...So after wasting a few hours plucking each others eyebrows and having a general grooming session in Picton waiting for the ferry we finally boarded our ride on the interislander to go and explore new lands on North Island. Spent about 5 minutes admiring the scenery before the cold and the wind drove us inside and straight to the shop where we bought a magazine which is pretty much a luxury for us travellers. After reading all the leaflets we could find we went in search of some dinner and then went back out on deck to watch the ferry sail into open and very wavy waters. Docked in Wellington and went to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
In wellington we went to the Te Papa national museum and spent as long as we could wondering around the exhibits. The highlight has to be the giant pickled squid which was an impressive sight. Did a quick drive upto Mt Victoria to see the city from a different perspective and then went on our way up north to do our first ever "great walk" the Tongariro Northern Circuit in the Tongariro National Park.
Stopped for the night in a campsite which provided us with much entertainment when a man came round claiming that an old man staying in the tent next to us had stolen his kids pet goat and he then proceeded to trash the old guys tent, locals eh! Apparently the goat was found and all was right with the world again! On our way up to the national park we stopped in Whanganui where Hanna got totally engrossed in a glass blowing studio and Hannah practically had to prize her hands from the railings with the promise of an ice cream!
So we finally made it to the National Park and rearranged all of our belongings so that we would only have to carry the minimum amount of stuff with us around the track for 5 days. But girls being girls we probably ended up taking way too much...not ideal. Did all the right things and checked the weather forecast before filling ourselves up on what we knew would be our last decent meal in a few days! The first day of the walk was a pretty easy 3 hour tramp through scrub land towards the base of the volcanoes at the centre of the park. We soon realised how hard it was going to be to carry our packs all that way and we were more than happy to see the hut come into view.
Up early on the second day after a bad nights sleep for Hannah and an absolutely terrible 3 hours sleep for Hanna all because of one army cadet who had possibly the worst snoring either of us have ever encountered. It got worse when we found out they would be staying in the same huts as us for the entire journey, oh s***! So bodies not too refreshed we set off up the mountains, exhausted we made it up to the saddle of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaurahoe (or the famous Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings!). In a moment of madness we decided that we were going to try and tackle Mt Doom so leaving our packs at the bottom and only carrying the essentials we set off for the summit. 1 step up and 2 steps down is really the only way to describe how hard it was to climb the ash and lose rock covered sides of the volcano cone. Every 2 minutes you can hear someone above shouting "ROCK" as their dislodged shingle came tumbling towards your head! More than half way up we took a rest and decided that if we were to make it to the next hut there was no way we could carry on. So having been conquered by Mt Doom we set off sliding on our asses back down to the bottom. After a nice flat walk across the massive south crater we made it to the steep slopes of Red Crater which we couldn't let defeat us. At the top the views were spectacular looking down into the crater and over the ridge to see the amazingly green and blue waters of the Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake. The rocks beneath our feet were hot from the clouds of sulphur streaming out from cracks in the ground, the smell wasn't the most pleasant either! Sliding down to Emerald Lakes we set off in the direction of our bed for the night, a walk that is supposedly meant to take an hour. By this point Hanna was really suffering with her spastic feet that just weren't meant for walking and so two hours later we finally made it to the hut down a massive winding path. When Hanna removed her boots it looked like her feet had grown themselves some brains the blisters were that bad and there was discussion of us abandoning the walk and returning to the car park. The Warden in the hut that night was a legend and gave Hanna she socks and some super strength plasters so that she might be able to get down off the mountain! Luckily snorer had been banished to a tent for the night so we got some well needed rest after over 8 hours on our feet.
The next morning Hanna gritted her teeth and braved the next legg of the journey with popped and covered blisters and socks thick enough to keep you warm in Antarctic conditions! So we retraced our steps back to Emerald Lakes and then began the crossing through Mordor in some nasty rainy conditions. There isn't really much to say about the scenery since it is literally just grey rock and ash and not much vegetation...the constant eruptions of the volcanoes means not much has been able to establish itself there. Arrived at the 3rd hut early and chilled out giving Hannas feet enough chance to rest as possible. Checked out a small waterfall and watched an impressive sunset over the snow covered peaks of Mt Ruapehu in the distance.
Day 4 of walking and we only had another nice easy 3 hours to manage. Walked across the lava flows of the volcanoes and finally saw a forest in the distance down by a stream which was a welcome change of scenery! Arrived at our final resting place of the walk where we almost ate ourselves out of all the food we owned and relaxed!
The fifth and final day looked like it was going to be a long, boring and miserable walk. The mist had rolled in and you could see no more than about 3 meters in front of your face so again not much to comment on the scenery! We surprised ourselves with our super quick initial walking pace because we knew that the quicker we got back the less the blisters would hurt and the sooner we could eat again and arrived back at the car in less time than we should. With aching bodies and mashed up feet we had possibly the best shower of our lived and left the volcanoes behind us. It was an amazing walk through landscape different to any others that we have seen and it was definitely worth all the effort!
Next stop was Waitomo Caves for some 5 in 1 caving, tubing, abseiling, rock climbing, glow worm adventures!! All kitted up in some sexual clothing we descended into a big hole and landed ourselves in an underground river! After walking upstream to do some exploring of the caves and seeing the massive chambers full of glow worms which were really pretty we got in our tubes and floated back down the river in the dark. Splished and sploshed our way over some dams and ended up under water way too many times and then ate chocolate and had orange squash so many meters underground which is a new experience and not something you can say you do every day! Hannah almost drowned when she couldn't get on her tube to paddle back upstream so she started swimming with it and then almost lost both of her gum boots...nightmare! Warm and dry we headed on up to Hamilton.
After Hamilton we drove even further north to the Coromandel Peninsula. This apparently very beautiful part of the country was tainted for us by the mass of clouds and rain storms that covered the scenery for the 2 days that we spent there but its all part of the fun! At Hot Water Beach there is geothermal activity under the sand and at low tide everyone gets out a spade and digs themselves a hole and sits in bath temperature water. Due to said weather we stood on the beach freezing in our bikinis and raincoats but it was made way more interesting by a weird and possibly drunk man who kept throwing sand at us and inviting us to his crappily built pool! Later on that day we went for a walk down to a beach called Cathedral Cove in torrential rain where Hannas camera died in a puddle in the pocket of her 'waterproof' coat...uh oh!
Spent the next days driving around the bay of plenty and then headed to stinky stinky Rotorua! Here we spent 4 days doing fun things like Zorbing which was hilarious and looking around all the geothermal parks in the area. The bubbling mud pools, neon coloured lakes and erupting geysers had us captivated but Hanna couldn't stay too long in these places since the smell of sulphur was hitting her gag reflex hard and she kept walking round with the leaflets under her nose! One night we went to a Maori Hangi and concert where we got to see the traditional villages, watch performances including the famous Haka and touching of the noses and then stuffed ourselves full of amazing food that had been cooking for 4 hours in a pit in the ground...delicious!
From Rotorua we drove to Lake Taupo which was to be our home over Christmas. After 9 months of looking like she had blonde clip ins in her hair Hanna finally decided that she would treat herself to a Christmas present of some highlights and made herself look even more beautiful :) Christmas eve was a pretty messy event and we ended up in the Irish Bar until everything closed at midnight...where closes at midnight on chrissy eve?!! Christmas morning was delicate but we were spoiled to an amazing feast of a Christmas dinner by the hostel who had laid on turkey with all the trimmings complete with crackers and champagne which was lovely. Hannah bought us a present of some Monopoly Cards and we spent lots of the day playing these. After desert and an unexpected present for us all from the hostel, Hanna got some sunglasses and Hannah a t-shirt, we went with lots of others down to the lake to enjoy the beautiful Christmas Day sunshine. Fell into bed after a very exhausting, different but fun filled Christmas :) Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas!
After relaxing for a few days after so much fun we headed on down to Napier having gained an extra two bodies in the shape of Matt and Ale with double the amount of luggage...our poor decrepit car! In Napier we went to the top of the Te Mata lookout where you could see amazing views for miles and miles over the land and sea and in the evening we went to an open air cinema which was awesome. On the way to the cinema the car decided it didn't want to work any more and flashed up a massive 'check engine' warning light while we watched steam coming from under the bonnet d the temperature rise! Luckily we managed to hitch a ride to see the film and sat outside in a grass amphitheatre amongst the vines!
From here the 4 of us travelled to Gisborne (after fixing the car!!) for New Year celebrations at the Rhythm and Vines festival. Spent 3 days pissed or sleeping and watching some class acts. On the first night Hanna drank until she passed out watching Mystery Jets and had to be rescued by the St Johns Ambulance who took us to the 'fairy tent' for a nap! Back on form we danced the night away to Mt Eden and N*E*R*D who were awesome. Tinie Tempah was amazing on the second night but Justice was RUBBISH!! Toasted the New Year with some bubbly and watched some fireworks at midnight. With a few hours kip in a hammock we managed to stay awake to see the first sunrise of 2011 out of anywhere in the world which was pretty cool. Still not recovered on the 1st day of the new year we drove back to Auckland to advertise our car, parted ways with Ale but still couldn't manage to lose Matt so he came north with us up to the Bay of Islands! After getting some leaflets up in the backpackers for the car we drove up to Cape Reinga at the very north of North Island which is where it believed that souls leave this earth, went sand boarding down some massive dunes which was brilliant fun and even got to see some pink sheep! The Bay of Islands was beautiful but unfortunately with time restrictions we didn't get to stay as long as we might have.
Back in Auckland we managed to sell our beloved car YY and are now bumming around here until South America begins. New Zealand has been amazing fun but it's time for a new adventure to begin. So from us let it be goodbye for now :)
Love to you all xxxxx