Falling for the Bay of Plenty

Last summer C. contrived to fill my Christmas break with as many new experiences as possible. Like Santa’s little Scheduling Elf, he delivered salt marshes, fishing trips, rodeos, New Zealand’s answer to the Golden Gate Bridge and a helicopter flight over paradise.  I am a woman of extreme tolerance indeed, to endure such horrors.

But because eleven months seems a good amount of time to wait before writing about events, I thought I’d tell you about our trip to Tarawera Falls.

An hour and a half from both Rotorua and Tauranga (the Bay of Plenty’s kingpins) there is, as you may have guessed, a waterfall. But whilst most waterfalls are content with falling over rocks, this one decided it could go one better. It falls through it.

If you’re expecting a roaring behemoth, you will be disappointed. But ask yourself this: When’s the last time you, personally, squeezed yourself out through a rock?  Exactly. Compared to that mess, this looks pretty good:

A waterfall layer cake
A waterfall layer cake

And although no-one would ever confuse me for a follower of the “life is a journey, not a destination” philosophy, in this case I can’t fault Mr Emerson’s logic.

We began in the sleepy township of Kawerau, where we paid the troll guarding the Information Centre the princely sum of $5 to obtain a permit for our quest, and signed something that would allow the forestry company to sell our bones to the local papermill, should we meet an untimely end on their private roads.

But man, they were awesome roads. Gravel tracks, just wide enough for a logging truck, carving avenues through towering pines, and only a v-shape of sky visible through the windscreen.  The dust was something awful (so photos do it no justice) and it was a squeeze to pass cars in the opposite direction. We slowed for some young Maori boys who had parked their car in a ditch, but they waved us on with embarrassed looks. There was no sign of them on our return, so either their friends or the trolls had claimed them.

There is a twenty minute walk option – for fans of the Instagram & Exit approach – but we chose the two hour round trip, with picnic lunch. The track follows the Tarawera River and was slightly reminiscent of the beautiful Zaumberwald am Hintersee – das Juwel von Deutschland, nein? (see previous post about importance of learning German when younger) – with lush green waters tumbling over a sufficient number of rocks to please Waterfall Traditionalists.

Tarawera Falls

Ye Olde Swimming Hole
Ye Olde Swimming Hole

My favourite spots though were the beautiful swimming hole – deliciously tranquil once everyone had stopped swimming in it – and a mid-sized waterfall, after which the river gets sucked underground (definitely best not to confuse the two and attempt to swim in the wrong place).

Tarawera Falls
Not the swimming hole

Time saving tip: Bring shampoo. If you stand on the rocks in front of it, posing for photos as long as I did, you can save yourself a shower later in the day.


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