'Mile High' Club....

Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, March 18, 2013

Back at Carlo Sandblow in Australia, a young chap got suited up and launched himself off the edge of the dunes in a hang glider. A crowd had gathered to watch and we both thought that looked pretty cool as he sailed around above us. So we decided our NZ activity were to be just that - a tandem hang glide! But rather than do it over Queenstown (where a load of such like activities take place), Kala did her research and found that the highest one in NZ existed at Motueka, over Abel Tasman National Park. It was advertised as the 'mile high' hang glide! Cool! Let's give that a go!! Kala got kitted out first and got positioned in the glider and I was second. A small plane literally toed us onto the runway and up into the air to 5,200 feet (a mile) before we unclipped ourselves from it and glided back down to solid ground! The speed at which we took off was unbelievable!! It felt like as soon as the rope tightened the glider was up in the air (which was probably the reason for our runny noses ha ha...the gloves we borrowed took care of that though ha ha!!!). Whilst up there we could see right over the National Park and the surrounding mountain ranges and ocean! Tremendous view!! Our guide let us steer the glider a few times and also did a few little tricks up there to give us the feeling of freefall for a couple of seconds!! Excellent morning!!
The following day saw us trekking a decent chunk of Abel Tasman itself. This route is NZs most popular multi-day walk but you could do sections of it in a day, by basically getting an expensive water taxi to a bay or beach, then just walking back. We first took a look at 'split apple rock' which looks exactly as it sounds - very nice, then were dropped off about 6 hours away from the car!! Power walk needed!! So it actually became more of a march than a walk back but even though the sun was hiding a bit, you could see why this was a popular area.....beautiful clear waters and sandy beaches and bays aplenty.....and it isn't a difficult uphill slog either so can be enjoyed by all over a couple of days.
Back to Picton. More free chocolate cake (and seconds!) again!!!! Thank you very much!! Best hostel yet EASILY!!! The ferry back to the north island signified the end of our time here, but not without seeing one more place. By missing it out on the way down, we'd hoped we would save the best for last here and it certainly didn't disappoint!! Named like a mid-90s Italian striker, 'Tongariro' National Park - NZs first official National Park and the worlds 4th, was our last stop! It was volcano land!! Three active volcanoes live here - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu and whilst Abel Tasman is the most popular jaunt, this is reputedly the BEST!!
The weather report for the day was average at best, and when we started the route by literally walking in the clouds it was not good!! Couldn't see a thing! We climbed right up to the top of the 'crossing' which is as far as you can go because of recent volcanic activity, saw nothing so went down, a little pissed off!! Hit the bottom, THEN the cloud clears!! Cheers cloud!! Sorry Kala, we're marchin back up this!! And how we were glad we did!! A couple of thermal blue lakes (similar to those we saw at Rotorua) were a nice viewpoint but the massive sheer red crater at the side of us was OUTRAGEOUS!! Wow!! Never seen anything like that before!! Because it was red and a bit black, it looked bloody angry!! And the clouds were just lifting which added to the effect!! YES!!! Back partway down for lunch and it was here that I nearly sh@t my pants!! It won't have the same effect me writing about it, but when your sat in and around pretty active volcanoes (the last eruptions in this park were in Aug and Nov 2012!!) enjoying a cheese sandwich, then you here BOOOOOM.............not good!! Everyone went quiet! WHAT THE FUDGE WAS THAT.....????!!!!......surely not an eruption..?!!....................No. The NZ army apparently train in these parts so they were just blowin somet up. Scary though!!!
After lunch we scaled Mt Tongariro for a cloudy view unfortunately (the weather didn't know WHAT to do today!) and then it was left to me to have a crack at goin up Ngauruhoe. Probably the most famous of the three, this one played the part of 'Mount Doom' in Lord of the Rings because of its symmetrical cylindrical shape.....it's basically how you would draw a volcano as a child! So I was about to go up something called Mt Doom.......great! Not for the first time I made a bit of a tit of myself as I ignored the pathway (if you could call it that!) and elected for option 2....STRAIGHT UP!! The pathway wasn't an easy choice as there are loose rocks that cover the whole surface, but by ignoring it, i'd made the ascent twice as hard! "You're better off on those rocks over there son instead of all the loose gravely stuff you're tryin to climb up....." Yeah I know that NOW!!!"....I must have looked ridiculous on my hands and knees, slipping down 2 metres for every metre that I climbed!! Finally, (and knackered!!) I got to the top. Steep climb! Cheers cloud.....didn't wanna see inside it anyway!!!!! Then it started snowing! Jesus!!! It was glorious when I set off!! I had to hang around for 25 minutes or so to see inside the crater but after a bit of small talk with 2 boring Germans, the cloud cleared just enough for me to do so! Another spectacular crater - but not as good as 'red crater' earlier on in the day. Skidding down the thing was pretty cool! Let's just say I got down quicker than I got up!! At least back at the car there was some cookies waiting for me..........oh..........Kala smashed all of em! Brilliant!! I'll wait then!! Still, love this place though!! Unlike anything we've ever seen before!
A stopover 70km down the road at a nice place called Taupo (another nice lake) saw our NZ adventure come to a close. I would say that it's overtaken South Africa as our fave place and one where we already know what we're gonna see next time we come here!! South America next and back to not understanding a word anyone says......
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Chrissie on

Amazing pics looks brill. Xxx

Dave & Julia on

We have enjoyed reading your blog so much and eagerly await the next instalment.
Hasta la vista

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