Tuesday, May 17, 2016

“An Unknown Magical White Cliff Secret”

This magical treasure of moss covered cannonball concretions forest in Mangaweka, a small township of Manawatu-Wanganui region located in North Island of New Zealand, is a natural wonder. A narrow gravel winding road with beautiful countryside views takes you to the gates of the White cliffs farm. This self-guided walk has several orange arrows posted along the route and sheep poo for GPS. The downhill walk past the magnificent Rangitikei River is a beauty of its own. Hills with pastures and forests line the side of the valley across the winding river. 

You might be walking alongside the company of some fellow New Zealand sheep as the locale is a private farm property. There is an honesty box for a decent five dollar donation. It takes almost 45 minutes for a one side walk across these lovely farmlands with some of the most spectacular views of the Rangitikei River before arriving at the boulders. 

A short stroll from the cliff tops down to the river and you feel like you are stepping back in time. Blue waters of the river stroll past thousands of grey stones as we walk towards the forest. The White cliffs forest containing the boulders is situated on a raised land mass with a short uphill approach track.

These magnificent boulders are set amongst native trees with almost a Hobbiton ambience. Don’t be surprised if Bilbo Baggins or even Gollum might haunt you for the Precious from amidst the deep green dungeons of these boulders. The native bush is rich with a variety of birds,  natural flora and fauna, covered in green moss, giving it an enchanted feel. It’s enough to make you imagine you were walking through a giant’s marble collection.

You would be surprised to discover a flushing toilet in the middle of the Boulders bushes. The walk back up the hill can be a little steep and might be worth taking a water bottle. The area is perfect for a picnic with options near the boulders on the outskirts of the forest or somewhere with a view of the river and may be a swim in the clear river on a hot summer's day.

White Cliffs Boulders: (Visitors Information Board)

''Take nothing but photos, Leave nothing but footprints''

The Whitecliffs Boulders are called concretions and have formed within the rocks where they are found. In this case, the rock type is the Mangaweka mudstone, which was deposited off the coast of an older version of N.Z. from 2.5 to 3 million years ago. The mudstone came from sediments dropped by rivers eroding land into the sea. The rivers carried more than sediments, which was key to the creation of the boulders. 

Shells and trees were also carried out to sea and were trapped in the sediment. The mud was full of water and as new sediments were deposited on top of the mud, the water was squeezed out. The water contained dissolved chemicals that dropped out of solution and formed cement around what was left of the buried shells and plant material. The organic material seems to create a node for this process to occur.

Layer after layer, calcium carbonate wrapped around the shells and trees to form cement concretions. Concretions can come in several shapes, but the round Whitecliffs Boulders are called cannonball concretions (it would take one huge cannon to fire the biggest boulders).

These concretions are called cannon ball concretions and are particularly large. There are larger ones in the USA that are 10 meters in diameter. The size is related to how much dissolved chemicals were in the water and the volume of water that flowed past the nodes. In this case, there must have been a lot. Specific conditions needed to be present for the boulders to be created and they definitely feel special up close. 

Cannonball concretions are large spherical concretions, which resemble cannonballs. They often outwardly resemble fossils or rocks that look as if they do not belong to the stratum in which they were found. Occasionally, concretions contain a fossil; either as its nucleus or as a component that was incorporated during its growth but concretions are not fossils themselves. 

Small hematite concretions, dubbed "blueberries" due to their resemblance to blueberries in a muffin, have been observed by the Opportunity rover in the Eagle crater on Mars. Concretions have long been regarded as geological curiosities. Because of the variety of unusual shapes, sizes and compositions, concretions have been interpreted to be dinosaur eggs, animal and plant fossils, extraterrestrial debris or human artifacts.

Getting there: 
Mangaweka, Manawatu-Wanganui, North Island - New Zealand

Enjoy the walk down to the Boulders over farm land with amazing views. Approximately 2 km walk down into the Boulders from the car park. Access is from the southern end of Whitecliffs Farm, 12km off SH 1 (Otara Rd which is 7 km south of Mangaweka) to the carpark. Open all year, no bookings necessary. This is a self-guided walk. 4WD transport is provided by prior arrangement for an extra cost. A reasonable degree of fitness is required for all walks/hikes/trail rides.

Click www.whitecliffsboulders.co.nz  for visiting the Official Page 


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