Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, April 19, 2010

*Sorry everyone but we're not going to be able to put as many photos up as usual at the moment, we get charged for how much data we send on the internet rather than how long we are on it for so are having to be a bit more selective than usual!*

Welcome to the North Island! We finally left our beloved South Island behind and although we’re in the same country I can’t help feeling like I’ve left home all over again.  We arrived in Wellington off of the ferry so were thrown right into the centre of the city and yet more confusing roads and directions.  Thankfully we didn’t have a repeat of the Christchurch incident and were able to locate our hostel without developing too many grey hairs.  True to form, we decided to camp again despite being in the centre of the city so our little tent was surrounded by tall buildings and busy roads for the first time and we felt confident we had the cheapest bed in the capital!  We got to use all the hostel facilities and conveniently had timed our stay for the free sausage sizzle night so we strategically positioned ourselves right next to the BBQ to wolf down as much free meat as possible. 

Wellington is incredibly windy and as my hair is just too short to tie up, but long enough to get blown into my face all day, I didn’t get to see that much of the city.  What I did manage to see was very nice though, we took a walk all around the botanical gardens which are up high above the city with views out to sea.  Then we managed to meander our way through the shopping district to the sea front which was lively with buskers and driftwood sculptures.  We spent quite a lot of time in the Te Papa museum which is considered to be the best in New Zealand, we were assured in advance that there were lots of interactive exhibits and we found plenty of buttons to press and handles to turn to keep us entertained.  Most impressive was the gigantic squid they had on display, the best way for me to describe it to you would in fact be 'gigantic’ (or ugly!).

In short Wellington was fine but it was still a city and as wonderful as New Zealand is it’s not going to win any awards for it’s architecture or cities in general so we didn’t hang around and decided to stick to what New Zealand does best and headed to Tongariro National Park to get into some volcanic activity

We arrived in the dark and set up the tent again just before the rain started, so we got an early night expecting the worst but woke up to the clouds parting and the sun peaking through.  In our excitement we decided to drive up to ski resort at the top of Mt Ruapehu for the views but once we got to the top it was a complete downpour and wind was whipping at the car so we couldn’t even get out.  Deciding to take matters into our own hands we stayed put and planned to sit out the weather by reading and making more travel plans.  After an hour of this nonsense we decided to give up make a move to the hostel we’d be camping outside that night and of course as soon as we got down from the mountain it was a beautiful sunny day everywhere else, so we had picked the one rain cloud for miles around to go and sit under. 

To make the most of the sun we drove around for a few pretty short walks and eventually saw the big cloud clear above Mt Ruepehu so attempted the drive up again.  We were much luckier this time and got to scramble around on what would be the ski field in winter that now was just a rock field.  We got ourselves up to a high point and had the most beautiful views of Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings (for the duration of this entry I will refer to it as Mt Doom for obvious reasons).  The clambering around the rocks entertained us for quite a while until my hobbit and Gollum impressions grew too irritating and so we made our way to the hostel for a good nights sleep before we attempted the Tongariro Crossing the next day which would get us up close and personal with Doom itself.

That night we went out to the tent at 9pm and it was already frozen solid, we unzipped it and it still stayed solid, all the cars were already frozen over too so we had a feeling it would be a cold night.  In the morning we had to get up at 6am so the tent was still frozen solid but we got the beautiful view of the sun rising over Mt Doom to get us excited for our walk that day.  The Tongaririo Crossing is referred to as the best one day walk in New Zealand and we were particularly excited about it as we would be climbing an active volcano which neither of us had ever done before.  The walk is just over 19km goes up to 1900m and back down to 800m it’s an 8 hour trek and that’s if you don’t do the 3 hour side trip up Mt Doom which rises, steeply, to 2287m with no path.  We decided from the start to just do the Crossing without climbing Doom as we wanted to make the most of the walk without tiring ourselves out at the beginning plus we were under pressure to meet our bus at the other end on time to bring us back to the hostel.  However of course once we had climbed up to the first pass and the weather was beautiful we decided to go for it while we had the chance and began the crazy ascent up the volcano.  I found it really tough going with no path, everything was scree, one step forward and then slipping back two, once I got half way I told Steve to run off without me as I didn’t want to hold Steve up from getting to the summit and end up missing the bus.  The view was stunning as we’d already climbed up above the cloud line and so I settled myself on a comfy rock and debated with myself about the four gingernut biscuits Steve had left me with.  On one hand I could be stuck on the volcano all day with only four biscuits if Steve got lost with all the food, but on the other hand Steve wasn’t around to be sensible and make me ration them, and then before I knew it I had no gingernuts left and just a pocket full of crumbs.  Thankfully Steve returned intact but even he couldn’t get all the way to the summit as the wind had really picked up and he couldn’t even stand up on the ridge.  Rather then risking himself, and my food, he came back and we took the exhausting skree route back down again both falling over a lot on the way to join the track again where we had another 5 hours ahead of us.

The weather was beautiful with stunning blue skies and we could see we were visibly above the cloud level to add to the feeling we were somewhere very special.  As we climbed again over the last peak into the Red Crater we really started to see and smell the effect of the volcanic area we were in.  The Red Crater lived up to it’s name as every shade of red you can imagine was on display and the solidified lava flow acted as evidence of a previous eruption.  As well as that the eerily turquoise lakes and sulphur fumes coming out of the ground added to the otherworldly atmosphere we were walking in high above the clouds.  It was also an ideal walk to take Steve on the morning after cooking him a giant batch of chilli and giving him beans for breakfast, usually a recipe for disaster but that day he blended in fine with the aroma of the volcano.

The walk down from the crossing was a long and exhausting winding path down the mountain side but with stunning views in front of us to focus on I thought I could just about make it through.  To take my mind off my aching knees I decided to concentrate on the Thai Curry I was going to cook for dinner to get me through the final stages.  If I had only known that this would be another failed cooking attempt I might never have made it down.  Unfortunately I misjudged how hot to make the curry and rendered it practically inedible which was terrible timing as we had no other food and were starving after the long day trekking.  We both braved the blistering effect it was having on our lips and put it down to just another dimension to add to our volcano experience.  A nice couple from Auckland took pity on me and shared their post-trek celebratory champagne and cheese with me which I couldn’t have been more grateful for.  This was in fact the fourth time someone has given me a glass of wine in a hostel here, in theory it should make me willing to offer my wine around too to make friends but instead I’m taking the route of never buying wine and just sitting on the same table as people who have an open bottle and look lonely.  Other people are so nice, I might learn from them some day…

Lots of Love,

Amy and Skree Steve
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