Eye of the Tiger – Taupo, Tongariro and Wellington

Thursday 21st November
After leaving the village we made our way to the Huka Waterfalls on the Waikato river. The word Hukanui in Maori means Great Body of Spray and whilst it was a fairly small waterfall compared to some I’ve seen it was certainly producing its fair share. Unfortunately just as we got to the lookout viewing platform it started to rain so after a few quick pictures I had to run to get back on the bus.

Our next stop was to Taupo on the shore of the lake with the same name to get some food. I’d made the decision just before this that I would do the Bungy option available despite being told there was allegedly a link between detached retinas and the activity. I therefore decided not to eat anything and instead walked to the water front. I also walked past a barbers and looked at my watch…did I have time?  I saw Steph and Zeena and asking how long we had until the coach left i realised i had 12 minutes. I didn’t need to worry as it actually only took about 5 minutes for me to get my hair cut/shaved off. The decision had been made on the various train journeys because longish hair had been hard to manage and didn’t look good if uncared for.

I had chosen to do the bungy at Lake Taupo because there was a possibility of touching the water or even going right under the water (this would have the added benefit of washing my face of small bits of hair which had not been brushed off.

The location was stunning and I was surprised that I was actually able to take it all in even though I was about to throw myself off a 47 metre high platform. The nerves briefly surfaced when the first person jumped and all I heard was a blood curdling scream but the adrenaline soon kicked in again.

Eventually it was my turn. The final checks were undertaken and walking like a penguin I waddled towards the edge of the platform. 1…2…3…”Yoooouuuu Orrrrrrnnnnnsss!” As I plunged through the air I wasn’t really aware at the time that I’d gone over but my feet rather than head were leading the way. This meant that when I was flung back up in the air I performed a backward somersault action.

As I was leaving I saw some TNT magazines and so I quickly ran back in and on to the bridge asking someone to get a picture of me holding the certificate. Those on the coach didn’t understand the significance but as it was intended as bit of a private ‘joke’ there was little point in explaining the situation and I just had to accept they probably thought I was being a bit weird

Back on the coach we travelled through/past the Tongariro National Park which includes Mt Ngauruhoe more commonly known as Mount Doom following its star appearance in Lord of the Rings. We could see smoke rising from the various vents reminding us that the 3 volcanoes were still fully active.

The next morning we would be walking through the heart of it.

Friday 22nd November
We were up early as we needed a big breakfast before commencing the 19km hike which we were told would take anything between 6 to 8 hours.
The walk started off fairly steadily and we did the first 4km to Soda Springs in under an hour. This lulled me in to a false sense of security that we’d easily be able to do it in the 6 hours. It was shortly after this that the gentle slopes were replaced by steeper climbs and soon much slower progress was made especially as I’d never been through such dramatic volcanic scenery on foot so kept taking pictures.

Eventually after about 3 hours we were close to the Red Crater and I tried to convince a couple of people to do the Tongariro summit as a 1 hour 30 minute side trip. The clouds however seemed to be approaching so a group decision was made to push on which I admit I was later relieved about as I naïvely thought the downward section was going to be much quicker than it took.

The colours of the rock that made up the red crater made it look particularly spectacular and we were lucky to see it before it was covered in cloud. We carried on and could see the Blue Lake and Emerald Lakes in the distance but there was still one more summit left to climb so I put Eye of the Tiger on which not only motivated us a bit but caused a number of people we didn’t know to laugh and to walk with us. The water of the lakes were a beautiful blue and green and this was eventually where we decided to have lunch.

As previously mentioned I thought the downward section would be easier but this wasn’t really the case and it didn’t really help that the rain had started to settle in. We weren’t even half way and it was getting to the stage where whilst I hadn’t really been pushing myself I was certainly starting to feel the burn. The rain cleared up in time for us to see the smoke rising from the crater and a lake in the distance which we assumed was Lake Taupo.

We got to the Ketetahi Hut at about 13.45 and we were still about 1 hour 30 minutes from the car park. I was towards the back of the group as I didn’t really want to push to get the 15.00 pick up instead feeling it would be easier to get the 16.00 and take it easy. We had lost Mitch and Greg as they had climbed to the top of ‘Mount Doom’ but they caught us up and decided to run in order to catch the bus. This was fine by me as it would ensure the shower was free by the time I got back.

The final stretch was through a forest and due to the rain a small stream had grown wider and was flowing very quickly and we therefore had to carefully stand on the rocks and hold on to trees in order to ensure we didn’t fall in. The path seemed never ending but ended somewhat abruptly at the carpark. It was 15.12 so i’d done the walk in about 6 hours 45 minutes. Whilst I could have gone quicker and taken less pictures I’d paid for the day and wanted to make the most of it. The final steps were tiring but at the same time it was a shame when it was actually over.

Returning to the hotel I decided to make use of the free sauna (the decision had been made about half way on the hike), had a shower and joined the others for a BBQ style meal. I was exhausted and probably wasn’t the only one and once it got to 20.30 I was ready to head to bed

Saturday 23rd November
Despite an attempt to go to bed early I couldn’t really sleep and because we had a big drive to Wellington next morning we had to be up by about 5.40am. This felt horrendous after my lack of sleep and after the walk from the day before.

It was Timo’s birthday so the coach had been decorated and we all sang.
We went past a number of small towns one of which tried to attract tourists with a giant carrot but other than that the journey was a sleepy blur.

We arrived in Wellington around 11am and went on a small tour of the capital to see some of the main sites to make a decision about what we could do later that day. We were also taken to the top of Mt Victoria where there were some nice views of the city and bay. I’d already made plans to meet up with Hayden and Emma and by the time we checked in I was slightly late and I’d foolishly let my mobile battery drain. Luckily I was able to charge it and to let them know the address so they could pick me up.

Our first proper stop was to the cable car where we got the train to the top to see the botanical gardens and the carter observatory. After a brief walk around we went to our first pub and Hayden told me about the micro breweries that were starting up. I had forgotten to put suncream on during the final day in Rotorua and whilst I sat drinking my larger with a hint of ginger it was pointed out to me by a local how red my forehead was.

We returned to the bottom and walked around the harbour where locals were jumping in to an area of water. One guy climbed to the top, got there and clearly had second thoughts whilst everyone below waited in anticipation. Next we carried on to the main beach where I was told the sand is shipped in each year.

After this we looped round on to the main high street and as it was a very hot day we found another bar. After leaving something at the Opera House caught Hayden’s eye and on investigation it turned out the comedian David Strassman was performing that evening and there were still tickets available for the 21.15 show. I had planned to meet up with the others but I knew this would be more fun than a few beers.

We got some food at another pub where I saw England being destroyed by Australia in the cricket and returned back to the theatre.

Whilst the name hadn’t sounded familiar once I saw David Strassman stage on stage with the puppets Chuck and Teddy i realised I had seen him on TV before. I haven’t seen a show like it and it was so clever the way he was able to interact with the audience both as himself and as the puppets. The stage had also been arranged so the puppets could move in independence from him and part of the humour was that his subconscious (the puppet personalities) were trying to seize control of the conscious.

The encore was split in to two parts, the first was the puppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody and the second was the promotion of an app where you could ask Teddy or Chuck what would happen in the future. I have no idea if this really exists but for the purpose of the show it was a funny way to end it.

The show finished at midnight and whilst I text the others I didn’t get a response and was so tired I didn’t mind heading back to bed.

Sunday 24th November
Yet another early start as we needed to ensure we got the ferry from Wellington to the South Island. Whilst writing this blog we also spent the time playing a game on the iPad where you had to either act or describe various subjects e.g accents which created some amusement. I was meant to be flying a stunt plane that afternoon but unfortunately the company had double booked and weren’t available. This was a bit disappointing but I’m sure I’ll have the chance again.

After about 2 hours we began the approach to the South Island through the sounds…The South Island adventure was about to begin!


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