, past a lot of sugar cane plantations and up to the Daintree Ferry. We just missed a crossing so had to wait a while for it to return. Once across it was quite a short but slow and winding drive to our accommodation at Daintree Wilderness Lodge. It seemed like we had struck gold again as our accommodation is lovely, really in the depths of the rain forest with raised boardwalks between the lodges and reception/ restaurant. We had preordered dinner for 7pm so had over an hour to settle in before we ate. The food was very tasty and was like good quality home cooked food. We couldn't receive television programmes or connect to the internet from our room which was nice for a few nights, but we borrowed a DVD and half watched/ half snoozed for the rest of the evening.

Posted by Gill's Travels 05:38 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls australia cairns kuranda Comments (0)

Scenic From Start to Finish

Thursday 3rd September 2015

semi-overcast 16 °C

We woke up well rested after our first nights sleep at the Windradyne Bed and Breakfast in the Blue Mountains. The latest we could have breakfast was 8:30am although ideally we would have preferred a little later. Although our room is very nice it is a little strange in that it is on the ground floor and opens directly into the guest dining room! Nigel went for a cooked breakfast but I had selected the muesli and yoghurt pot when we had completed our meal selection form yesterday evening and it was huge and delicious. There were four other guests staying and we all chatted over breakfast. One couple were from Cambridge in the UK and the others from Southern California. We talked a bit about walking options and it appeared that there were lots to choose from, mainly in the medium to hard category. We decided to go for one graded at easy to medium, going along the top of the escarpment on a pathway named the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

Before setting off we went and had a quick look at the mountain view from over the road at Echo Point. There had been quite a lot of low cloud hanging in the valley first thing this morning although it was starting to clear by the time we went out.

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We then started walking westwards along the footpath. It was generally fairly easy going with a few steps up and down and a bit muddy in places. The first viewpoint we reached is called Lady Darley's Lookout which gives great views across The Jameson Valley and then shortly after Allambie Lookout (Allambie is an aboriginal word meaning 'quiet place'). Thankfully it was pretty peaceful while we were there.

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The walk then takes you down some steps and after about three quarters of an hour you reach the eastern end of the Skyway cable car. We could have used this to cut across the valley but we decided to save that until later in the day. Instead we continued on the track for a short distance before having to detour into the road as some maintenance work was taking place. We then rejoined the path and walked down to the Katoomba Cascade which eventually feeds into the much larger and more spectacular Katoomba Falls. When we arrived at the cascade there were no other people there so we were able to take a few minutes to enjoy the solitude and take some photographs.

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Once a number of other people arrived we continued on our way, walking through a short lush valley that links the cascades to the falls. When you are on the ground you don't really have a sense that you are near the edge of a steep precipice, something we only really appreciated later in the day.

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There was a deviation that we took up onto an area called Reids Plateau which affords great views of the Katoomba Falls. Whilst we were there enjoying the view, we saw a large flock of sulphur crested cockatoos. At one point they flew en-masse in front of the falls which made for quite a dramatic sight.

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From the plateau we continued past more stunning viewpoints until we reached Scenic World. Once there we bought our tickets and then went for a much needed coffee. Next we travelled down through the cliff face on the Scenic Railway. At a 52 degree angle this is the steepest incline railway in the world. They have recently modified this so that you can adjust your seat so that you either take the 'cliffhanger' option at 64 degrees, the laid back option or the original 52 degrees which is what we opted for. The railway travels for 310 metres through a tunnel entering near the valley floor.

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Originally the train was built for miners who worked in the vicinity and on emerging from the train there are a number of exhibits and information signs about the areas mining past.

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We chose to do the longest of the Scenic World walks which takes you further down into the valley on over two kilometres of boardwalks that weave through the rainforest. For much of the time we were on our own and it was fascinating seeing what grows in the vast area of forest that makes up most of the Blue Mountains National Park.

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Once we had finished the walk we travelled on the Scenic Cableway 545 metres back up the valley walls to the top. Once there we had a meal on the terrace of the restaurant which has amazing views sitting as it does 270 metres above the valley floor.

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We then finished our time at Scenic World by travelling three times backwards and forwards across on the Skyway Cable Car which gives amazing views of the valley and the mountains beyond. It also afforded another view of the Katoomba Falls and you could see the cascades and valley where we walked several hours earlier.

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We then made our way back along the Prince Henry Walk, up the 100 or so steps and past some incredible rock formations

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until we got back rather tired and weary to Echo Point. Once there we took a few minutes to admire the changing sun light in the valley and on the rock face.

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We had been walking for four or five hours and probably covered about five miles or more so all we wanted to do was go back to the B & B and relax for the evening which is what we did.

Posted by Gill's Travels 06:19 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains australia katoomba blue_mountains Comments (0)

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