Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Staring into the abyss

Some of you may already be aware that I was made redundant a couple of weeks ago - I'm not going to talk about that here (comment or email if you want to know more), but it does mean I've had a bit of "spare" time on my hands.

If you can see my Reader Shared Items (also over there on the right), you might have seen me share a post on Twisted Sifter about bellmouth spillways.

I've always found the idea of these things terrifying and fascinating, because they can produce something that looks like this:

. . . which, I'm sure you'll agree, is even scarier than Bethan post-sugar.

The beauty of TEH INTARNET means that my father was able to point out that one of these CIRCULAR CHASMS OF HOPELESSNESS exists in (where else?) Auckland. Well, not far out of Auckland, at least.

It is up in the Waitakeres, which is something like my spiritual homeland, if I went in for that kind of thing. There are a few reservoirs up there providing some of the drinking (and presumably showering, and bog-flushing) water for Auckland. One of them has one of these.

Since I had something to pick up from Auckland, I decided I'd make a bit more of a day of it, and go and look at this thing. As luck would have it, my good friend Eion is currently in Auckland, so I picked him up on the way.

It's the Lower Huia Reservoir we were after, but I didn't know that until later. Here it is on a map:

View Larger Map

We stopped at the Lower Nihotupu Reservoir, but soon realised it wasn't what we were looking for, and continued.

If anyone wants to go there (and I suggest you do, it's well worth it), you go through the little town of Huia, then turn right immediately after the one-lane bridge, and park up the end by the closed gate.

We did this the first time, but were discouraged by the closed gate, and turned back around. Good thing I had Eion with me, as he is man enough to ask for directions at a shop, unlike me. We were duly pointed back to where we'd come from.

The 'five minute walk' is a little more than that - maybe fifteen minutes - but completely worth it. You walk up the road, which goes steeply up the face of the dam.

Once you're on top of the dam, you can see the beautiful (although quite empty) reservoir amongst the bush-clad hills, and even out to sea in the other direction.


At the other end of the dam is what appears to be a jetty, sticking out into the reservoir - just walk across the road on top of the dam to it.


See, it's just a nice, harmless OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT DON'T LOOK DOWN


The nice little jetty goes directly over the entrance to hell centre of the bell-mouth spillway.

It's difficult to give a proper idea of the real size (and more importantly, the depth) of this thing. I'd guess it's about ten metres across, and between 4000 and 5000km deep.

Eion and I wavered between leaning as far as we could over the fence, fascinated by it, then suddenly realising the possibility of falling, and crouching down, clinging to the railing and gibbering with fear.

We took some photos:

Note the safety stance.


Note the white face of terror.


This thing has massive fins on it, which I found horrifying, partly because they're a little too much like teeth, and partly because they remind me of another terrifying concrete structure, the Ryugyong.


It wasn't until we were about to leave the we realised the small circular hole in the bridge couldn't possibly be a drain. No, it was a direct portal into the evil depths viewing hole exactly over the centre of the spillway:


Please go and look at it, the photos really do not do it justice. Just make sure you take some Valium or something.



Here's that bit of sea I was talking about:


It really is quite picturesque up there (assuming you ignore the vortex to another world):


So, if you're in Auckland, go and have a look. It's about a fifteen to twenty minute drive past Titirangi, not far, and totally worth it.

Next time I will take Bethan and some rope.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Snow! [1400km final]

At last, I'm going to finish writing about our trip, and it hasn't even been a year since it happened!

Last time, we were just about to leave Wellington, on a freezing, windy Tuesday morning. We could have just driven straight home along State Highway One (i.e. the way we came), which would have got us back home easily within the day.

However, we're more adventurous stupid than that, so we decided to drive through Upper and Lower The Hutt, over the Rimutakas and through the Wairarapa instead.

Mostly we did this because I've never really been over there before, and I wanted to give it a look.

I should also point out that large parts of the central North Island (which we'd need to drive through to get home), including the Desert Road, had been closed due to unprecedented and slightly unseasonal snowfalls. So, there was even the possibility of getting stranded somewhere. Exciting!

The Rimutakas surprised me with their unexpected size (seemed a lot bigger than the Kaimais) and unrelenting expanses of gorse (or was it broom? Yellow flowers anyway).

Featherston's the first town once you get over the hill. It's nice enough, but seems a bit like Wellington's version of Tirau - I wanted to see the real Wairarapa.

Greytown and Carterton were getting closer to what I wanted to see, but it wasn't until we got to Masterton that I found what I was looking for. It was great, reminded me of the good bits of Tokoroa, although it's a hell of a lot bigger. It's the sort of place I reckon I could live in, for a while anyway.

After some local delicacies McDonalds, we continued on. Somewhere along the road, we suddenly noticed the looming Tararuas in the distance - and they had SNOW on them! We had to take a photo, there was no way we'd see that much snow again on the way home:

(if you click on the photo to make it big, you might just be able to make out the mountains, sandwiched between the hills and the clouds)

Next stop, Eketahuna, where we continued the "photos with oversized roadside objects" theme:



This last one was immediately prior to a major meltdown about something I can't remember, probably the only tantrum of the whole trip, and it was all over in about three minutes:


Eketahuna's another one of those little places I love - a town that seems truly represenative of its region, unpretentious in the extreme.

Pahiatua's another one of those, but it has the benefit of a massive and incredible playground:


Betty is sideways as usual; hopefully this is some indication of how she will drive a car:


They even have what appears to be a real plane:


Plane nerds, please let me know what it is - this emblem on the side may assist with identification:


I'm not sure that any of those photos convey just how bitterly cold it was. Ah, here's one that does:


We travelled on.

These pictures are from a place called Stormy Point Lookout. You've no idea how hard it was to figure out where the hell I took them - GPS may be a requirement on the next camera.


It lived up to its name, anyway, by being unfeasibly windy, but also providing a fairly spectacular view:



Again, I'll let Rach demonstrate just how cold and windy it was:


We joined up with State Highway One again at the humorously-named Vinegar Hill. (if you follow that link, you'll find out why it's called that, as well as why camp really means Camp there)

We got very very excited when we started to see snow at the side of the road, so took lots and lots of pictures, assuming it would be all we'd see. After all, we'd just traveled south on the same road a few days earlier, and there wasn't really anything then.

Here's a few of the sort of pictures I'm talking about:




However, when we rounded this corner:


BOOOOOOM, Winter Wonderland:



Probably not so impressive if you're used to living somewhere that gets snow all the time. And yes, this area does generally have a snowfall or two every year BUT not in October, and not this amount.

I kinda wish I'd stopped, climbed up a hill with my skis (THEY WERE IN THE CAR) and had an impromptu ski. Something like this would've been brilliant:


Still, we made up for not doing this by stopping in Waiouru and going mental in the fresh snow, as only non-snow-dwellers can:





It was hard to get back in the car and keep going, but we thought we'd better. The Desert Road through to Turangi was still closed, so we detoured through Ohakune. By this time we were getting hungry again, so rather than going the quick, sensible way, we went back across to Taupo to get food.

Luckily, this meant we were able to get one last roadside statue photo in; the Turangi Trout:


Despite going the long way round more than once, we had a really really good trip, and it hasn't even put me off driving long distances with small children. As a side benefit, I now know the High School Musical 3 soundtrack off by heart.

Since we had a whole day to spare before going back to drudgery, the girls did this:


Comments please about what they are making (and anything else you want to say).