Patuna Chasm

In the Wairarapa there is a hidden gem that I’ve been trying to visit for a few years now and last week I finally managed to get the time required to check it out. Patuna Chasm is a natural feature worn out over time by the passage of the Ruakokoputuna River. Situated on private property 17km south of Martinborough it’s possible to book a visit through Patuna Farm.

Keryn and I both took a day off and arrived at Patuna Farm a little early. All up there were 8 punters lined up to walk the chasm and this necessitated a trailer being hooked up to the farm 4WD to transport us all to the starting point which was a 15 minute drive from the farmstead. Our host was Alan and after giving us some tips and handing over a sheet describing the walk we were left to start walking. Alan had picked me as a photographer after lifting my admittedly heavy bag of camera gear into the 4WD and gave Keryn and I some extra advice to maximize the photography opportunities which was appreciated.

The first half of the walk traversed native forest and farmland as we headed upstream. There were one spot where there was a rope to help descend a stepper part of the track but otherwise it was fairly easy going. We spotted and heard korimako (bellbird), tui and miromiro (tomtit) while walking through the woodland and stopped to have lunch at the wonderful natural feature named Wave Rock.

Keryn climbs up to Wave Rock

Keryn climbs up to Wave Rock

A nice spot for lunch

A nice spot for lunch

From Wave Rock it was only a few minutes till we were heading down towards the river and negotiating another somewhat tricky section of track that again had ropes for assistance. Then it was down to the chasm floor via an 8m high ladder. The water at the bottom was cold on first contact but soon was comfortable enough on this warm summer day. It wasn’t possible to have dry feet on this walk so we were both wearing sports sandals. Alan recommends wearing shoes or boots to help prevent getting stones stuck underfoot but we managed OK. We took a moment to read the provided notes and decided to head upstream to a nearby waterfall.

Descending into the chasm

Descending into the chasm

Playing with water

Playing with water

The upstream waterfall

The upstream waterfall

The water got up to our knees as we picked our way upstream which was about as deep as we had to negotiate on the whole walk. The waterfall was very pretty and would be even more impressive after heavy rain. It’d also be easier to photograph on an overcast day but who am I to complain at sunny skies with scattered cloud. Keryn played with the streaming water and investigated the mossy banks while I took photos before turning back downstream.

The chasm narrows

The chasm narrows

The riverbed was rocky with occasional patches of gravel and we walked carefully, picking safe spots to place our feet and making sure not to stand on the larger submerged rocks which tended to be slippery. There were a few sections where we could walk along the banks and at one point labeled split rock we had to climb down another shorter ladder. Split rock was also a good spot to investigate fossilized shells exposed where the stone had cracked apart.

It was well worth reading the chasm notes. For instance at the next large rock in the center of the river we had a choice of left or right paths around the obstruction. The left side was dim and meant walking through dripping water coming down from the walls above while the right side looked much drier. The notes pointed out that the right side path was much deeper so a quick shower was the better option.

Looking back at the "house" rock

Looking back at the “house” rock

The chasm walls reached higher and started coming together past the house rock and we spent more and more time stopping and just watching the play of light across the water sculpted surfaces. Sunlight that reached the water would reflect in lazy moving waves and the water changed colour from black to green and yellow depending on the depth.

Sculptured rock

Sculptured rock

The path ahead

The path ahead

We were becoming aware of the time and that we were meant to be finished by 3pm for our pickup. One of the group ahead of us came back to check on us and the older couple behind us somewhere so we knew we had better get a wriggle-on. Pressing on through the water we passed a large short-finned eel seemingly suspended in the water to one side of the chasm, completely unimpressed by the travelling humans.

Nearly done

Nearly done

We came out of the chasm and there was one more short, rope assisted climb before we were again walking through the forest and uphill to the starting point. Next time I’ll take Alan’s suggestion and skip most of the forest and start in the chasm, I don’t think my photos really do the place justice. Patuna Chasm is a natural wonder that deserves to be experienced in person. I also look forward to the day Alayna can come visit with us, though she’d need to be a bit older (it’s recommended that children be older than 6).

A Summer Holiday – Whangarei

Our most northward destination was the Bainbridge home near Whangarei and we had a relaxing week with family around Christmas. From watching the daily antics of the numerous quail families, checking out the other wildlife such as the kereru after seen visiting the big puriri tree at the bottom of the front yard or the swallow nest in the shed converted from an old water tank, following Alayna around as she played in the little hut made from a laundry tub box or distributed sand from her sandpit boat on the back deck, walking the tracks in the bush next to the house, relaxing, opening presents on Christmas day, preparing food for Christmas day, eating all that food on Christmas day and the following days, visiting friends and family in and around Whangarei, and going for walks we kept ourselves busy.

There were three or four families of quail seen every day wandering through the gardens. The male in each family could often be found at a high point like the dead tree in the front garden keeping an eye out for dangers such as the harrier hawk that would often swoop by. The chicks ranged in size from tiny bumblebees of fluff to near full grown birds ranging with more independence from their parents.

Dad quail keeping a lookout

Dad quail keeping a lookout

There was plenty of other wildlife to find from the native copper butterflies found flitting between the various garden flowers to the tui regularly visiting the flowering flax.

A copper butterfly

A copper butterfly

Tui visiting the garden flax

Tui visiting the garden flax

The puriri tree was full of berries and this brought kereru to the tree in ones and twos to clumsily bundle from branch to branch seeking ripe fruit. At night there would be plenty of huhu beetles flying around seeking the lights of the house. In the mornign there would always be a few tired beetles crawling around.

Kereru in the puriri tree

Kereru in the puriri tree

Huhu bettle

Huhu bettle

Tracks have been created in the bush on the property and we took a few walks with Alayna to show her the sights of the forest. Alayna likes touching leaves and branches, feeling the textures and looking at the shapes. We also show her the different views, looking up at the canopy and down to the undergrowth.

Walking in the bush

Walking in the bush

Looking up at the pine canopy

Looking up at the pine canopy

An old plastic water tank that sprung a leak has been converted into a garden shed and we found a swallows nest constructed out of mud and situated at the top of a umbrella leaning against the wall. A short stepladder allowed a good view of the three or four chicks bunched together and keeping very still. The mum and dad zoomed around outside in some distress at the human intrusion so I didn’t spend long taking photos.

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

The next day I noticed something odd in the entrance to the shed and closer inspection found the umbrella on the ground and the nest in pieces on the floor. We suspect a cat found the nest and knocked the umbrella down in an attempt to get to the chicks. The chicks must have been about to fledge as I found one chick on the roof of the garage across from the shed. Later in the day I was looking in the shed and found another chick perched near the entrance inside. After a few photos the second chick unsteadily flew outside and into a tree. I think the other chicks ended up as cat victims.

The first escaped swallow chick

The first escaped swallow chick

The second survivor

The second survivor

Travis was also staying for Christmas and I joined him one evening for a walk he was doing with some tramping friends from Auckland. The plan was to see some glow worms on the Ross Track that led up one side of Mount Parihaka in Whangarei. Everyone else ended up walking to the summit while I stayed back to try photograph the glow worms and the waterfall that fell through the valley. I think I’ll now be seeking out good glow worm spots for more photos as the end result was quite cool (if I do say so myself).

A wall of glow worms

A wall of glow worms

A waterfall at night

A waterfall at night

Back at the car we were leaving when Travis spotted something in the headlights. It turned out to be a large kauri snail glistening brown and black on the bank next to the road. It was a pity we didn’t think to put something next to it to show the scale, the shell would have been about 10 centimetres across.

A kauri snail

A kauri snail

Christmas day was a relaxed day at home. Most of the presents were for Alayna and she had a great time ripping paper and inspecting all her gifts. There were books and clothing and duplo and a soft toy cat, a bucket and spade for sand play, toys for the bath, a buzzy bee and plenty of other things which will be keeping Alayna amused for months to come.

Alayna happy on the deck

Alayna happy on the deck

Christmas day presents

Christmas day presents

More presents!

More presents!

Alayna really enjoyed playing in the sandpit/boat on the back deck. The most fun thing ever was picking up sand with her hands or using her new shovel and throwing it everywhere but into the boat. I’m pretty sure she could have spent all day happily redistributing sand.

Sand play

Sand play

On Boxing Day we took Alayna to the beach at Wellingtons Bay just south of Tutukaka. Alayna had been to the beach before but this was the first time visiting during a warm summers day. The beach was busy with people enjoying the weather and we got Alayna into her swimsuit and took her to the water. Once we put her down at the waters edge she tentatively put a hand to the water and watched as small waves came up beach. She was soon smiling and slapping the water, giggling as waves came up over the feet.

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Settling in on the sand

Settling in on the sand

A few days later we visited Karyn at Taurikura Bay on Whangarei Heads. It was good to catch up and see how Lexi is growing up, Lexi started walking on Christmas Day and we think Alayna has got much more interested in walking seeing Lexi still learning how to walk around with confidence. We went for a walk along the coastline and after lunch we all went down to the beach where Alayna loved being floated in the water and then playing in the sand.

More beach fun

More beach fun

On one of the final days we went for a walk on the recently opened Hatea loop which heads from the Whangarei marina to the fancy Te Matau a Pohe road bridge over the Hatea River. There were sculptures dotted along the walk including a large concrete Waka and Wave and stone gull seats.

Walking the Hatea Loop

Walking the Hatea Loop

Mangroves and boatsheds

Mangroves and boatsheds

The waka and the waves sculpture

The waka and the waves sculpture

Te Matau a Pohe is an impressive structure, dynamic and striking with its bold design being both sculptural and practical, the bridge hinging on the sculptural arms to open up and allow boats through to the Marina.

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

It was great to be up north and have a peaceful week away from the concerns of work and the normal routine. It had to come to an end and after a final brunch at the town basin we headed south once more for another night in Hamilton with the Burdetts (including a wonderful nachos dinner followed by black forest gateau desert and the a very good walk around Hamilton lake in the morning before we left) and from there over to Napier for the final part of our trip.

Lets go surfing now

Finished at Zealandia I met Keryn for lunch and as went in to the city to get food and a birthday present. This being successful Keryn was back to work and I took a drive to Lyall Bay on the off chance that there might be some surfers to photograph. It was a good bet, I counted 30 or so guys (they were all guys) in the water either on surf boards or body boards. So I found a rock on the shoreline that was passably comfortable and I watched the action.

MG 4687Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Nearly flying down the wave.

MG 4466Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The focus and effort shows on his face.

MG 4359Photo by Brendon & Keryn

When they broke the waves were very messy, this guy engulfed by the spray.

MG 4321Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Coming out ahead of the breaking wave.

I was asked by one surfer walking past “who are you taking photos for?” so I must look the part. He didn’t seem impressed that I wasn’t there on behalf of a magazine or website. There is a stiff northerly forecast for Wednesday so I’ll have to go back for another look after football at the University.

Photo5 2010: Eye dropper

Time to play with another Photo5 category. I’ve been playing with the eye dropper/close-up brief today and have been experimenting with water drops on lilies.

MG 5079Photo by Brendon & Keryn

As a first go with a drop of water at the end of the flower this is OK but isn’t that interesting.

MG 5110Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Changing the water colour for added contrast and oomph, but still not very interesting.

MG 5115Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The water started going in unintended directions, in this case down the stem. Slightly more interesting perhaps.

MG 5138Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Adding an angle to the new idea, that’s about as far as it got this afternoon. I’ve still got work to do I think.