A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11 (12th Feb)

Life in the Clouds

rain 19 °C

Well, a brighter day was on the cards and several bus loads of crossing walkers had already made their way to the start of the track by the time we rose.

Grasping the opportunity to get up the cable car to Raupehu's summit, we quickly packed and were about to leave when I overheard a girl who's bus had messed her about and decided the the trip to Turangi was not on their agenda for the day. They took her money mind (apparently it's quite a known thing that this company do this!), so she was stuck and due to start a 3 day walk in the National Park with no transport. Fortunately for her, the walk started in Whakapapa Village at the base of Raupehu, exactly where we were heading! We happily gave her a lift as it was her only way of starting this walk (her name was Sarah(!) and, as seems to be the case with our stragglers, she was German!).

Sadly, as was the case yesterday, the cloud cover was low so no sight of the summits and thus, no cable car operating. I was gutted as this was going to be one of the highlights of my trip. We despondently descended back down Raupehu and were thinking of heading straight to River Valley when we made the decision not to write off the whole day and go on the 2 hour loop track to Taranaki Falls. We set off with waterproofs armed (the rain was imminent!) through what initially was very bare and open heathland, hoping that this bloody waterfall was worth the walk! An hour into the track and we suddenly found ourselves atop a 20m ridge with a very impressive waterfall flowing over the edge. Scrambling to the bottom it looked even more impressive despite the now persistent rain!

Taranaki_Falls.jpg

We got back to the car and were about to leave when disaster......the car wouldn't start!! Fully loaded and pointing downhill into a hedge I had no hope in pushing the damn thing! Luckily I managed to rope in a few passers by and with the help Sarah managed to bump start the thing....turns out we left the lights on, oops!!

The drive to River Valley was less eventful! More rain but yet another impressive change in landscape, this time with steep sided rolling hills replacing the dominant threat of looming volcanoes hidden in the clouds. The lodge itself is in an incredible setting. A sheer gorge cut over millions of years by the Rangitikei River. Our lodge room, separated from the main complex, is right on the banks of the river and is even better than we could have imagined! A huge king size bed, underfloor heating and a massive en-suite wet room, such a welcome treat after 10 days in backpackers accommodation!

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The food tonight was amazing too! Roast beef and all the trimmings plus happy hour at the bar.......heaven!!

Posted by danedmunds 12:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 10 (11th Feb)

There's a Volcano Up There........Somewhere!

overcast 21 °C

A brighter start to the day meant we packed up and left quite early, but not before I sorted out my camera problem after visiting the “camera shop”. It appears SLR's are somewhat unheard of in the smaller places and try explaining you need a sensor cleaner to a shop worker who thought that my camera had been brought back from the future! I got lucky though and it's now fixed!

We popped back to the Huka Falls so we could take a few photos while the sun was out. A really cool rainbow was just above the falls from all the spray so we were glad we went back as it looked much nicer today.

Huka_Falls.jpg

The drive to Turangi was easy but pleasant. The road winds its way around the Eastern shore of lake Taupo, cutting close to the waters edge in places and climbing high to some lovely viewpoints of both the low lying North and mountain rimmed South shores.

The hostel is heaven compared to last night! A QUIET, friendly little place with a climbing wall as part of the facilities! The owners, a lovely if slightly crazy couple, pointed out a few walks that we could do (I had wanted to do the 18km “Tongariro Crossing” but my broken ankle and Sarah's groin rehab has put pay to that. A real downer for me as it takes you 1800m up and over the heart of the volcanic plateau and is reputed to be one of the best day walks in the world.) so with this useful information to hand we went off for a wander.

First stop was up into the Tongariro National Park to hopefully at least see the three active volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and the 2797m Raupehu. It's certainly a different world up there, the area is quite barren with boggy heathland either side of the solitary road that encircles the central volanic region.

Sadly the cloud cover meant we could barely see the base of the volcanoes, let alone the summits! At least we weren't the only ones missing out on the crossing walk today it would seem!

We made our way back toward Turangi for a supposed “lake walk” near Mt Pihanga. After 40 minutes of the supposed 2 hour “lake walk” we had no sight of the lake so gave up on that one! It was clear from here though to see how the weather is different in the national park region. North of Pihanga the sky was a patchwork of blue sky and fluffy clouds but the moments the mountains rose the cloud builds into the grey mush we experienced near the volcanoes themselves.

Back in Turangi we wandered along the river for a short while before Sarah promptly got eaten again! The bites are driving her mad while I have the odd one or two!!

Some pasta filled the gap in my tum that had grown from our walking before retiring to our palace of a room (compared to Taupo)........not the most interesting day, but at least we weren't rained on!

Posted by danedmunds 14:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 9 (10th Feb)

Water Everywhere

rain 18 °C

Well, the weather didn't hold off! A miserable, wet and grey day greeted us (it had to happen at some point) and the sulphur smell of the city was now obvious (I hadn't noticed it yesterday!).

We set off to Taupo on a bit of a panic on my part. I had noticed that my camera had a problem with it and cleverly left the tool to fix it 12,000 odd miles away! My only hope was a decent camera shop. On a Sunday? In the middle of New Zealand?!! Oh dear!

The hostel is, errrr, interesting! A bar dominates the canvas roofed interior with worryingly large speakers on the wall. Our room is just off said bar through a very loud, clunky door that leads to the bar toilets and to top it off..........the door to our room is GLASS!! WTF?!

We made a trip to the Aratiatia rapids, a controlled section of the Waikato river, operated by two huge sluice gates. We got there just in time to see the basin below flood and turn into a torrent of water in seconds. The level rose by some 20 odd feet in no time and was soon ripping down the valley, an impressive sight but somewhat dampened by the persistent rain.

Aratiatia_Before.jpg

Aratiatia_After.jpg

The Huka falls were next on the somewhat soggy list. A narrow fissure in the rocks focuses all the water into a bright turquoise (even on a cloudy day like today) maelstrom before bursting through the narrows into relative serenity. Neither of us were in the mood to hang around for too long in the rain though so we headed back to Taupo.

I should point out the shopping in Taupo, it was surprisingly good! We found bargains in a dodgy $2 store in the form of the most pathetic looking umbrella and some duck tape!! The latter being part of a cunning plan to block up our glass door with a towel....genius!!!

Back at the hostel we decided to eat out tonight. Partly due to the filthy kitchen and partly due to the NZ rugger being on and our dining room/bar was packed with wasted people! I'm glad we did though as we were treated to the most beautiful sunset yet.....of course the camera came out!

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So I sit here writing this hoping for a better day tomorrow really! At least we have a fun looking DVD to watch now (Madagascar) and the prospect of no bar in the next hostel! (clunk goes that bloody door right on cue!!!)

Posted by danedmunds 13:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 8 (9th Feb)

Sulphur City

overcast 20 °C

One final early start for me on this stunning coastline before the long drive down to Rotorua.

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We picked up a straggler from the hostel by the name of Sebastian, a to the point German lad who certainly didn't beat around the bush......honesty is a good thing I guess though! I think he felt really bad though when we got onto the topic of Guernsey and, inevitably, the German occupation!!

The drive was incredible, even more twisty than the initial drive into the region and poor old Matt (the car) was struggling under the full load on even the slightest incline, while refusing to slow down on the steep drops!

We dropped Seb off at Tauranga, Coromandel's principle port, and headed on down to Rotorua. The landscape suddenly changed as we left Coromandel, into a much lower but confused region of hillocks when compared to the grandeur and scale of what we had left behind.

The hostel, Treks, is really nice. Very clean, modern and well thought out with plenty of Kitchen space. The town itself, to me, is a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps it's the weather but it has a really weird feel to it.

We visited the Mauri village at Whakarewarera (Wh is pronounced Th so say that even before a few beers!) and I just didn't feel comfortable. It felt as if we were just nosy tourists watching how these people are “supposed” to live. I couldn't help thinking it may be a bit of an act for the tourists and felt we'd been a bit jaded in what we expected to see! Don't get me wrong, the area they live in and the way they have made uses for all the thermal activity and regard them as places of worship is amazing but I'd have found more interest and felt more informed from a standard museum set-up......I guess the lure of seeing a geyser (Pohutu) was just too much though!

After the thermal activity we drove to Lake Tarawera, scene of a huge, huge volcanic eruption not even 130 years ago. What was a popular tourist venue for many early world travellers looking to bathe in Pink and White Terraces (multi-levelled hot silica pools) were totally destroyed as Mt Tarawera blew its top. It was a beautiful setting now though, with thick forest everywhere and, the now dormant, Mt Tarawera flanking its sides. Sadly the trip was called off a little short as it seems Sarah tastes really good to sand flies! The poor bugger is bitten to pieces!

Lake_Tarawera.jpg

A slap up meal cheered here up no end though once we got back to hostel and were hoping the weather clears up a little for tomorrows trip down to Taupo.

Posted by danedmunds 13:58 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 7 (8th Feb)

Hi, Ho Silver, Away!!

sunny 26 °C

What an amazing day we've just had!

An early start for me meant more beautiful dawn light over the Coromandel coast.

Coromandel_Coast.jpg

We managed to get hold of the Rangihan Ranch and booked for a 2 hour horse trek in the hills and forest near to Whitianga and the Coromandel Forest Park. When we arrived the setting was just perfect, rolling foothills and the high peeks of the forest lined the horizon. A friendly lady (Tessa) greeted us with her cute pup (Otis) and took us into the stables. My horse was a large chestnut male, with white socks on his back legs and a white stripe on his nose, called Redwood. Sarah's was a slightly smaller dappled grey female called Mishca.

Redwood_and_Mishca.jpg

The ride was incredible. Several large climbs through rough tracks, wooded glades and open fields (good for a canter!) led us to the most breathtaking viewpoints looking all over the peninsula and I said to Sarah jokingly that I'd have to get up here for an evening photo shoot! We carried on, slowly descending through more lush forest and steep tracks (it's amazing how graceful such a heavy animal can be on difficult ground) before winding it down with a trot through the Kiwi fruit fields below........you try stopping a hungry horse going for juicy fruit!

As we dismounted and washed the horses down with a cool shower (I would have loved one myself) I was chatting to the lady about the ranch and she said “Oh you should get up there in the evening for the best light”, needless to say I didn't hesitate for a second to ask! She was fine with the idea and I was so grateful as so many of the good looking viewpoints over here are private land and I have missed a fair few chances of good photos due to that reason.

Come the evening we made our way back to the ranch and Tessa really kindly drove us to the summit, a 4x4 drive thrown into the deal as well, great!! The view from the top, as expected was perfect. The sun was beginning to go down and the light was beautiful. Even Sarah was totally overjoyed at being up there which I was glad about as I know my photos can drag us to some cold and unforgiving places! We knew that this was a great privaledge and definitely an evening to remember.

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Coromandel_Sunset.jpg

We slowly wandered back down, stopping when I found suitable compositions and got back to the ranch (through Tessa and Nick's back garden......took a wrong turn somewhere!) as the sun was setting and stopped for a brief chat before setting off back to Hahei for a well deserved bite to eat after what had been a long but really great day.

Posted by danedmunds 13:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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