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Anita and Bernie’s Travel Diary

Monday, 28 Jan 2008

Location: Back in Masterton, New Zealand

MapHi everyone - we have had a great time travelling the North island with Richard but are now back in Masterton with my sister for the weekend before we travel to South Island on Monday. Sorry about the long diary entry but I feel it is best to do it all in one swoop. If you prefer us to write it retrospective by date so it is in smaller chunks - please let us know!!
On the way to Napier we stopped off at a nature sanctuary called Mount Bruce where we saw kiwis in their nocturnal house. It was great to see these birds as they are now an endangered species due to possums, weasels and stoats either eating their eggs or food supply. Possums are a real menace in NZ. They were introduced for their pelts but now outnumber sheep and humans in NZ. Everywhere you go in the country you see warning signs to tell you that poison has been laid to try to keep the possum numbers down.
NAPIER - THE Art Deco city is full of fantastic examples of
Art Deco construction. We did a 2 hour walk around the city to see the buildings and then followed it up with going to see the residential Art Deco properties. Some of them are very ornate and I would love to own one of the Deco houses. The campsite we stayed on was out in the country. This suited Richard as he was able to put his hammock up between two pine trees. I forgot how uncomfortable camping could be especially as we did not air mattresses to cushion us from the hard floor. I think Richard was more comfortable than we were!! Unfortunately on our second night of camping it started to rain and we had to dismantle the tent in drizzle. The journey to Lake Taupo was spoilt due to the rain as we could not see the amazing mountain scenery infront of us. Lake Taupo is huge!! The town itself is very disappointing. It is more like a seaside resort with not much character. It is an area for extreme sports such as bungy jumping and sky diving which we opted not to do!! On the way out of Taupo on the way to Rotorua we stopped at a place called 'Craters of the Moon' This was an amazing place which prepared us for Rotorua. It is full of fumeroles (holes with steam and spitting hot water coming out of them), hot, bubbling mud pools and lots of pongy sulphur all set in a crater. The site could be used as a science fiction film set.
ROTORUA - the campsite was by the edge of the lake and our pitch had its own geo-thermal activity ie underfloor heating!! The ground under the tent was warm to the touch. When we dug a hole near the edge of the lake it quickly filled up with water which started to bubble and became too hot to touch. Amazing phenomenon! The public gardens had lots of gysers, hot mudpools and fumeroles. The large lake was enveloped in steam and was not visible at all. You could feel the heat coming off it before you arrived at it.
The highlight of our stay in Rotorua was the Moari experience. We visited a local Maori tribe called the Mitai and had a hangi (food cooked underground). It was delicious with the meat melting in the mouth! They also gave us a demonstration of their weapons, dances and combat techniques which culminated in a haka. They came down the river in a waka which is a beautiful carved canoe dressed in traditional clothes (or lack of!). After the meal we did a forest walk and saw glo-worms.
Unfortunately the weather turned for the worse as we had torrential rain due to the typhoon coming from Fiji. This continued for the next three days and really put a damper on the camping experience.
TONGARIRO PARK - The rain fell heavily on the way to this National park so instead of pitching our tent we went for the softer option of renting a cabin. Even Richard saw this a a good idea!! Tongariro Park is vast with three active volcanoes within it. It is a magnet for walkers and Richard was one of them!! (so were we to a minor extent). Richard undertook a days hiking (8 hours) called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not to be attempted for the faint hearted. Richard walked up to the peak at 1,967 metres and did the difficult descent passing the sacred Maori springs and then into an hours walk through lush forest. I think he found it harder than he expected. Bernie and I did a walk through the park for about an hour but it was too hot and as we had not gone prepared (water) we turned back.
The next day all three of us did the difficult ascent up Mount Ruapehu to 2,000 mts. It was difficult because the chair lift kept swinging too much!! The chairlift experience was a little bit hair raising as it took 10 minutes to the 1st station over the lava field which was made up of huge boulders and crevices. The other 10 minute ascent was just as hair raising and took us above the snow line over deep gorges and waterfalls. The views from the top were breathtaking. Richard, not having walked enough the day before, decided to climb to the skyline ridge (another 300 metres). Bernie and I exhausted ourselves watching him from the comfort of the highest cafe in the southern hemisphere with a cup of coffee and a muffin!
That afternoon Richard persuaded us to undertake a short walk (1 hour) to a waterfall. What I did not realise was that the walk involved some steep ascents and descents!! It was another hero moment as not only was it an hour's walk there but another hour to walk back in a big loop!! We walked through lush bush and tussocky heathland as well as gullys and by the side of the river. The walk was worth it as the waterfall and scenery were beautiful. The ascent to the top of the falls was very steep and was another hero moment!!
The National Park was used by Peter Jackson for some scenes in the film 'Lord of the Rings". Mount Ngauruhoe was Mount Doom and the surrounding area of Mount Ruapehu was the Plains of Mordor. Mount Tongariro was part of the Orc trail. When you are there you can visualise the film.
The next day we said a teary goodbye to Richard on the dessert road (in the middle of nowhere) to return to Masterton. Richard was spending another three days in the Park to undertake some more walks (and he says this is for fun??!!!) before he catches the train back to Auckland on Sunday. It was great spending the time with him exploring and sharing the delights of New Zealand.