Bridal Veil - November 11th 2013
I like waterfalls, and New Zealand has a lot of them. From the awesome cascade of the Stirling Falls in Milford Sound to the more modest spray of Fantail Falls close to the top of the Haast Pass, they are many and varied.
One of my favourites I only discovered last year.
The Bridal Veil Falls, close to the small surfing town of Raglan (good left hand break, they say) is a waterfall that sneaks up on you. This is hard to imagine for a fifty metre plunge off a basalt cliff, but the approach is from the top. You walk a short distance through bush on a well maintained walkway beside what appears to be a modest stream burbling along. The sun shines down through tree ferns and cicadas scrape their tuneless violins Ė always assuming that itís a nice, hot, sunny day.
I donít know what I was expecting, but the path wanders away from the stream and suddenly comes to a T junction. Beyond the T there is nothing but open air, and a railing to stop you walking over the cliff. To the left there is the thunder of the falls, and there they are, falling away below you. The little brown stream has turned into a noisy white cascade, buffeting the air and hammering at your ears.
You can walk up to the stream on the left part of the T and stand beside it as it hurls itself out into the air. Itís an unusual view of a waterfall.
Itís louder at the bottom of course. There is a path that switchbacks down the slope to the right of the T, and you climb down the steps to a lower observation point. This is not the bottom. You can stand here and look up and down the white wall of water, though actually itís just the stream - freed from the fetters of its bank expanding to fill the space available.
At the bottom it all seems familiar. Waterfalls are always like this. Everything is wet from the spray, you look up and see the sunlight shattering on the water droplets. I walk around with my hand over the lens of my camera, looking for a shot, but the truth is that the magnificence of the falls is best appreciated from above. Here it feels like there is nothing but power and noise as the water completes its plunge, smashing into its plunge pool, but from above there is also grace and elegance, the arc of water that is a perfect illustration of gravity and chaos.
I could sit and watch waterfalls like this one for hours.The free falling water has a mesmeric quality, its pattern never quite the same twice. You can follow part of it down with your eyes and it seems simple, but the whole has such presence that it seems to capture all of your senses.
It is, as I said before, a favourite.
We stayed in Cambridge, which is a pleasant small town with a wide high street and plenty of options for eating and accomodation. It's also a very good base for touring this part of New Zealand. A few kms north lies the very much larger city of Hamilton, which has its own attractions, but Cambridge is smaller, quieter, and very much dedicated to the bloodstock industry. It lies slightly off State Highway 1, but many places lie within day trip range, including Raglan, thr magnidicent glow worm caves at Waitomo, the geothermal marvels of Rotorua, Lake Taupo, the national rowing centre of Lake Karapiro, and at a stretch the city of Tauranga or even Auckland.
All the photo's are © Tim Stead 2013 for what it's worth.