Day 164 and Helen Laura and Luke were all up by 7am and getting ready as their tour started well before ours. Me and Burns were still in bed as they drove to their drop off. Me and Burns then went to our tour centre and napped for 2 hours as our tour didnt start till 11am. At 11am we were told our tour was delayed as 4 people were late so the tour company promised us free photos afterwards. Our guide was called Jono and the other 4 people in our group were 4 girls from Germany, Ireland, USA and Canada. We drove to the toobing centre and got changed into our lycra style suits which were so tight we could barely move. They were very flattering. We walked through the hills for 15 mins and came to a ladder going down through some rocks which looked very very narrow. Once down it was pitch black (apart from our head lamps) and the water we were walking through was freezing. The Canadian girl was a bit frightened to start with. The gloworms were very bright and could actually light the cave up when all the lights were turned off. Then came the Toobing, I climbed up to about 3-4 metres high and jumped backwards with the toob into the freezing cold water! It was then we floated down a dark tunnel with the gloworms all over the ceiling, it was awesome. After this we had to swim for a while as it was very deep and the toobs wouldnt fit. After a couple of hours of this we returned to the surface and had the best hot shower ever. Once back at the centre we got our free photos (as promised) and then went to meet the others at their centre. After a short drive to a local layby I had noodles for lunch, and we then went to buy more food from Woolies. Whilst Burns drove and I navigated, the other 3 slept in the back as they were all pretty tired. We parked by a beach and played some frisbee on the black sand. At one point a stray dog came and started playing, and Luke couldnt get it away from him. Burns nearly wet himself it was so funny. Once in the van we had a few beers with our Chicken Fajitas and then headed to bed as everyone was knackered.
Day 165 and after waking up at 8 we didnt actually do anything for about 2-3 hours. Everyone lay in bed reading, having brekkie and being plain lazy. By about 12 we were ready and a short drive south and we were in New Plymouth. We went to the Info centre to find out about the walks up Mt Taranaki which is New Zealands highest Volcano. I had to go on the net to fnd out the footy scores, Liverpool beating Utd 4-1! I couldnt actually believe it, neither could Burns. The girls both bought hoodys as they are constantly complaining about the cold (its not that bad, they just get cold and hot really easily). Luke bought a new Hoody and yet more shorts. For the night we were only allowed to park in one place in town and that was down by a the beach on Ocean View Parade. We were all being well lazy and instead of cooking the dinner we bought, we had food from a Chippy which was really good. After food we all napped for serveral beers, I then had 1 beer whilst reading and then fell asleep, all in all, a damn lazy day.
Day 166 and we were up early and refreshed and headed for Taranaki for 10ish. We got there and asked about what walks to do and the info centre told us of a 3-4 hour walk which would be good for us. I was dreading this as my flip flops are to thin to walk on rocks and my trainers are so uncomfortable and give me killer blisters (wearing flip flops has made my toes spread out more so they wont fit in my trainers). We headed off (with packed lunches and bottles of water at the ready) on the tough uphill section. After about 15 mins everyone was panting, the girls who started out in hoodies and trousers were so hot they were in vest tops and trousers rolled into shorts. Us 3 lads all had de-shirted after about 10 mins. Everyone else we saw doing any sort of walking had all the hiking gear, bags, scarfs, walking sticks etc and there was us in combats, trainers (and flip flops) and no t shirts. After 30 mins we stopped for a food break. Burns didnt quite get the idea of rationing food and ate all of his straight away. We then had to climb 'The Puffer' which was basically a vertical hill for about 500 metres which killed everyone. At the top of the Puffer we ate our soggy sarnies. We then walked horizontally across the mountain for about an hour, taking numerous photos. My feet were killing by this point. After an hour we started the downhill section which was a lot easier. The girls both had to go to the loo on the mountain even though we were only a short distance from the end. By 230 we were back at the camper and drove back to New Plymouth. After spending an hour or so in a cafe using the net and having a few drinks we wanted to head back to the camper but Burns had lost them. We eventually found them in the cafe, but he apparently left them in the toilet? For the evening we drove south to Stratford where we parked by a train track and a main road. We didnt realise these would be so noisy! After an excellent Beef Curry for dinner and some more fun playing Billionaire (our new game craze) we headed to bed, with trains and lorries deafening us.
Day 167 and the 17th March meant St Patricks Day, but there was no chance of us going out getting blotto. We instead had Pancakes and tea for breakfast (Helen is a pro at these 2 things). We left our loud sleeping area by 12 and drove along 'The Forgotten Highway' which is a long stretch of road with 33 stops for tourists to look at ranging from view points, waterfalls, and mine shafts. We stopped at about 3 of these, a Lookout of Taranaki, which had clouds blocking our view, A gorge, where we had lunch, and a Tunnel through a mountain. It was really hot and sitting in the back of the camper on the mega windy roads me and Helen both felt pretty sick. After what felt like days we arrived in a town called Taumaruni where we asked about the famous 'Tongariro Crossing' which we planned to do tmoro. After that we did a weekly shop and stocked up on the vitals, chocolate and main meals. After this we headed for a village called Whakapapa which is where the shuttle buses take you to and from for the 7-8 hour walk. We parked in a layby outside of the village, by yet another road and train track. I dont know why we did this!? but it didnt seem to bother me as I can sleep through the noise. Dinner was an interesting one as it was a Debut for 4 of us on having Pasta with Tuna. Laura as the only one having has it before cooked it and it went down a treat. We then made sandwhichs and prepacked for the arduous 7-8hr (19.4km) hike which we would be doing the following day.
Day 168 and we were awoken just before 7 by what we thought was an earthquake but was in fact a train. We were up and ready by 8 and drove to the DOC carpark for pickup. We had alreay scouted a local campsite to use their showers after the walk (we are becoming good at using free showers and toilets). We left at 9am and on the way the driver told us a bit of info about the volcanoes and the National Parks. Tongariro was the 1st National Park in New Zealand and the 4th one in the world. One of the volcanoes (it began with N but cant remember its name) was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films, and our driver was an extra (an elf). Another fact was Taranaki was used in the filming of The Last Samurai. The driver asked Luke if he would be wearing 'Jandals' (flip flops) for this walk, and Luke slyly lied and told him he had trainers in his bag. I had prepared with several plasters over my toes as I knew my feet would be a nightmare by the end. We left at 9.35am and after only a few mins we were hot and taking layers off. We played the name game to help pass the time to start off with. After 4km we stopped for our first food and toilet break. Then we had to climpb 'The Devils Staircase' another massive climb up the side of Mount Doom. After walking across a crater and another steep rocky cliff we stopped for lunch (9km and 3 and a half hours in). We then walked through the red crater, and down a very steep cliff past the Emerald Lakes which stank of rotten Egg. Helen is very bad at walking down these steep and slippery slopes so it took the 2 of us about 20 mins to get down while the others rested at the bottom. Luke then ate some of his lunch, a plain carrot, nothing else, 23 cent well spent in his opinion. About 13 km in we stopped for our 2nd sarnie and another toilet break. The next section was all downhill but very rocky and my feet felt like they were bleeding! Luke was somehow coping in flip flops. As it started getting muddier, me and Burns went on ahead while the girls and Luke slowed down to take it slowly. The last km's seemed to take forever and Burns and I finally reached the end by 3.45 hoping the others would arrive before 4 for the bus. Thankfully they did and we got back to the camper by about 430 and everyone looked exhausted. My feet had several blisters so we headed straight for the campsites showers and made the most of them. We then drove and had dinner, Chicken stir fry and then drove for another hour to Taupo. We parked up in a designated camping area with toilets and hit the hay pretty early.