Time to finish off our stroll round Te Puna Quarry Park (here’s a map to help orient you) …
There’s always so much to see in the orchid-butterfly-fuchsia area but we need to push on and turn uphill again, passing two new sculptures on the cliff side before reaching a corner and the Japanese-style garden maintained by the local Bonsai Society. There’s a seat here too with a grand view that takes in the fall of land to the harbour, Mauao and offshore islands, just the place to catch your breath.
Running along the edge of the wide top terrace is a long drystone wall which keeps photographers and those admiring the view from tumbling down the cliff! At the far end of the terrace are the Lions Steps, so named for the service group that made them but you can roar when you get to the top if you like or, if you haven’t any breath left, sink down on to another thoughtfully placed seat!
This is the highest point on the trail and after a flat stretch it starts to descend. We come out above the South African and Australian areas but there are plenty of options for side trips and you’ll make many visits before you take the same one twice.
A maple and magnolia area is being developed, there’s a well-established subtropical area, a protea path, a native arboretum, a planting of palms and … well, you get the idea.
The Australian plants seem to be in flower at all times of the year and today is no exception – banksias and grevilleas mostly – but it’s the proteas that catch my attention. Lots of flowers and buds looking magnificient with raindrops caught in their hairy surfaces.
When we get to the gazebo by the big Michelias (flowers smelling divine just now) there’s a choice – continue along the main path to complete the loop back to the mosiac couple, or start heading downhill on smaller tracks. Today, we follow The Teenager who heads off downhill to the right through plantings of camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and azaleas which means we bypass the herb garden (downhill to the left).
We stop and listen to the rain pattering on the huge leaves of a Ficus dammaropsis, native to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and wonder whether we are looking at cones or flowers but a look at this website indicates that the round “things” are, in fact, fruit which are edible, in PNG anyway.
We pop back out on the main track (that we came uphill on) below the mosaic couple and having come through the vireya rhododendron area, admiring the manuka that are covered in flowers as we pass the Rotary Pool.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our walk, despite the on and off drizzle, and I’ve taken plenty of photos. And after all this exercise what could be better than afternoon tea? Actually, that shouldn’t be a question. There is nothing better than afternoon tea … ever (except perhaps morning tea). And there’s always a warm welcome at nearby Cafe Paradiso. Heck, they even know our names now!