Karangahake Gorge and Mount Manganui

Yet more Kiwi hospitality at Nicky's parents, Steve and Vicky. They have a beautiful house in the countryside and Steve reassured us that possums were a pest and very common. Needless to say we piled in the car. Steve has a big plug in torch and we slowly drove past trees looking for possum eyes. All we can say is we have seen more 'Red Book' endangered species than possums in NZ as none turned up.
 
Our blogs from now will read like a non-stop ad for NZ tourism, except for February when we are going to Australia. We have a great AA book; "101 must do's for Kiwis" and are working our way through some of them.
 
We stopped off at Karangahake Gorge which is absolutely beautiful. The suspension bridges swing and sway unnervingly. The site hasn't been turned into a theme park (yet) and you wander through 'at your own risk'.
 
There is an old gold mine where you wander down the narrow old railway track, through tunnels with 'windows' running through the middle of the gorge.
 
 
 
The gold was in quartz and recovered by blasting and bodily with pick and shovel. The sheer geography of the palce suggests what an awesome task this was. Apparently the whole mountain range is still full of gold, but the environmental lobby objected to leveling the range to extract it - good on them! Our drive through from Paeroa to Waihi has a Lonely Planet description of 'best short drive in NZ'.
 
Then we went to Mount Manganui. Mauao is the Maori name meaning 'caught in the light of the day'. This hill is next to spectacular beaches and is a rhyolite volcanic cone. A great little walk up and around in a beautiful area.
 
 
The day we left a pod of Orcas cruised through, feeding on what's known as 'Orca Chocolate' here - stingrays. The newspaper pictures were brilliant and we can only hope we get to see some.
 
Onwards after a nights stay at Boatshed Motel Apartments (who even provided gluten free bread for Caroline at no notice - unlike the company who took us to White Island who 'don't cater for dietary requirements') to White Island.