It's Been a Busy Week!
With Christmas over, the New Year blasted in - and out! And now it is just two and a half weeks until I leave. It's hard to believe I have been here since mid-November. So we are packing in the expeditions, but I don't know if we can accomplish all we have planned. We did get in our trip to McClaren Falls, a lovely 190 hectare park that was originally formed as part of the Wairoa River catchment hydro electricity system in 1925.Then in 1965, the then Tauranga District Council and the Bay of Plenty Tree Society entered into an agreement that the Society would supply trees and maintain them. According to the Tauranga City Council site, "This has subsequently become an annual commitment to the Society, and to date many thousands of trees covering over 500 species and varieties, exotic and indigenous, are established in the park."
Once again, I was amazed at the participation of volunteers in these public areas. This is a huge park, with just one ranger and numerous undeveloped camping sites, meaning camping is in any grassy area! The grounds are maintained, clean, roads and trails clear and from what I can gather, most of this is accomplished by volunteers.
The Lake is a bird haven with lots of black swans and ducks. It's also a popular kayaking and hiking area. We walked a fairly short trail through the natural bush, along a stream to a very pretty waterfall; a loop trail up one side of the stream, over a bridge and back. It felt very jungly, but not quite warm enough to have any monkeys, parrots, alligators or other tropical creatures playing in the vegetation.
We did our usual stop at the local Falls Cafe before heading back. Naturally, another stop on the way. This time at Mossops, a local honey place. This is another surprising fact about New Zealand. There is a huge honey bee industry, something I plan to dig deeper into in the near future. The products that are produced are amazing - all sorts of edibles, of course but also beauty and health products, some even using bee venom! In this area, especially, manuka honey is produced in vast quantities and is well-known for its healing properties. Mossops also makes honey ice cream but as we had just had lunch, we put it on our list to go back and do a taste testing!
Our most recent jaunt was an all-day affair to Tirau, the corrugated town! It's a tiny town, in a vast pastoral area. We drove the windy, windy road over the Kaimai Range, through endless, to-the-horizon verdant, green farmlands, dotted with thousands of sheep and cattle. Grass fed cattle, but how long that will last is anyone's guess.A movement is afoot to fight against the development of feed lots here in New Zealand. There is already an issue with pollution from the animal waste runoff into streams, so hopefully the country will maintain its "green" commitment and do something proactive to avoid the problems plaguing other countries (ahem, U.S.).
Anyway, it was a beautiful drive and as I was a passenger, I was able to take in the scenery.
Once we got to Tirau, which, according to the official site means Ti - Cabbage tree, rau -many - the place of many Cabbage trees, we spent the morning wandering the shops, having coffee (of course) and taking in the bizarre corrugated iron sculptures. Interestingly, in this country, corrugated iron is used in a lot of areas, like fences and exterior walls. When I first saw the fences, I thought they were just sort of temporary but then I realized that they are an architectural feature; some are painted, some just the natural metal. The Tirau sculptures have evolved to a full business for Corrugated Creations, their most prominent pieces being the enormous white sheep and white sheep dog which house the Information Centre.
Next stop is a favorite: The Tirau Museum and Honey Shop. What an amazing place. It's hardly advertised, they have no website and it is very easy to miss the sign on the road. But so worth the effort to find it. Fifty years of collecting has resulted in a vast, rambling, 13,000 square foot "left hand museum," meaning at every chance, turn left and you will make your way through displays of - you name it, it's there. Huge collections of honey tins; masses of old telephones, from the ones you hand crank to old-school black ones; an assortment of typewriters and ancient sewing machines; collectors' cars which desperately need restoration. It was rather sad, though, wandering through there, going "I remember that," or "We had one of those," or "That's just like Mum's old one, where is that?" Made me feel old!
The Museum should be on everyone's list. Only a mile or two from Tirau, you're welcome to have a picnic under the trees or on the veranda. Right alongside the museum, the bee hives are humming, producing 3 tons of honey each year. That's a LOT of bees! I bought a small jar to take home with me.
Our day was not done, though. I've been hearing about the Blue Spring for years and as it is out near Tirau, we added it to our day.
The Government web site states: "The Waihou River is fed by many springs and from tributary streams in the Mamaku ranges. Water flows from the Blue Spring at a rate of 42 cubic metres per minute (9240 gallons per minute).
The Blue Spring is internationally acclaimed, with water from the Mamaku Plateau taking over 100 years to reach it. During this long residence in aquifers, particles and light-absorbing matter are effectively removed from the water, leaving it with a very high clarity and characteristic blue-green colour. The water is sold in service stations around New Zealand and supplies the local town of Putaruru, with no treatment necessary before distribution."
We walked probably about 1k to the spring, through pastureland and then along the river and over a bridge. It's amazing how clear the water is - and how cold! Some people there were brave enough to get in but not me! So many of these tourist attractions are off the beaten track, and as accustomed as I am to crowds and very organized and planned places, it's refreshing to see these attractions in more natural surroundings.
It does bother me though, that bottling companies are drawing right from the spring and will be depleting the aquifer - like Nestle is doing all over the world. I haven't dug very deep yet, but it doesn't look like they own the company that pumps from Blue Spring. If I find out anything different, I will definitely be updating this.
So with my time running out, I still have a lot to do and see.