February 28, 2015 Karangahake Gorge, New Zealand

We left Thames and headed to Rotorua (Row-toe-roo-a).  Along the way we stopped at Karangahake Gorge.  Here the Waitawheta River charges out of its steep rocky canyon IMG_3522and merges with the Ohinemuri River.  Almost all the names of streets, road, cities and towns and geographical places are named by the Maori people.  Generations ago canoes of Maori ancestors sailed from East Polynesia and landed in New Zealand.  Due to mixed marriages there are now very few Maori of pure Maori descent in New Zealand.
Here at the Karangahake Gorge we elected to do the Windows Walk which took us over two swinging bridges, up many many steps, and through tunnels which required IMG_3527IMG_3531IMG_3538flashlights which fortunately we had brought from Phoenix.  The mine tunnels had a series of openings or windows which looked down at the remains of the batteries and river below.  Panels along the path told the story of how over 100 years ago gold was mined in this area.  Gold was extracted from quartz ore and was the nation’s third largest and most productive quartz gold mine.  An incredible four million ounces of goldIMG_3535IMG_3533 was removed from this area.
After our hike we stopped to view Owharoa falls then we continued on to Mt MaunganuiIMG_3540 which is really a lovely and popular beach town in the shadows of Mt Maunganui, an extinct volcano.  This seemed much like a California beach town with many shops andIMG_3553 restaurants as well as sun worshipers.  We saw people making the long trek up to the top of the volcano for theIMG_3552IMG_3547 view of the town below, but we found people watching more entertaining.  On this day they were having youths between the ages of 10 and 14 competing in an ocean lifeguard event.  All of the youth had qualified to be lifeguards and this competition was to recognize the best of the best.  We chatted with one of the mothers of the competitors and she said that since New Zealand is surrounded by water, children train at a young age to be lifeguards since they are in high demand.

Some observations:
Everything in New Zealand is metric so we are having to refresh our knowledge of the metric system.
A “track” is a walk and a “tramp” is a hike and expect some challenging terrain.
A “torch” is a flashlight.
A large pizza and a large coffee is the size considered medium in the U.S.
New Zealand does not have many traffic lights or stop signs.  Instead there are round-abouts everywhere.  Bill loves them and I hate them.
All the beef used in fast food restaurants is 100% New Zealand beef and it is really good.
The New Zealand people are friendly and eager to help.  They are curious about where we have been and where we are going in their country.  Strangers say hello and wish you a good day.

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