Friday, 17 August 2012

Port Waikato and Limestone Downs

5 August
We drive south and west to Port Waikato for a second visit. Great cafe for coffee then we walk north up the great long beach towards the Waikato estuary at its top end. It’s a greyish day, with rain threatening, but certainly not bad enough to put us off. Before reaching the top of the beach we cut across to the edge of the Waikato River, finding our way through the black sand dunes. The river is very full and extremely wide at this point. There are piles of drift wood and other debris washed up at its edge, including massive tree trunks and chunks of pumice stone.

Looking back to the start of the walk, blue sky in this direction
Wind-blown black sand dunes

We’re now following the edge of the river towards the sea. We find a green island of plant life floating on the surface of the river beside us, which must have broken off from the shore at some point. Only one fisherman on the riverside, here more for the peace and quiet than the fishing he tells us. Weather’s building to the north, with huge black clouds bubbling up over Auckland, though so far no drops have fallen.

Amidst the debris at the edge of the Waikato River. Mike's holding up a large piece of pumice which floats downriver

Walking back along the beach, with storm clouds gathering behind us
Eventually we reach the point where the river meets the sea and we stop for lunch nestling against an ancient tree trunk, sheltering from the wind, watching a large flock of terns chattering to each other not far off. Then we continue our way back along the beach to the car park with black clouds billowing behind us. Back at the cafe for tea then a dash for the car as the drops are beginning to fall.

Limestone valley with 'Weathertops' rising above it

It’s not that late so we decide to explore the country further south, which is limestone and apparently used as the location for Weathertops in the Lord of the Rings films. The roads are tiny and twisting, deteriorating to gravel the further we go. It really is very impressive though we can’t see any footpaths signs. In the UK it would probably be National Trust managed and criss-crossed with footpaths but here it’s farm owned and fenced off so we can’t go off exploring at all. We drive through Limestone Downs which is marked on the map as a village but turns out to be a large farm.

We end up unexpectedly at the Nikau Caves and stop for tea. It’s owned and run by a friendly chatty couple, has a great cafe and accommodation. We’ve had our walk today and I don’t fancy the caves which involve crawling on hands and knees in places and are wet underfoot, but I’m sure we’ll be back sometime.

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