Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Days 5 and 6 - Tongariro Crossing here we come!

Everyone up very early today to see if we could get to ski dive! No such luck - the weather was still stinky! Oh well, I'll just have to do it when i get to Queenstown! Lotsa action today - people getting on the bus to go to South Island, others heading back to Auckland! David, a lovely young guy from Ireland that our bus befriended (who is currently traveling round NZ on his own in his car, making his way to Wellington to start his new job) and I decided to take a chance with the weather, and head off to Turangi today rather than wait out another day in Taupo with some of the others on the bus...who knew what the weather would be like tomorrow! So after all our goodbyes (Ihaka feeling a bit rough, especially as he had to return to Taupo 2 hours after he left, cos he forgot to pick some folks up - hilarious!).. David and I set off for Turangi, a mere 45 mins away!

The drive was gorgeous I have to say, (with the intermittant rain and black clouds!) and we chatted away until we arrived at Extreme Backpackers. Def. the best hostel I have stayed in so far! Fantastic; huge kitchen and bathrooms - so clean; massive TV room with DVD's and a big log fire!!!Don't get me wrong, the party hostels are great, but when you get a wee bitty tired and need a break, somewhere like Extreme Backpackers is perfect. But lets just say the name is a bit of "nomme de plume". Having a cup of tea here is pretty extreme, it's so cosy, and relaxed and the owners, Sue and Roger are just lovely!! The name comes from the giant climbing wall they have attached to the hostel, and the fact Sue and Roger are both very active climbers themselves, even tho' they are a tad older than the typical "extreme" athlete now!

Checked out town, got some supplies in for dinner (we decided to cook - spaghetti bolognese no less!) then back to the hostel to chill out and find out what was in store for us tomorrow on the "best day hike in New Zealand" - The Tongariro Crossing!!!

Met some fun people at the hostel, including Barry from Ayr (my home town!) who spent 7 years in the Army and had many a long tale to tell (some of them a little scary but i cant tell you 'cos then he might kill me!)....and his girfriend Evelyn from Monaghan. Also met a lovely boy called Alistair from Dumfries, so David, Alistair and I and another new friend, Jana from East Germany (who growing up, never had fruit and didn't know what a banana was till a few years ago!!) decided to walk together tomorrow so fingers crossed the weather would be good! Little bit of a damper regarding the walk, as we had heard in the news that an older tourist (q. on whether she was French or American) had died on the crossing a week ago. Apparantly her and her husband went up later than normal, got disorientated near the middle of the trek, where you descend quite sharply and then got hypothermia (it goes from hot to alpine cold conditions sometimes.... and she died...very sad story! Sue made us all explain to her exactly what we would be wearing tomorrow to make sure we were properly equipped for the bad weather if it came in again)!!!

May 4th - ahhh so lucky are we!! Woke up this morning at 6:30am to beautiful blue, blue skies today! Hard to explain to you what a big dea, this is.. tons of rain yesterday and forecast for more in the next few days, so this is really great news that its not actually raining right now!!! Made our packed lunch including a giant bar of chocolate that David insisted we have - for energy of course teehee!) then we were off! Have to say this was one of the most beautiful treks i've done - esp. for a one day hike! One of the cool things about it was that alot of the scenery here had been used for the Lord of the Rings films e.g Mount Doom aka Mt Ngauruhoe, the flat valley of Mordor too; pretty cool! From there we passed Red Crater (which is where Frodo tried to throw the RING in but couldn't.. i think?), which last erupted in 1926,then we went down to the three Emerald Lakes, with such vivid colors brought about by the sulphur coming from the volcanic craters around it. Surrounding us were the beautiful mountains of Tongariro itself (1,967m high) and Mt. Ruapehu further away in the distance, was also gorgeous. This really was a fantastic day I have to say - perfect scenery, great company (we seemed to laugh from beginning to the end of this hike) and of course, the just wonderful (and somewhat unexpected for this time of year!) weather! Perfect! Had a wee glitch when some big, burly Forestry men came by, who were fixing parts of the path with a helicopter no less, so we had to sit and watch them move giant loads of soil from one section to another - quite impressive actually! Also learned a new word - thanks Alistair! Apparantly "CHAV" is quite frequently used at home now (in the UK) to describe someone less than desirable (another Scottish descriptor would be "ned".) The origins of this word are a tad suspect, but some say it came from "Cheltenham Average" meaning those not fortunate enough to have a trust fund living in poncy Cheltenham (for my American friends this is a posh town in England).... anyway thought it was a funny word and that you may want to know about it too!!!!

Back to the hostel and we all chatted and had dinner together. Such a relaxing place. Wish i had another day here but have to head off tomorrow to Wellington. Met another new guest, Barbara from Dublin, who will be in India the same time as me, so we might meet up there! The joys of travel and the people you meet! Forced everyone in the TV room to watch Whale Rider - hey, we were in New Zealand after all! Gorgeous film and all the more perfect for watching it in Aotearoa (Maori name for NZ meaning "Land of the Long White Clouds".


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