Crater Block Memories

by Mark McKenna

Not sure what particular event it was (maybe a multi-day) but I remember digging toilet holes on the old air strip which we used for the event centre. Digging down through the ash the holes sort of crumbled underneath the top hard layer and became quite a scary sort of cavern. A most unusual toilet hole digging experience. Fortunately the top layer seemed tough enough to support the toilet seat on some planks! I’m guessing we won’t have to worry about that these days!

At the end of one of the event days we had ticked off all the competitors but there was one lone car remaining on the airstrip. We checked all the lists and names again and asked about but nobody was known to be missing. We were just about to start out on a quick run around before calling the police when a young couple with backpacks on wandered in to the car. They had been walking up Mt Tarawera (which you could do in those days), had seen all the cars, and thought that it was the place to park!

I absolutely loved Crater Block. It had originally been farmland but after a (never proven) outbreak of the sheep disease scrapie all the stock were killed and buried somewhere on site. It was then planted in pines.

After many years sheep were reintroduced and the whole area became beautifully clean runnable forest. I loved coming across the big scattered boulders many of which gave the impression of having split open on landing. Roy Edwards, Ken Holst and I spent many long days exploring and field working it all back in the days of drafting film and coloured pencils. After a while it became “yours”.

Half a kilometre up Crater Road there is a cutting which used to clearly show all the volcanic ash layers. Many hundreds of years worth. A few metres down one of these had a distinct line of tree trunks that had been felled in an eruption.

Another curious feature were the rides which ran across the whole area 100m apart. They had been produced by cutting out a line of trees when they were little and were all dead straight. They certainly were a navigation aid although it wasn’t too difficult to run over one without noticing and you had to be careful keep a correct count.

The beautiful clean forest was later ruined by a big storm that felled and broke off great swathes of trees which kind of broke my heart because I was very attached to the area. Happy memories though. I’m really looking forward to seeing it again although I suspect the navigation might well be harder without those handy rides!