Why spend a day at Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, when you can spend a week on the road?

MILFORD Sound, or Piopiotahi, is at the end of a long road from Te Anau known as Te Anau Milford Highway (SH 94), or the Milford Road. People generally go to the sound for a day and come back.

Alternatively, they may walk the Milford Track.

But you can also spend a week or so in the Milford area just doing day trips off the Milford Road, which is actually one of the most scenic roads in the world. And in fact, this is really the best approach if you aren’t doing the track.

A New Zealand Department of Conservation sign describing the Milford Road

For, a further advantage of spending…


The Paradox of Retrenchment in the face of Growth

AUCKLAND Council, New Zealand’s so-called Super City administration, has become known for at least four areas of failure in its short ten years of existence:

  • Auckland’s ports, which are losing business to Whangarei and Tauranga due to congestion
  • Auckland’s transport, where light rail is the latest scheme to wind up in the too-hard basket‍
Auckland Light Rail, official image via Greater Auckland (2018). Crown copyright reserved.
  • Auckland’s piped water supply, which loses twice as much from leaks as is drawn from the Waikato River and has had watering bans for months
  • Auckland’s environmental water quality, in the form of un-swimmable beaches and chemical spills

A fifth area of failure is now being…


New Zealand’s Banks Track: near Christchurch, yet remote

IT was my amazing luck to hike the Banks Track at the end of January, 2021. Billed on its website as New Zealand’s “original private walking track,” the Banks Track invites you to spend three nights on the remote south-eastern tip of Te Horomaka or Banks Peninsula, also known in Māori as Te Pataka o Rakaihautū.

In spite of its proximity to a big city and the smaller, touristy town of Akaroa, the area through which the Banks Track runs is an incredibly wild one, especially once you get over the top of a ridge overlooking Akaroa Harbour and onto…


Auckland’s must-visit ferry suburb

DEVONPORT, New Zealand, is an attractive old suburb on Auckland’s North Shore, a short ferry ride from downtown. This map of ferry routes shows Devonport as truly one of the most inshore destinations.‍

Map data ©2020 Google. North at top.

Devonport (Auckland) is the most important base of the Royal New Zealand Navy. And before that the Royal Navy’s New Zealand Squadron.

Whence its name, which is the same as that of the headquarters of the Royal Navy near Plymouth, in Devon.‍


An almost unique natural feature, and site of an attempt to dam the wild and scenic Whanganui River

THIS post follows on from my earlier one about the Whanganui River. In this post, I zero in on one rather unusual and especially scenic feature of the river, a cut-off meander or ‘oxbow’ that is still preserved as an obvious dried-up river channel, with a skyline walk around the tops that surround it.

The Ātene Oxbow and skyline track, from NZ Topo Map, screenshot taken 22 October 2020, map ultimately sourced from LINZ, Crown Copyright Reserved. Scale box added for this post. North at top.

This remarkable feature is at a spot called Ātene, a missionary-bestowed name which is Maori for Athens. It is inhabited by Māori who farm the flat bottomland around the central hill and live at a small settlement called Ātene Pā. …


A region steeped in history: Part two of a two-part post

The southern and central parts of the Waikato region. The Waikato River is shown in blue for this post. Taumarunui is at bottom centre. The names of Lake Taupō, Waikawau Beach, Hērangi Range, Waikato River, Waitomo Caves, Maungatautari, Maungakawa, Hobbiton, Ngāruawāhia and Waingaro Hot Springs have all been added for this post. Background imagery ©2020 Landsat/Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U. S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, TerraMetrics. Background map data ©2020 Google. North at top.

SOUTH of Pirongia there’s the Waitomo Caves, which are inhabited by creatures called glow-worms. There’s a European glow-worm, the larval stage of a firefly which glows yellowish-green. But the New Zealand glow worms (with relatives in Australia) are quite different and in some ways a lot weirder, like most things in New Zealand.

New Zealand glow-worms are carnivorous gnat larvae that live in caves in huge numbers, like bats. They hang sticky threads around themselves, lighting up the threads with a blue glow. Small creatures attracted by the light get tangled in the threads and devoured.

It’s a pretty supernatural…


What else can I say about this wonderful region?

IN the last two posts I’ve dwelt on the history of Taranaki, and the region’s famous mountain. But what of its other attractions? In this post I’ll write about those, and then finish by taking my leave on the Forgotten World Highway.

To start with, as you travel north out of Whanganui and cross the invisible frontier into the Taranaki region, the very first place you come to is the town of Waitotara and, to the left, Wai-inu Beach. This is worth remembering because not only is it an attractive beach but also, it’s an approved freedom camping area.

Pātea

The…


Beautiful but deadly, Mount Taranaki is reasonably easy to get up. The hard part is getting down.

I’VE climbed Mount Taranaki twice, via the Northern Summit Route which starts near New Plymouth and via the Southern Summit Route which starts at Dawson Falls.

Mount Taranaki summit and Fanthams Peak plus Dawson Falls and East Egmont. Topographical map sourced from topomap.co.nz (17 September 2020), information from Land Information New Zealand, Crown Copyright Reserved

You get to Dawson Falls from the town of Stratford. And from there also to East Egmont and the East Ridge, where there’s a club skifield called the Manganui Ski Area. It’s beside the Manganui Gorge, which is sometimes filled in with snow from avalanches: a sobering sight.


‘When death itself is dead, I shall be alive’

THE next region I came to in my tour around the lower North Island was Taranaki, also known as the Taranaki or, very colloqually, the Naki.

Everyone in the region lives under the beautiful 2,518 metre (8,261 feet) volcano that gives the region its name, Mount Taranaki: a name that’s thought to mean ‘shining peak’, a reference to the way the mountain looks during the cooler months of the year.

Mount Taranaki. Whites Aviation Ltd., 1969: Photographs. Ref: WA-68672-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22305211

The area around Mount Taranaki is mostly green farmland, apart from a national park which takes in the volcano in an almost circular fashion, plus a couple of eroded volcanic…


A region steeped in history: Part one of a two-part post

The southern and central parts of the Waikato region. The Waikato River is shown in blue for this post. Taumarunui is at bottom centre. The names of Lake Taupō, Waikawau Beach, Hērangi Range, Waikato River, Waitomo Caves, Maungatautari, Maungakawa, Hobbiton, Ngāruawāhia and Waingaro Hot Springs have all been added for this post. Background imagery ©2020 Landsat/Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U. S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, TerraMetrics. Background map data ©2020 Google. North at top.

WHEN I got to the end of the Forgotten World Highway, I was in Taumarunui. The Whanganui River — the Rhine of New Zealand — is still quite sizable even that far inland, more than 200 km by the run of the river.

This post is about my journey into and through the lands of another river: the Waikato, which flows out of Lake Taupō and down to the sea through the Waikato plains. The Waikato River flows through eight hydroelectric dams. It’s a much more domesticated river than the Whanganui!

My starting point for this journey was Taumarunui, on…

Mary Jane Walker

A Maverick Traveller: Kiwi adventurer, author of twelve books of travel stories, a blog, and a website (a-maverick.com).

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