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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Gold and silver: iron and silica

On Thursday, Sarah got the bus south and Pip met her at National Park. (This is the name of the little settlement, which is basically back-packers and ski-lodges.) We drove back up towards Whakapapa, and spent the night at the Mangahuia DOC site (Pip's second night there.) The next day we walked up the river. On the way, we crossed what are known as the Golden Rapids, where the water is stained brown and yellow (gold in the right angle of sunlight) with iron oxide off the mountains.
Climbing above the tree line into alpine bog takes you towards these amazing rapids. The white aluminium-silicate clay is washed down from the peaks, where the silica is created by the heat of the volcanic action. Where the water runs fast, it becomes aerated and the minerals 'fall' out of it to be deposited in these blinding shelves.

Places and people
Mt Ruapehu

This is another place of which we have loads of photos. Here is Mount Ruapehu, the largest volcano in NZ.

Places and people
Astonishing volcanoes
04/03/2008, Mangahuia DOC site

The Tongariro Park is named after the northernmost summit of three related volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe and Tongariro. Between Ruapehu and the other two is a high table land, called the Central Plateau. This itself is largely above the tree line, at about 900m plus altitude.
The Maori story has it that a tohunga (priest, shaman) in the great explorations of the North Island, climbed Ruapehu. At the top he was freezing and in great danger. He called out to his sisters in Hai'wiki (the ancestral home of the exploring Polynesians) for the gift of fire. Round the Pacific Rim came the fire, putting subterranean power beneath the mountains. The volcanoes are still very much active.
This is Mt Ngaurahoe (the cone on the right) and Mt Tongariro, taken from the part of the park around Mangahuia, below the village of Whakapapa.

Places and people
Oystercatchers and Pipi
02/03/2008, Miranda

From Thames we drove around the coast to Miranda, where there is a beautiful open beach. Quite a few vans free-park along there for the shell-fishing, but it is such a big beach that it was quiet. This picture looks east to the Coromandel peninsula, but the setting sun is reflected on the clouds.
Miranda is a great beach for shells and before we left we collected quite a few.
From here, we went our separate ways for a few days. Sarah wanted to visit museums in Auckland, but Pip really dislikes the city and ran south to Tongariro National Park.

Places and people
More mining history
01/03/2008, Coromandel

In the morning we drove across the neck of the peninsula to Coromandel, another town which owes its size to mining, although now it sustained by tourism. This building, once a bank, with an assay office at the back, is now a shop selling fishing bait and tackle.
The charm of the sacred matai has worn off and it's pouring with rain as we write this in a holiday park in Thames. We were going to go to the tip of Coromandel, a fairly empty and inviting place, but not when there's gale force northerlies and heavy rain forecast for the next few days. So we've tucked in here for tonight, and had a yummy dinner of fine port (the butchers in Whangamata) marinaded in an excellent Pip-invented mixture using some of our new macadamia nut oil. We hope it will clear enough to walk in the kauri forests tomorrow.

Places and people
Above Cathedral Cove
29/02/2008, Hahei

We drove up the spectacular road the stretches the east coast of the peninsula. Along the way we turned down to visit the Hot Springs Beach, Hahei and Cook's Landing. This is a sweet corner of NZ, full of character and interest; you could easily spend a week or more here, rather than the one day we allowed.
One of our serendipitous finds was the macadamia nut orchard, where we satisfied our curiosity about the price of these scrummy nuts. They're a lot of work! The orchard, in the process of going organic, produces some lovely nuts and dressings (including some which are gluten free). See
From Hahei, you can walk to the Cathedral Cove, but on this very hot day we decided against it. This view looks south across Hahei Bay, one of the lovely local beaches.
Hei was the sailing master of the Te Atawa canoe which followed Kupe (the Maori discoverer of Aotearoa) here, and he settled in this bay. There are two pa sites at the further end of the beach.
We found a quiet spot to freepark in Whangapoua, a tiny village on the edge of an estuary tucked into the northern eastern corner of the peninsula. It is reached across acres of salt marsh, and has a very nice little fishing jetty and a pretty sailing yacht on her mooring buoy in the stream. Although it was a wild and windy night, we were very secure.

Places and people
Working in Wentworth Valley
28/02/2008, Wentworth Valley DOC

Driving up the Coromandel peninsula, we stopped for two nights at the pleasant DOC site in Wentworth Valley, just south of Whangamata. Sarah managed to get some writing done, sitting in the sun. (Yes, she did get burnt, underestimating the heat after so much rain.)

Places and people
Moving the pump-house

This is the Cornish pump-house, so called because it is modelled on those used in the Cornish mines, incidentally bearing out those posters at Paddington station which extol the exporting of Cornish innovation across the world. It housed the great pumps which removed the water from the mine.
When the licence to mine was granted in the 1970's, a condition was the restoration of this building, which is much loved locally. The mine-wall underneath it was unstable and the building itself in a right state. In the end it was moved 300m, along the beams you can see in front of it, to a more secure position and the structural problems resolved with some clever beams and fixings.
In addition to this being quite a triumph in its own right, this project seems to auger well for the future. It is clear that Martha won't be mined for much longer (nor the nearby, underground Flavona mine), and obviously there are many concerns about the economic future.
There are a lot of words and diagrams in the local i-site about the community consultation, the creation of a Trust and the plans for economic, social and environmental regeneration. Proposals include a large lake in Martha, allowing thermal spas, wildlife habitat and all sorts of water sports. A major draw-card for the area, if it comes about.
Our scepticism (not surprising when you consider how many years experience in regeneration and community development we have) was leavened by the undoubted success of the move of the pump house, and the vigorous programme of public meetings being publicised in the town. Good luck to them all!

Places and people
That's a big hole
28/02/2008, Waihi

Waihi has been a major gold mining town for a long time. The first mines, opened in the 1870's were named for Martha, the niece of the successful stakeholder. The mine didn't last that long before it became uneconomical to work, but around it and other strikes in the area, Waihi boomed into a sizeable town.
In the 1970's the price of gold rocketed and this seam became profitable again. The huge, open-cast mine is still known as Martha and is being worked today.

Places and people
Waka in Tauranga
27/02/2008, Tauranga Bay

From Whakatane, elated and exhausted, we headed to Tauranga, where we met Beryl off her bus from Wellington. Despite her nine hour trip she was jaunty, saying the bus had been very comfortable. Her sister, Pip's Aunt Zoe, is buried in Tauranga.
While Pip and Beryl visited the grave, Sarah explored a little. This is the splendid prow of the waka that adorns the river front.

Places and people
Back to harbour

We travelled back in great comfort after a good lunch. (Local food, recyclable container.) This is the harbour of Whakatane from just inside the bar. There is obviously a good deep channel and mooring buoys, but we don't know all the details of course.
The skipper told us that where we anchored off White Island there is about 10m of water. There is quite a shelf but then it drops off very fast. And to the east, less than a mile away, there is 1500 metres depth. This is the trench created by the Pacific Plate being pushed under the Australian one, the faultline which itself is feeding the volcano.

Places and people
A barren place?

This was a very hard place to live and not many have tried it. The Europeans tried to mine sulphur here, but in 1913 their camp was wiped out, either by a landslide or an eruption. No-one knows, because the tragedy was only discovered when the supply ship reached the island and found all the men gone, and their buildings wiped out. The miners either were buried by the eruption, or pushed into the sea where they would have been eaten by the sharks quite common in the area.
The only survivor was the cat, known as Peter. He was taken back to the mainland, where everyone wanted to breed from him. He sired many kittens and died at a great age, known far and wide as Peter the Great.
These logs get washed ashore in the storms. There are a few remains of a later mining effort from the early 1920's, but the business went bankrupt. Now no-one lives on White Island.

Places and people

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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