Sunday 15 January 2012

Whitecliffs boulders - an exciting adventure

Whitecliffs boulders by the Rangitikei river, N of Bulls, North Island, New Zealand

A brochure about these boulders on private land attracted my attention when we first passed Bulls on our way south and on our return journey we decided that we had time for a little detour. The brochure had a very sketchy map and no other information about the path off the main road. First it was along a minor road, then along a very narrow unsealed road bordered by steep slopes and finally down a very steep track suitable for 4WD. Alas we realised that only when we were already on it and all we could do was to drive the most scary 600m down to ‘the flat’. Well David was at the wheel and brought us down safely.
Rather shaken we set out for the boulders without a clue about the walk, no water bottle and no food even though it was lunchtime. Fortunately there were some trail signs.
The landscape was pasture land rather beautiful. Stunning sandstone cliffs.

View at the beginning of the walk, the Rangitikei river is at the bottom

Then we had to get past some cows... Now NZ farmers are reverting to cows; more profitable with the Chinese market.

Watchful cows
The trees were oaks planted by setlers, of course. Exotic trees attain rather large sizes in NZ.
Soon we passed some sheep.

Sheep running away from us. The lake was covered with azolla
Down and down we went. Until, finally, right by the river we came across the boulders.

Notice board
Later, we discovered a pit toilet equipped with water, toilet paper and hand soap. Unfortunately, the water was not drinkable. I could have done with some!

Huge mossy boulders
Now, seeing the boulders was a bit surreal. The place was a little oasis that had escaped the systematic land clearing. One could imagine how the whole area could have been before the settlers arrived. Also how hard it would have been for them to clear the bush and the utter isolation of the place.

Lots of them!
Nice round boulder more than a meter high
Amazing how the trees took root on the boulders

Also ferns
 The trees had a primeval look to them. We couldn't see their tops but their roots were full of character.

Nice mossy roots
 In all it was the most amazing walk. The contrast could not have been greater from the DOC well sign posted and documented walks. A very nice change.
For more about the formation of these boulders visit

PS: At the second attempt David did get the car up the steep slope. Just! I walked up and opened the gate at the top so that he could go through without having to stop. It was a tremendous relief to find ourselves and the car in one piece back on the narrow lane. Quite an adventure! 

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