Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Drought in Turangi Must be Over

April 22
Our outing before the rain today was to the Tongariro National Trout Centre. This is a museum, aquarium and hatchery dedicated to freshwater fish, mainly trout.  We take the river walk in the bit of bush around the center.
Making eyes at a huge freshwater eel.

making eyes at William.

At the river

An old Maori smokehouse.  Probably for smoking eels.
April 23
Hoping that the day will be dryer, we drive up to the Tongariro National Park Visitor Center in Whakapapa Village.  Since I see evidence of roadside herbicide spraying, I wonder at the dead looking vegetation further out from the road.
 dead looking vegetation 
I find out an interesting story at the Visitor Center.  In 1912 one of the early park superintendents decided it would be a good idea to transform the lower slopes of the volcanoes that make up the park to fields of heather for hunting grouse. They were originally covered with tussocks, big grass clumps. The superintendent  imported tons of heather seed and had tens of thousands of heather seedlings planted. The heather took off and smothered out the native vegetation.  The quail did not take off.  Now the park is covered in heather. Although it looks pretty when it is in bloom, once frost hits it heather turns a dead brown color.
heather blooms are lavender blue
So instead of fluffy red gold tussocks, there is brown heather.
The park originally came into being when a Maori chief who owned the land the three volcanoes were on decided to gift the land to the queen to preserve it. Enough land was later added around the volcanoes to comprise the park.
We hope the rain will only be a mist as we try out a nature walk near the visitor center.  We soon realize that we are not going to see the volcanoes on this trip.  The rain and clouds are clinging to the mountains.

a predator trap
Since this is our 47th wedding anniversary we head out to dinner at River Vineyard and Restaurant.  I was amazed that a wonderful restaurant like this exists in Turangi where the Burger King dominates the entrance to town.  The restaurant is quite small, one waitress and about seven tables.  The wine is only served at the restaurant.  We had a pinot noir that was as soft as pinots produced in the Santa Ynez Valley.  I think I can safely say that you could order any dish on the menu here and be amazed at the flavor, quality and presentation.

No comments: