Remarkable New Zealand Waterfalls: North Island

Unlike stairs, waterfalls are THE BEST.

After the loss of my home of 5 weeks, I was stuck in limbo. Between finding another van, selling Grandpa Jimmy, searching for a short term job, and finally working said job (apple thinning), I was craving a hike and sorely out of shape. I left the orchard as soon as I had gas money in my bank account and headed for the Kaimai-Mamatu range for some socially acceptable torture. (Also known as hiking up a freaking mountain).

Two hours of crossing and re-crossing the Waitengue stream and 45 minutes of practically crawling uphill later, I stopped mid-labored breathing and was filled with aw at the sheer power of what I soon discovered was a 106 meter high waterfall in the middle of pure wilderness.

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The view that inspired me

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Hey ma, I’m on a waterfall!

With the feelings of elation and beauty brought forth from this liquid column fresh in my heart, I began my search for all the waterfalls in the North Island.

I had time for 4.

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My first stop after Ananui was another, taller fall in the same mountain range: The Wairere Falls.

The hike to this massive 156 meter waterfall was much shorter (45 minutes) and therefore, had significantly higher traffic and nicer walkways. I felt spoiled from my solo wilderness adventure as a I lined up with all the schmucks who came to such a developed, touristy waterfall. Naturally I didn’t consider myself a schmuck, as I was so clearly enlightened.

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On the way to Wairere Falls
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The falls in all their glory

But then, maybe there’s a reason it’s so popular. Not only was the viewpoint spectacular, the falls perfectly draped themselves to look as wild and stunning as possible, with the wind blowing smaller sections into a veil across the cliffs.

I could get used to waterfall hunting.

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Waireinga, or the much less interesting “Bridal Veil Falls”

Ah the ol’ Bridal Veil Falls. I’m pretty sure there are at least 20 of these in the US alone.* I much prefer the Maori name for it, Waireinga, which means “leaping waters,” and is far more accurate a description.

*Possibly an exaggeration

I would hardly consider getting to this water faucet a hike. To reach the base of the falls (55 meters below) takes less than ten minutes, and marching/struggling your way back up the stairs shouldn’t take much longer. The really fascinating thing about this waterfall, and what makes it unique, is the way the cliff and rocks that surround it are formed. According to the DoC (Department of Conservation) brochure:

The spectacular cliff face of Waireinga was created some
2.5 million years ago when molten lava from a volcanic
eruption flowed down a river course, pooling in a valley.
As the lava slowed, the top and bottom started to cool and
shrink. Cracks and joints appeared, running directly down
from the surface of the flow. Because the hotter and semi-
liquid part of the lava was still moving, the joints developed
a distinctive curve.

 

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Damn gurl, you got some nice curves

The final waterfall in my North Island excursion was Bells Falls in Egmont National Park. I consider this a bonus fall, because I had planned to hike the 2-3 day Pouakai Circuit, and there just happened to be a side trip to another cliffriver (I’ve renamed waterfalls to sound as intense as they really are).

The DoC brochure informed me that the track to the falls is 30 minutes one way. What it neglected to say is that the entire 30 minutes is spent going downhill.

*sigh*

Since I had already spent a little over 2 hours in intensely steep and rocky travel before arriving at my little side adventure, I was not excited to discover that the path just. kept. descending.

When I finally reached the bottom, this was the pathetic site that greeted me:

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Tip to DoC: you could take the track a little closer

Well now here was a dilemma. I had traveled all this way and made so much extra work for myself, there’s no way I was accepting this as my view of Bells Falls. So I did what any self-respecting cliffriver enthusiast would and set off determinedly up the rocky terrain, sans pack.

Many slippery boulders and several body-contortioning moves later, I was all up in that waterfall.

But not literally, because that water comes down frighteningly hard.

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“WHOOOOSHHH” ~ Bells Falls
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So close I no longer needed a shower
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Tongariro Northern Circuit: Three Days on A Great Walk, Day Three

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The morning came, and with it, the rain. We bundled up in extensive rain gear and headed off into the drizzle. The group pace that was initially set kept me decently comfortable and warm. As the day continued, however, we broke off into smaller sections, with the boys pulling ahead and Averie and Sydney falling behind due to rain cover issues. The rest of my hike was solitary, with just the rain, my thoughts, and plenty of mud to keep me company.

Luckily, rain is a powerful motivator. I could’ve tried out for the Olympic Walking team that day and had a pretty good shot, which means I stayed warm, and also, I shaved about a 3rd of the estimated time off the day.

As the trail meandered its way through ravines intermittently broken up by small plains with merciless wind, puddles and streams were forming and growing by the minute. Initially I avoided them, but that ended quickly when I detoured up a muddy bank and immediately slipped sideways, leaving my right side newly mud-covered and somehow more thoroughly soaked than before.

I tramped on with renewed apathy, having become one with the landscape. The gray, drizzly landscape.

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Sweet sweet misery

Finally. Finally, I stumbled into civilization – but there was a problem. My hands no longer knew how to be hands. I had no hope of getting to my keys. After coming all this way, I was going to die in the parking lot right outside of my salvation.

Or I could have if the visitor center didn’t let me drip on their nice floor for ten minutes until I could at least grasp like a human again.

I ran to the car, struggled pathetically with the lock, then the ignition, and finally the heat. I ,eventually managed to turn it on, and sat, violently shaking, until the car warmed up enough to be effective. 20 minutes later, the car was practically a sauna and Sydney and Averie appeared around the corner looking like drowned rats. Apparently Sydney hadn’t had enough torture, because he went on to officially complete the circuit with the final 3 hour leg.

The Department of Conservation estimates that this section of trail should take about 5 hours and has lovely views of both mountains in the park. I did it in 3 and a half hours and it had lovely views of gray and more gray.

That night, we all stayed at something called a “skotel” (ski hotel…?). I took the longest, hottest shower of my life and enjoyed the rest of the night filled with chips (french fries), cheese and crackers, and entirely too much wine.

Kayleigh’s Overall Rating: 9/10 footprints – one footprint washed away in the rain