We had an amazing year in 2016 traversing our way around the North Island. The journals for 2015 and 2016 were split by location, but, a change is as good as a rest so for 2017 I plan to update the journal each month. 
We finished 2016 joining what felt like thousands of other tourists trying to find a parking spot in Napier before the fireworks kicked off to start the new year. Not being the most patient of people in crowds I decided to head a short way out of town, park up and walk back towards the centre. We found a great spot on the beach not too far away and waited for the New Year to begin......naturally with the camera ready to roll.
Then there it was, the first fireworks burst into life and a new year had begun.....what will it bring?
Probably the best summary of January experiences has been waterfalls and the wonderful outdoors. We started off with a short walk to the little known Shine Falls about an hour from Napier which is well worth the effort if you are in the area. We also took in various short walks around Napier town enjoying both the art deco architecture and wetlands. Before we bid farewell to Napier we dropped into the winery at Sacred Hill for a fantastic afternoon of sun, food, wine and the wonderful tones of local singer Eilish Rose at the summer Sundayz event. What a great way to finish up our stay in this area.
From Napier we had a complete change of pace and made our way into National Park. We were lucky enough to find a property to stay on from which, on clear days, we could see the three mountains of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe roughly 35kms away. 
I must confess at this point to being somewhat obsessed by rugged landscapes which probably goes back to early childhood when we escaped London every summer to head to Wales and the annual conquering of Snowdon. Having spent months and months in rolling green hills and then the dry lands of Napier it was fantastic to be back in mountains with the walking boots and camera getting a thorough workout over the two weeks we were there. We did on this occasion venture on to the Tongariro Crossing but only for a short part of it and then only when the majority of tourists had finished for the day. Our little adventure took us to Soda Springs which is a lovely little waterfall before we headed back the way we came across the lava strewn landscape. I have no doubt the full Tongariro Crossing is amazing, however, as mentioned before I really don't do crowds and it is way too popular a route for us.
Probably my favourite spot in National Park was heading to Ohakune then following the road up to the skifields car park. The views from up there were simply spectacular and I enjoyed a few wonderful hours either watching the sun rise or set. One morning I drove up through the cloud before sunrise for what turned out to be the most amazing few hours as I found myself alternately in the cloud only able to see a few meters in front of me only to find a minute later I was being dazzled by the sun. These are definitely the moments that reward you for an early start and make this journey so special.........and just me there, perfect.
For the last week we have been in Rotorua which, oddly enough, is exactly where we were a year ago. Already though we have visited spots like Okerere where mad tourists wedge themselves into rafts and go over the falls. Springs of the clearest water I have ever seen where you can see the ducks as they swim down to sift food from the river floor before popping back up at the surface like a cork. The amazing Redwoods Forest which was only planted in 1901 and now has trees that tower 55m above you with lots of walking and biking tracks........aff of which we missed last time, well done Rotorua, you continue to surprise and charm me.
Well, that's enough of my ramblings for the start of the year, hope you enjoy the following collection of images of our travels.
The New Year starts Napier style
The view from Te Mata Peak on New Years day looking out to sea and across various vineyards below. 
Te Mata Peak is a great landscape with 360 degree views from the top. I spent a few hours just watching the light play on the undulating landscape and watching the myriad of people running and biking their way to the top obviously starting new year resolutions......do they not know there's a carpark at the top ;-)
One tectonic plate meets another and forces the land up into Te Mata Peak. It really is a breathtaking view from the top.
Quite often a walk to a waterfall is nothing particularly special, however, not only is the walk to Shine Falls lovely it is also a spectacular sight when you turn the final corner.
Lake Tutira is one of those places that should be stunning to kayak on, unfortunately there are plenty of signs warning not to go in......hopefully it doesn't affect the lovely black swan who came to see me as I was taking a few shots.
Once used as a dumping ground for rubbish the reserve at Pekapeka Wetlands near Hastings has been transformed with new planting and boardwalks. Not a huge area to explore but certainly worth dropping in to if you are in the area.
One of the boardwalks at Pekapeka Wetlands.
One of a few waterfalls at Te Urewera
The Lake Waikareiti Walk takes you from the DOC visitor centre in Aniwaniwa to Lake Waikareiti which is a stunningly beautiful crystal clear water lake......well worth the effort. The walk is slightly up hill all the way, meaning it was downhill all the way back :-)
Lake Waikareiti
Waimarama Beach at the break of day
Waimarama Beach as the sun breaks through the cloud
A windy day in Napier needed a long exposure to calm the elements. This also meant that the various people walking up and down the rocks to go fishing disappeared from the image hiding that this is quite a popular spot.
First walk in National Park making our way to Taranaki Falls as the clouds loomed menacingly above us. The threatened rain never eventuated though making for a great first walk in the area.
The water from mountains cascades over the edge 20 meters above to land in a pool then tumble downstream. The Taranaki Falls are very impressive.
An early start resulted in witnessing these amazing cloud formations over National Park. Thankfully no traffic on the road in the early hours.
As I made my way up to the ski fields I was greeted with this sight.....wow
The only vehicle I saw for hours made it's way towards me from Whakapapa Village just as dawn was breaking.
One more step back and I'd have been over the edge to land 20 meters below at the bottom of Taranaki Falls.......I was very, very cautious!
Water from Mt Ruapehu in the distance cascades over the lava flows making its way down and over the falls.
So many spots along walkways in National Parks reveal the rivers tumbling over rocks which is very peaceful
An afternoon stroll around Lake Rotopounamu entailed walking through plenty of bush with the occasional drop down to the lake. Nice spot.....but it was a very windy day!
This duckling was intent on coming over to say hi.......Mum wasn't going to be too far away though!
On the way to Whakapapa Village is a sign for Tawhia Falls. After a day of walking we decided we could manage another 800 meters to finally go in and see this little spot. Wow, can't believe I've driven past it all these times as this is a very special spot.
A bit of a classic shot of Mt Ruapehu, just couldn't resist.
From the carpark at the Turoa Ski Fields on Mt Ruapehu one afternoon I was able to see Mt Taranaki in the distance. That means I've now seen both mountains, from both mountains.
An early start to get up to Turoa Skifields on Mt Ruapehu was rewarded with the most incredible display nature. Just a few seconds before this shot I was surrounded by cloud and could only see a few meters ahead.
Misty Mountains
The Tongariro Crossing walkway......late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds
Late afternoon light catching Soda Springs waterfall
Another classic alpine shot of Mt Ruapehu
Last light on the Turoa Skifields Mt Ruapehu......love this spot
Not a bad area to be parked up for a couple of weeks. On clear days we could see the mountains in the distance.
Start of the treetops walk in Redwoods Forest Rotorua. 
Looking back across Lake Rotorua in the early hours to see the lights of Rotorua in the distance.
There's just something magical about a wharf over a lake as the sun is making it's way up to greet a new day.
Mad tourists enjoying the Okerere Falls rapids.
That is how you get very, very wet!
Looking up into the canopy of the Redwoods. This is only 20 meters from the visitor centre, magical.
More of the Redwoods Forest
Nature continues to slowly grow in the forest as walkers and runners make their way past.
Fortunate timing to catch two of the ways to enjoy lake Rotorua.
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