Nature's Water Features
Waterfalls are nature's most dramatic kinetic sculptures. For the water it's simply a matter of potential energy, and the need to find lower ground. For bushwalkers it's more a matter of magical energy and watery wondering.
We stop, we gaze, and we marvel that the water keeps falling. Our basic knowledge of things geographical (those diagrams with clouds and rain and little arrows) flows away with the gurgling white spray. Where does all the water really come from? Could it ever stop?
Think of roadside signs that might tempt a visitor, eager to stop the car and stretch tourist legs. Would 'Swamp with Large Trees 20 minutes return' appeal? No way. But everybody stops at the 'Waterfall' sign - even if they're only promised a view. Waterfalls are the perfect destination, and New Zealand is a lucky country - we are blessed with waterfalls of every size.
Waterfalls to Order
We can offer the visitor five minute strolls to waterfalls, or views of huge thundering waterfalls which could never be reached, not even by helicopter. On one of the most famous tramping tracks (the Milford Track) waterfall fanatics can walk right inside (or behind, to be precise) one of the biggest, the Sutherland Falls. I've been quite close, but the force and noise of the water was a little scary.
Ryde Falls are modest, as waterfalls go - they are in the North Canterbury foothills underneath Mount Oxford. There are three separate cascades.
Clematis in Flower
My walking group found it an easy two hour amble through New Zealand bush and southern beech forest, passing at one stage through the most beautiful 'fields' of ferns. The New Zealand native Clematis Paniculata was in flower - lightening up the green bush with its creamy white floral cascades.
A Sunny Picnic Spot
There's a perfect sunny picnic spot by the river, and the falls themselves are five minutes away. The wet, dark green bush surrounds the waterfall, the track is broken and slippery, and it's difficult to safely get very close.
Finally arriving at the waterfall is a reward in itself - far better than chocolate. There's a feeling of deep solitude and wonderment, but the sounds of bellbirds, water, and the twittering of ones walking companions are still welcome. Ryde Falls are a secret place in a lost, wet world of green leafed bush and black sooty-trunked beech trees.
View at Lookout
But forget those idyllic TV images of swimming (with romantic water-sprite companion) in either of the waterfall's pools. The water is far too cold, and it's downright dangerous. And after puffing and striding for two hours any female companions will be muddy-booted and red-faced, gurgling from their water bottles and munching muesli bars. Trust me - they will not have packed their floaty sarongs!