A Travellerspoint blog

February 2014

Queenstown - a gift to adrenaline junkies and to me!

I was booked into the YHA Lakeside hostel 280758312219AC6817E1461ABA619392.jpgfor my five night stay in Queenstown but after some confusion about my room allocation, and me exercising my rights of complaint, I spent my first night in a very nice, private, room at YHA Central. By the time I got sorted out and settled in the evening was getting on so I only had time for a quick walk along the waterfront A84BE4592219AC68175BB71E50C8C740.jpg and a cheese Fergburger (one location but internationally known gourmet burger place). I made the mistake of ordering chips with it, not a good idea even when you are hungry, I should have realised when I saw all the beefy guys going out with just the burger. It was probably the best burger I have ever had and for NZ$12 it was great value.
On the recommendation of son Tom I booked a skydive with Nzone for the next morning and it was probably the defining moment of my entire NZ trip. I had known the kind of things I was capable of doing before I set out on this trip but my time in Queenstown was always intended for me to push my limits. It was awesome (and I do not use that word lightly) there was a moment when I realised, at 16,000 ft, that my entire body was outside the plane and only suspended by my attachment to my tandem partner and then we were tumbling and rolling and flying. ?271E62192219AC68175F3FAD660ECAAA.jpgI do not have enough superlatives to tell you how amazing this experience was and I am so pleased that I bought into the video/photo package because I will have a record of this forever. This is not a cheap activity, expecially when you add the camera footage, but, honestly, if you only do one truly exciting thing in your life DO THIS it was unbelievable. Nzone were very professional and my partner, Chris, was so calm and laid back that there was not a moment of anxiety for me. Would I recommend this YES! Would I do it again ABSOLUTELY!!!
We got back to town in time for me to sign up for some white water rafting (with Queenstown Rafting) for that same afternoon on the Shotover River. Another first for me, and to be honest I have always been worried about doing this, but when you have jumped out of a 'plane a couple of hours before you are still on a bit of a high. Anyway, the two hours on the river was really exhilerating and I even bailed out of the raft (purposely) for a little 'bobbing along' with the other members of my group. We rafted through a 170m tunnel hewn from the rockface and although we only navigated level 4 rapids, and not too many of those, it was a great introduction and has persuaded me that I need to do more of this. Our guide, Michelle, was calm and confident and he had all of us working as a team in no time at all.
The following day I took the Intercity bus to the famous 'Milford Sound' in Fiordland. It was a five hour drive each way to enjoy a two hour cruise on the Sound (which it seems is actually a fiord) but the online reviews had said that the scenery on this drive was magnificent so I considered it to be part of the whole 'sightseeing' experience. Actually it was worthwhile and the bus drivers on all my journeys in the South Island have been as good as tour guides. Their knowledge is extensive (unless they are really good at reading crib cards while driving) and they stop at all of the 'photo op' places along a route. Mirror lakes are quite lovely 271F89332219AC681702E28C7E2FDE1E.jpg and just before we drove through the Homer Tunnel 272147C42219AC6817C285042FA256AC.jpgwe came across a group of Kea (mountain parrots) 272251212219AC68170A7170E67803B9.jpg making mischief on the roof of a camper van.
It was really grey and with very low cloud when we got to Milford Sound so I was not sure whether we would actually see very much of the peaks at all and my 'photos, which were taken in colour, look more like black and white.27680F3A2219AC6817F660F2DDDA16AA.jpg2768AC6B2219AC6817BFCAE36C77D467.jpg276940E92219AC6817DFDA5F9DB96CCD.jpg276A8E572219AC68172AC0764382C0F9.jpg It was a good cruise nonetheless and there were many waterfalls coming down from the mountains. We did get up close to a colony of fur seals who were taking an afternoon nap and even closer to the biggest of the waterfalls 2769FFC32219AC6817990FE7EFE1DF5C.jpg which sent a lot of people scurrying for cover with their cameras. By the time we got back to the ferry base the cloud was beginning to clear 27BEDBA02219AC6817E833CCD5FD08E7.jpgand I decided to take advantage of a helicopter ride back to Queenstown for the views and speed of return (50 minutes instead of five hours).
I was not disappointed, the views were sensational 27C053372219AC6817B4346EEAA3B1BB.jpg27C14A112219AC68177F984C02397242.jpg and the journey itself was not without it's 'heart in mouth' moments when the pilot lifted close over mountain ridges and then nose dived down the other side. Those manoeuvres were obviously designed for effect and they certainly worked! We came nose up to a wild red deer on one of the mountain slopes and then landed above Lake Wakatipu for a few minutes to take photographs 27C202CA2219AC6817293E199D21E498.jpg27C319642219AC68170B40734DEA4B08.jpg27C4245B2219AC6817EBC7387E4D3E04.jpgThis 'Z' shaped lake is New Zealand's longest, it's third largest and with a depth of 380m it's floor is below sea level. It really is as blue as these pictures show. Once back in the helicopter we flew on into Queenstown and a minbus met us to drive us to our accommodation. A second great day!
On Sunday I thought I ought to take a look around Queenstown itself and it was so much better than I had expected. Of course it is 'touristy' but not in any tacky way. The waterfront is lovely 28084BA32219AC681771F76A6BEE782C.jpg28095B422219AC6817910E742304C735.jpgand the shopping area is compact and with, mostly, quality shops. 280A30512219AC681709EF9D744E9157.jpgQueenstown gardens are small but very pretty and have stunning views across the lake to the mountains and the 'Gondola' station at the top.283EBDA62219AC68173704426597DD8C.jpg283FD8A22219AC681763CB651FBAAA5B.jpg2840F2D82219AC6817D5098981F7F535.jpg2841EB982219AC68177E84DE6235D630.jpg2842DD6A2219AC6817317372E282595D.jpgIn the afternoon I took a bus to Arrowtown, an historic community established on the basis of the gold rush and now a tourist attraction due to it's many conserved buildings 287425962219AC68172B68F67CD7F423.jpg2874DCD92219AC681777E95C2789FF24.jpg28769DAE2219AC68173D747B7B3E7299.jpgOn the outer edge of the town is the Chinese Village where you can view the area that was inhabited by the Chinese gold diggers during that time and with some very good information about their lives. 2878651F2219AC68179EE6F094D251B9.jpg28777C822219AC6817B067A476273C51.jpg2879A0332219AC6817FE9984C7E94A2D.jpg The museum 2895E92F2219AC6817C291C8CFA0FFEC.jpghas some excellent displays and a lot of information about early life in the gold mining community. 2896B0492219AC6817298E18D20E6CBE.jpg289761D62219AC6817336DE1C5A609F7.jpg28982B9A2219AC6817D917E80C92D8B9.jpg
I had booked Ziptrek, a zip line experience down the mountain, for my last afternoon, but I had the morning free so I found a hairdressing salon and had a cut and colour which was much overdue. At this point I have to say that I have seriously missed my friend Denise. ?The three hour long Ziptrek activity starts at the top of the mountain and you can either spend an hour walking up or NZ$27 return for a ride on the Gondola. I chose the Gondola. This is a fast ascent and you can even take your bikes up with you 28CB79D92219AC68177597024ED72740.jpg as there is a bike trail down the side of the mountain. At the top the views are incredible 28CE6FEC2219AC6817444601D14196C1.jpg and you can do a bungy jump or any/all of three luge courses. 28CF7C422219AC68175A3CA3E5166563.jpg28D0A22B2219AC68170724C3AED9E5F5.jpgThere is a restaurant with pretty good, reasonably priced, food and a gift shop28F6404C2219AC68178BF8F796963E4A.jpg
The Ziptrek course starts from just outside the Gondola station and is a series of either 4 or 6 zip wires down the mountain. I did the 6 wire, 940m, course and, after that first leap of faith, it was a lot of fun. 28F8E4FD2219AC681705B87C6181506A.jpg28F9F1162219AC6817ABB24821EA5B3E.jpg Our guides, Charles and Jags, were very professional and their attention to health and safety detail was impressive. They were also very funny ? This is an eco-activity so they spent time at each station talking to us about the environment and at one point showed us a 'wildling pine' sapling (those thousands of which have escaped cultivation to dominate the landscape) which stood next to a native beech sapling. The beech was 11 years old and the pine was 11 months old and they were both the same height. No wonder these pines, which were brought over from North America and grow ten times faster in the New Zealand, are taking over the country.
Queenstown has been a phenomenal experience for me. I loved the town itself and, despite the fact that my bank account has taken a major hit, I loved all the activities that I signed up for. Next stop is Christchurch for two nights and then back to Australia. Where has this month gone?

Posted by busyboots 22:46 Comments (0)

The long and winding road to Franz-Josef

The bus left Nelson at 7.15am on Tuesday and I was fortunate (I think) to get a seat at the front with a 180 degree view. This turned out to be a bit of a double edged sword because I was also a first hand witness to the stunning abilities of the bus driver. Seriously, he was outstanding, there are not many people who can throw a coach around the corkscrew roads that snake up and down the mountain ranges, with no discernible braking on blind bends, while maintaining an air of calm confidence. There were a couple of heart stopping moments - for me. I simply had to put my trust in the fact that he probably knew every bump and grind along the entire route and hold on tightly to my tiki. ? He liked to get up close and personal with any traffic in front of him which must have been very disconcerting for tourist drivers most of whom pulled over immediately. Way to go! Actually he was a great guy and the bus service is an unofficial delivery system that drops car parts, newspapers and parcels off to remote communities along the route. You have to applaud that initiative. One 'town' that we passed through had a population of four people. Seriously! Not good if you don't get on with the neighbours or your partner.
As in parts of the North Island for a while I found the scenery a little oppressive with mountains on all sides and the all pervasive pine trees blurring the contours of the landscape. Then we passed into farmland and I began to see more sheep than I have seen since I have been in the country plus herds of cows (beef, apparently, is now the bigger export) alpacas and deer. After Westport the road runs right along the coast so there was sea, road and mountains for miles and these mountains are covered in native foliage. It was absolutely stunning, like driving through a tropical rainforest, and you realise what a tragedy it is that 70% of New Zealand's native woodland has been lost. Congratulations to the New Zealand Government and people who appear to be making serious efforts to reverse this with the creation of new wetlands, large areas of national parks and areas under preservation order.
In Punakaiki we dropped some people off at a lovely looking backpacker hostel right on the beach (aptly named Beach Backpackers) which would be great to stay at if you like a bit of isolation and long walks through the Paparoa National Park or along the beach.? Just up the hill from the hostel is a cafe, upmarket souvenir shop, information site and the 'Pancake Rocks' where a 20 minute laid out walk winds through native forest to the coast and the most amazing rock formations. A brilliant exeperience even in the rain. C877AFB22219AC68175C7CE11D7A3456.jpgC879503A2219AC681798598CDDCECE61.jpgC87B2B782219AC6817DE8DE76234732F.jpg The YHA hostel at Franz-Josef is, in my opinion, good. It is very comfortable and is designed to look and feel like a mountain lodge D5D7E88F2219AC6817D45FA17EE8D963.jpg and it does not have a TV set ? but it does have a sauna which is free. Generally the 'township' is made up of many backpackers lodges and a small number of more upmarket hotels. There are a couple of bar/restaurants, two gift shops, a garage and a small supermarket. Oh and a police station. D8439B572219AC68171759EEDB7036B6.jpgThe rain that started en route yesterday continued throughout the night and most of the day today and the clouds closed in so that it was impossible to see the peaks. D5D1AF2E2219AC681787911F4358EAE4.jpgD5D26B3F2219AC681753D2468ADDE1A1.jpg Scenic helicopter flights over the glacier were cancelled and it was not even worth walking the 1.5 hours to the viewing point 500 meters from the glacier face because you would not have been able to see it. I had also spoken to several people last night who did that walk yesterday and thought it wasn't worth the effort since all they could see was a wall of dirty ice. It is no longer possible to walk onto the glacier because a huge section of the front has broken off and it is too dangerous. The only way to get on it therefore is to take a helicopter ride which will cost you NZ$195 for a twenty minute flight (over either Franz-Josef or Fox glaciers) with a brief landing on the ice to take pictures. The prices go up from there. There was an option to watch a 20 minute film (on maxi-screen) shot from the helicopter so that you could at least know what you were missing. That seemed a worthwhile option at NZ$12.50. Unfortunately it had broken down ?
The weather effectively confined everybody to barracks for almost the entire day and then the rain stopped and the sun came out at about 4pm. It was good to be able at least to walk around the town and to see the mountains emerging from under the blanket of cloud,D5DAC7472219AC6817A178BEEB091C50.jpgD5DBB46E2219AC6817F7CDE181563F7F.jpgand you could begin to see why this area is called The Southern Alps. Suddenly everyone came outside it reminded me of the Alan Sherman song 'Hello Muddah Hello Faddah. There are a nice few short walks around the town and two beautiful historic churches that are worth a visit. D5D47D542219AC6817EEAE4C0A8C1178.jpgD5D347022219AC68176EF9E264565D60.jpgD5D5C6D12219AC6817D23008340FF3C5.jpgD5D6B1DE2219AC6817B46F1763CD768F.jpg The window wall at the end of the second one, St James Anglican Church, looks out onto an excellent view,D788C1682219AC6817E5670B6A7EF630.jpgor at least it would be on a clear day.
So, that was Franz-Josef, not quite what I had expected but I would have had to break the journey south somewhere. It seems the weather here tomorrow is going to be 26c, clear and sunny, I am heading out on another eight hour bus ride to Queenstown (I might try to sit further back in the bus this time) and the weather there is forecast for rain. Do you think it's because I'm English? ?
P.S. When hiring a car over here read the small print very carefully. One of my room mates hired a car for nine days, after two days she skidded after rain. Not too much damage to the car but they carted it away saying that they could not allow her to continue using it until it had been fully checked over. They would not give her a refund on the remaining days (small print) and told her that as the accident was 'her fault' she could not have another car unless she paid again. She had taken out their top of the range insurance policy but all this meant was that she did not have to pay for the repairs to the car. I don't know if this is standard practice or just a rogue outfit but, as always, it pays to read the small print.

Posted by busyboots 22:00 Comments (1)

Nelson via Picton - more than a gateway to the South Island!

After a crossing of the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton A50EFC782219AC681728774EA4E6A1D6.jpg the Intercity buses connect to the ferry from right outide the ferry building at Picton. I had planned, as most people do, to get off the ferry, onto the bus, and head off to my hostel for the next two nights in Nelson. I had a half day to spare so I googled 'things to do in Picton' and found some really good reviews of 'naturetours.co.nz' which offers various options to explore the Marlborough Sounds. Even 'though you get magnificent views in Queen Charlotte Sound as the ferry sails through it, I decided to do a half day cruise which was offered as 'Motoura Island Bird Sanctuary & Dolphin Cruise' and to get a later bus south. I am so pleased that I did because Picton is a lovely town that deserves much more than being a 'drive-through' and I had a chance to explore a little of it whilst I waited for the cruise to start. A50FEB802219AC681795A0315B418282.jpgA510D1372219AC68178B193D1E9E1EAC.jpg If I had realised how nice it is I would probably have booked my first night on the South Island there.
Paul and his crew from Nature Tours were excellent, their knowledge of the environment and wildlife is extensive and they were good fun. We actually had three dolphin encounters during the afternoon, two with small pods of bottlenose dolphins and one with Hector dolphins, which are on the endangered species list. We also managed to get close to basking fur seals and saw plenty of birdlife including several King Shags which are also on the endangered list. The walk up to the lookout point on Motuara Island was easy going and the views of the sounds were brilliant. A512ADDD2219AC6817346C2504E3C41F.jpg Many of the islands in the sounds are under preservation orders and cannot be landed on. Motorua is a sanctuary where several endangered species have been re-introduced and although it is open to visitors it is strictly reguated to prevent any kind of animal life being introduced. It was a fantastic afternoon and I would highly recommend it.
The 6.30pm bus took me to Nelson and when I arrived I was really disconcerted to find that the entire town had gone to bed. Okay it was Sunday evening but I hadn't expected this. The YHA hostel at Nelson is probably one of the nicer ones I have stayed at and at least there was life after 9pm inside. I disovered the next day that my first apprehensive impressions of Nelson were totally unfounded. I had planned to go the Abel Tasman Park for a day of hiking but in the end I had a late and very relaxing start to the day, did my laundry and took a leisurely walk around the town. This is a town I could live in I think. It sees many tourists but feels like a working community town with good shopping, eating and drinking and a laid back feel. On my way to look at the really unusual church A5162E402219AC6817E4CE56551F2975.jpgA51767F42219AC6817B6D2097B9881B8.jpg I managed to come across a very pretty old building A51A86A32219AC68171C83BE4FA5B5CD.jpgwhich is home to a business dealing in second hand ladies clothes and accessories. Needless to say I coud not pass up the opportunity and confess to a little bit of retail therapy that my already bulging suitcase will not be happy to accommodate. Nelson is named for Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson and there is an interesting stone commemorating this connection A5152FD02219AC68172F8A5A77530BA1.jpg There are some good 'new age' shops, some examples of what seen to be typical wall murals A5191DB42219AC68178A38A36373C48A.jpg and the most amazing bead 'emporium' that my friend Liz would die to spend time in. A51BB8BE2219AC68172424861C0BFFAF.jpgA51D0A942219AC6817301F3FBEA7084B.jpg I'm not sure what this particular restaurant was selling A51DFA912219AC68174DD7116C20E369.jpg and I wasn't hungry enough to find out ?.
It seems like 'pit stops' all the way but I am actually getting a flavour of this country, and I'm meeting some wonderful people, more about whom later. My next port of call is Franz-Josef, which exists purely as a tourist resort, from which people can explore one of the New Zealand's two famous glaciers. I'll report back on this once I've done the hike.

Posted by busyboots 23:08 Comments (0)

Wellington - city of cable cars

I arrived in Wellington at 5pm on Thursay 13th February after a six hour Intercity bus ride from Turangi. Some of these journeys are long but they tend to include stops every couple of hours for a 'comfort break' and the scenery is very diverting if you can stay awake. I booked my accommodation for the entire trip about two weeks before I left Australia but nonetheless it was very difficult to find a bed in Wellington. It turned out that there was a three day cricket international and a music festival going on in the city during that weekend so some people who arrived without booking anything couldn't find a bed anywhere. Another good reason to do your travel research properly!
I spent the first night in the YHA hostel in a four bed female room with en suite on the 6th floor. The view was amazing 6DAC16C72219AC68174EBEC2FA1AA784.jpgand I did wonder how much it would have cost me had I been in a normal hotel. The hostel is close to all the action of bars, restaurants and shops and has good amenities and I would have been happy to stay there for my three nights in the city if there had been space. I spent my first evening checking out the waterfront which has a great boardwalk and where all the old wharves and sheds have been developed into a buzzing restaurant/bar area. 6C7EE2712219AC68173EAB500AD7F94A.jpgOn Friday I had to move to the Downtown Backpackers which is a period building and in need of some serious renovation but on the plus side it is located right across the road from the station (great for an early start on Sunday morning) and which has super friendly and helpful staff. I did have the bonus of a single room, and a bathroom which I only had to share with the room next door, and they gave me a NZ$20 refund because my TV couldn't get a signal. 6C830E602219AC6817C4EBAB0F3155FA.jpgAs it turned out this was a much quieter location and it was closer to some of the things I wanted to see. I was able to leave my uber heavy bag with them just after 9am and get a good start on the day. For NZ$4 I took the cable car 6C1282E22219AC6817969B7A7091055E.jpg up the 394ft hill for coffee in the restaurant at the top and got some great views of the city from there. 6F95F07E2219AC68179EDADAFF24C12F.jpgThere is also a Cable Car Museum at the top with some very interesting and informative film about the history of that transport within the city. 6C1666142219AC68175227451ABBA0BE.jpg It turns out that there are over 400 privately owned cable cars in Wellington and there was footage of interviews with some of the people who had installed them for domestic use. There is a relatively small area of flat ground near the water all around the bay and most of the houses are built into the slopes. For some of these their cable car is the only access and some houses have been built utilising only the cable car as a fork lift to shift all the building materials up to the site. One couple put in a cable car when their labrador couldn't manage the steps anymore and he is taken for walks by first being taken downhill in it. Hats off to dog lovers ?.
The entrance to the Botanic Gardens is also located at the cable car stop and the walk down through these back to the city is quite lovely. 6F96F1C82219AC6817FB17EB10540B2F.jpg6C1783362219AC68170D02869836EC39.jpg6C186E772219AC681790177E1EF6E084.jpg At the bottom are rose gardens and a begonia house 6C445E222219AC68176D46B789505FA9.jpg with an impressive collection. You can join the 'City to Sea Walkway' at this point and it continues down through Bolton Street Memorial Park which is an actual graveyard that was bisected by a major road build. The skeletons that were dug up during this process were re-buried in a mass grave with a memorial plaque and the headstones were placed in the appropriate section of the remaining graveyard. The original Sexton's Cottage, built in 1857, is still standing and is thought to be the oldest building in Wellington and the original chapel which was lost to time has been copied. 6C452F282219AC6817944FEF33820523.jpg6C462F092219AC68177242BAC7E8E4E4.jpg6C46FBB52219AC68177045CDDD81584D.jpg I poked my head into both the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, which are situated virtually next door to each other, but I thought the exteriors of both were really ugly and the interiors lacking in any kind of atmosphere. By contrast Old St Paul's Cathedral, 1865, is very special. 6C4B38E92219AC68170FD615BB10B0DE.jpg6C4C097F2219AC68179B194462737E38.jpg I did a tour round the House of Parliament Buildings (New Zealand did away with the upper house in 1950) including 'the Beehive' which is the Executive Wing and which incorporates restaurants, a bar,a gym, a swimming pool and a theaterette. We also visited the Parliament Library, a gothic building, and were taken into the basement to view the 'base isolating' structures that have been put in place to protect the buildings from future earthquakes up to scale 7. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs in any of these buildings so no interior pics for this one. 6C47C8272219AC6817D75D3ABEB5DB29.jpg6C4875972219AC6817F7F29F2CE6850D.jpg
I had earmarked Saturday for Te Papa 6C82590B2219AC6817F1DE7CFAA888A7.jpg the national museum of New Zealand, because everyone I met had told me it deserved four or five hours but it didn't open until 10am so I hiked up the 640ft Mount Victoria and it was worth it for the views 716591CA2219AC6817D8979D4A96A0AA.jpg although when I saw how short the airport runway was I was pretty glad I wasn't using it. image

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I also learned, from one of the notice boards at the top, that due to the prevailing winds through the Cook Strait Wellington experiences winds in excess of 36mph for 176 days a year. Maybe it should be Wellington the windy city.
Te Papa is every bit as good as everyone says it is and I spent several hours here before wandering back along the waterfront in time to catch a ferry which visited four places around the bay and allowed me to see the city from the water. 6C85B4DB2219AC68179B670D33081CA7.jpgimage

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At NZ$22 for a 60 minute round trip it seemed like a bargain.
Before I went back to the hostel for dinner, and to pack for my early start the next day, I spent an hour listening to some of the free music on the waterfront.6C83FB9E2219AC681702768E1C3F408C.jpg Wellington is a lovely mix of a city and I really enjoyed my couple of days there.

Posted by busyboots 22:29 Comments (1)

Turangi, Tongariro and the road to Wellington

I had planned to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and decided to stay in Turangi rather than Taupo, where the majority of people stay, because it is 40 minutes closer to the park and I wanted to start early before it got hot and crowded. When the bus dropped passengers off at Taupo I was glad I had made that decision since it didn't look too different to Rotorua and was VERY crowded. The road south goes right alongside the Eastern shore of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand with a surface area of 238 square miles, A52A046F2219AC68174ABCABCDB693B3.jpg it is formed from the crater of a volcano which is still gently bubbling away at the bottom, and the views from the bus were brilliant.
Turangi is a tiny town with one arcade of about a dozen shops, a library, a police station, a bar and a supermarket. The most noise was from the cicadas ?. I stayed in an amazing hostel, A Plus Backpackers, that my friend Grant would love, and I had a room to myself which was great. A Plus is really quirky, a bit Heath Robinson and with some indefinable air of friendliness that kept most people off their mobiles/laptops and talking to one another. It kind of has the feel of a hippy commune from the sixties and quite a few people come for a day or two and end up staying longer. I met a lovely couple, Nelson and Margaret, who run a dairy farm nearby and often have hostellers staying on to work for them for a while. They provide food, accommodation and pay. There were some very lively conversations but as most people were either starting the crossing early the next day or had done it and were exhausted everyone had a relatively early night.
The hostel is run by Ian, a total one off, and his wife Liz. They clearly encourage their guests to contribute artwork to the fabric of the buildings and, amongst other animals, keep a calf called 'Rosie' which they hand reared after it's mother died, and which loves attention.A51C6BAD2219AC68177182C8BF230A41.jpgA5254A1B2219AC6817E8392E632BB1D7.jpgA527508F2219AC68179AA76F1F0B70CB.jpgA528EE662219AC6817FCEB1A4A048BBA.jpg
I was on a 6am shuttle out to Tongariro and we made a couple of pick up stops and started the walk at 7am. We began in bright, clear and warm weather and a brisk pace meant stripping layers of clothing off and frequent stops (in my case) to let the heart rate get back to normal, A51509432219AC6817F4E9DFB797F629.jpg but after about an hour we had climbed into cloud which got thicker and thicker. It began to get colder so all those clothing layers went back on and then it began to rain, relentlessly, and the wind got stronger as we got higher. A5199AE32219AC6817E6F4DBCE498EBD.jpg Before we even got to the top visibility was down to a few feet and people were literally trudging in each other's footsteps and muttering about how cold it was. It was a real shame because as we got higher and higher it was not difficult to imagine how amazing the views would have been if we could have seen them. We could not even see the peaks of Tongariro or Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fans) and I was certainly thinking 'just let me get off this .... mountain'. It is a tough hike A52D86972219AC68171B673D14B5B4F9.jpgbut would not have been so arduous if we had been able to enjoy the views and to stop for 'photo opportunities and the picnic lunches that everyone had brought with them. In the end I think most of us were just grateful to get off the mountain and glad that at least we had done it. It took a very long, very hot shower to repair the damage to my body and my walking shoes are still drying out. I would certainly recommend it as a hike for those who have the opportunity to do it but, as with all mountains, the weather is unpredictable and can change very quickly. We all thought we were prepared, we were not!
My bus the next day did not leave until 10.45am so I was able to have a good night's sleep and a lie in on Thursday. My knees were grateful for the six hour bus ride to Wellington! The countryside heading south is really changeable. The centre of the North Island is very volcanic and the topography reflects this with the road cutting through hills on all sides. There is literally hardly any flat land and it is a bit oppressive particularly as the pine trees are densely cultivated (wood is New Zealand's third largest export) and seem to hem you in on all sides. Once you get out of this region the farmlands are really lovely and the mountain range goes on and on in the distance like a backbone through the North Island. The coast immediately to the north of Wellington is beautiful and the view of the city as you drop down into it is amazing. I am looking forward to exploring the city with my daysack on my back and my guide book in hand ?.

Posted by busyboots 22:37 Comments (0)

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