Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
But it's not. The sound, the spray, the beauty and the scale of a waterfall evoke feelings of majesty and awe from most of us.
Marokopa Falls, in south Waikato, is no Niagara Falls. But it has its own symmetrical beauty. A short walk from a back road, the falls is said to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. And until a couple of weeks ago I'd never visited it.
Simply gorgeous. I love the drama of a waterfall, I love the way it commands my attention, the way it draws me in to the natural environment. Marokopa Falls lived up to its billing.
Look at the luscious detail at the base of the falls...
On the way home I stopped off to see the Mangapohue natural bridge, the remnants of a collapsed limestone cave. Again, this was far better than I'd been led to expect - or, perhaps, I really am reconnecting with the natural world. Why aren't these two places, within ten minutes of each other and half an hour from Waitomo, central to every tourist's itinerary?
One of the most intense experiences I've had recently was visiting the giant kauri of the Waipoua Forest in New Zealand's Northland. Nothing prepares you for the shock when you first see Tane Mahuta (Father of the Forest), the largest remaining kauri. The photo below simply does not reflect the physical and spiritual impact of this enormous living thing. Fifty metres tall, thirteen metres in girth, more than five metres thick, it erupts from the earth like some ancient god.
The longer I spent in the tree's presence the sadder I became. This is by no means the largest kauri that has existed: estimates suggest it's only half the size of some of the giants ruthlessly harvested at the end of the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s. And these remaining specimens are cooped up in a relatively small reserve, when once the whole top quarter of the North Island, north of the frost line, harboured these 2000 year old trees, and some even older.
And then I met Te Matua Ngahere, even broader than Tane Mahuta but not as tall. If Tane Mahuta is the father, this venerable tree must be the great-grandfather. I half-expected the old fellow to talk to me.
If you're ever in New Zealand, go see these trees.
I recently had a wonderful afternoon at Piha, a beach on the west coast near Auckland. I'm not much of a beachy person, having a cordial dislike of the surf, and Piha is a dangerous beach. But it sure is nice to look at.
Highlight was a little way inland. Kitekite Falls is a rather lovely waterfall and easily accessible by track from the beach.
The day ended with a most glorious sunset. Can't beat a west coast sunset!
Episode 1: Russell Climbs Mt Te Aroha
I'm on a quest to reconnect with the natural landscape. For twenty years or so I've been busy, too busy to walk or climb or stop and watch. It's affecting my writing: I've searched for inspiration and come up empty. So I'm going out there and soaking in the landscape. Let's see what happens.
I've been out a few times already and have decided to report. These episodes are not in chronological order.
Climbing a mountain sounds dramatic, but in fact Russell actually walked up the access road to the TV repeater station on top of the mountain. Mt Te Aroha is the highest peak in these parts, about 1000m high, and there are said to be fabulous views from the summit.
I'm not very fit, so I thought I'd walk up the gentle access road rather than the steep bush track. I began early in the morning - before 7am - and arrived at the summit not long after 8am. To find that the Waikato was covered in fog. Argh!!
And the fabulous 360 degree views I was promised were somewhat compromised by the enormous TV repeater station. Yes, I knew it was there, but I hadn't realised how intrusive it would be. It covered 180 degrees of the panorama and its generator thrummed annoyingly.
However, the Kaimai Range north to Coromandel was clear and I got one good photo:
I hung about the noisy summit for half an hour and was back down to my car by 9.30am. Maybe I'll go up another day, but probably not.