The Pancake Rocks, or Punakaiki on the West Coast of South Island are heavily eroded limestone layers where the sea bursts through blowholes at high tide. Over a thirty million year process, immense water pressure caused them to solidify into layers of more resistant limestone of marine animals and softer, thin, mud-rich plant sediments. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed where water, wind and sea over a thirty million year period eroded them into these whimsical shapes.
Meg and I have been here several times, but either clouds and rain, or low tide, or sun at the wrong angle have kept us from seeing these rainbows. We finally timed it right!
Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem[a] singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Meg and I fly home from New Zealand tonight. As I read this writing by Henri Nouwen, I was struck by how much of our lives involve letting go. We are filled and then emptied, and then filled again. It is a deep blessing to make/share these memories with Meg. We hold deeply to each other, as we move ever closer to eternal time with God.
“Joy and Sadness are as close to each other as the splendid colored leaves of a New England fall are to the soberness of barren trees. When you touch the hand of a returning friend you already know you will have to leave each again. When you are moved by the quiet vastness of a sun colored ocean, you miss the friend who cannot see the same. Joy and sadness are born at the same time, both arising from such deep places in your heart that you can’t find words to capture your complex emotions.
“But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy in God, a joy that no one shall take away from us. “ Henri Nouwen
New Zealand is well endowed with natural features. However, the Whirinaki Natural Preserve is definitely one of the more spectacular. It lies between Whakatane and Rotorua Beryl Nu’u, Matt and Teresa’s personal trainer, graciously took time out of her busy schedule to take Meg and me here on Saturday. The trail climbs and descends, climbs and descends, narrow and wide, dry and muddy through dense, muted fern and old growth rain forests that only New Zealand has to offer. The light was enchanting and the small waterfalls and rivulets that flowed to the side of us were a constant delight. Magnificent thick tree trunks of various bark textures support trees that tower above the hiker. It was a delightful eight mile hike that exercised body and soul as well as a great time with Beryl !
Meg and I spent time again at Mt Cook National Park, a must visit for anyone who is drawn to the mountains.I “enjoyed” a steep and strenuous hike with Ant Harris, a guide whom Meg and I had gotten to know on the previous visit. He is a skilled mountain guide and a deep, authentic thinker. He took me on his day off to the Mueller Hut–a three thousand foot elevation gain in three miles, up never ending, straight up steps, through challenging rock formations, and finally up snow where crampons helped us along. It was a thirteen hour day, including lunch at the hut. I was slow, but my muscles held up both the ascent and descent. Fortunately, however, I did not have to go anywhere the next few days, so sore muscles had plenty of time to recover.
Meg and I returned on our own for a second visit to the Oparara Basin. We took a lovely walk through the rain forest old growth to the Moria Arch, a limestone arch formed by the erosion of a cave. It was named because of its resemblance to filming locations in Lord of the Rings.
Karamea is home to the Opera Basin in the Kahurangi National Park. It is a thirty five million year old complex of limestone caves, arches, and old growth rain forest. Honeycomb Hill Caves are world famous for their ancient Moa and giant New Zealand eagle bones. These bones are so called “sub fossil” bones, meaning the original form of the bones is preserved and can be DNA tested. Scientists have identified nine different Moa species.These birds fell into the cave system through sink holes and were unable to extricate themselves.
One finds glow worms inside the caves. It seems truly magical to see this starlight glow deep in a cave. Māori call them titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water. Glow-worms are the larvae of the fungus gnat. Glow-worms need damp places, where the air is humid and still, to construct their snares. Caves and old mining tunnels are ideal. In the forest glow-worm snares are commonest on moist banks beside a stream or in a ravine. To catch small flying insects, the glow-worm sets up a snare of sticky silk threads. Flying insects see the glow-worm’s light in the dark and fly towards it, because it resembles moonlight shining through the trees. Instead of finding freedom, they become trapped on the sticky threads. Their struggles alert the glow-worm, which pulls in the thread with its mouth. The prey is then killed and eaten.
I do not have pictures of the actual glow, but when our guide shown light on them, we could see the long filament snares referred to above.
Honeycomb Hill cave can only be visited as part of a guided tour. It is closely monitored because of the significance of the bone specimens. The caves were only discovered in the late 1980’s. We also visited the Oparara Arch, reputed to be the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Meg and I try each year to find “off the beaten” path locations in New Zealand. This year’ we found Karamea, at the end of the road on the West Coast of South Island. We flew into Nelson and rented a car. We discovered a delightful little garden restaurant in Wakefield, enjoyed the New Zealand’s longest walkway suspension bridge in the Buller River gorge, and drove up an over a twisty mountain road to reach Karamea.
I had booked a room at the Riverstone, a delightful large unit that overlooked the Karamea river and wide valley, with the mountains of the Kahurangi National Forest in the distance. Hiking a day on the Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s “great walks” had lured us here. Starting along the Tasman Sea and running fifty miles through tussock and lush rain forest, it is highly rated for its rugged, diverse beauty. We only had time for a day hike to Scotts Beach, but that was a wonderful introduction. And we also enjoyed the curious and friendly weka birds.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.
During Meg and my recent travels on South Island, we renewed our friendship with Ant Harris, a professional guide with Southern Alps Guiding at Mt Cook National Park. On his day off, he took me up to the Mueller Hut, a hike that climbs quite steeply from the valley floor. We started up into clouds, but soon climbed above the inversion layer, where we delighted in glorious views of Mt Cook and the surrounding ranges.
I was deeply happy with this challenging day–exhilarating and exhausting. But ultimately this happiness, like any other, was transitory, always needing to be refilled by another encounter or another event. I seek and hope for the ultimate good news or peace good tidings and salvation, where divine union with the Living God brings joy that never ends.
“Drink deeply of life: the love, hope, sorrow, and pain of it all. Ponder the miracle of your being and the web of all living things. Your passion, your gifts, your dreams, and your love are not to be squandered. The King of Glory is knocking on your door. Open your heart; it is time to invite Him in.”
Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies— he is the King of glory.