Hidden Gems: Waterfall man made, but still brilliant


There have been times when our journeys to Taupo were sidetracked by turning off at Waipunga to have a look at the great watery cascade down there across the valley.

And we came across a real ripsnorter outside of Raglan several years ago which was remarkable. Not quite the Niagara or the Victoria, but awesome when you got within hair-soaking distance of it.

Here in Hawke's Bay we have one of the highest waterfalls on the eastern seaboard and it may even slip into the country's tallest top 10. Not sure about that, but it's still an impressive item.

And as I wandered around its splashing flanks earlier this week, during the oppressive heat of this lingering and worrisome drought, I figured it had one major advantage over the rest, it could stop raining for a decade but the water would continue to flow.

For while it looks breathtakingly natural, it is not.

It is the waterfall feature of Napier's Centennial Gardens at the foot of Coote Rd, and the water is pumped around and around, again and again.

That blaze of fiery orange, reds, purples, yellows and glistening greens of Mother Natures' flora paintbox which was first laid out and developed back in 1973. It was officially opened in October of 1974. Those who dreamed up this visible, but in a sense hidden gem, did a brilliant job.

What can you do with a steep limestone hillside shrouded in shrubbery?

It was quite the sensation at the time. We are nearly 40 years down the track now and Mother Nature has done her job equally brilliantly. The greenery flanking the cascading falls is lush and thick, and when you stand in the middle of the pond bridge below and look at it, you could be deep in the heart of a distant and isolated bush.

Just tumbling water, beautiful flora and the sound of splashing.

It is a great and peaceful escape on the edge of the urban pace.

It is, of course, well-tended and spotless, a gem we can be proud of to share with visitors to embrace and relax in.

As you walk into the gardens you see tall, rugged cliffs to the left, where creepers and vines twist their way skywards. Continue on the path and you can walk up to within just three metres of the falling water.

Look up and it looks like it is coming down on top of you.

We can thank a chap called Herbert Humphries for this as he gifted the land to the Napier Council in 1905. And we can thank the miscreants who occupied the old Napier Prison for it was they who quarried the site for limestone - opening it up for the garden it would become.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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