Another day, another blog entry.
Apologies if any of you are becoming fatigued by my regular updates (of course, you don't have to read them: i write them as much for myself as for you). There is just so much to write about our experiences in New Zealand - the words are practically bursting from me!
Since my last update we have descended 65 metres below the surface of the earth, taken an eerily silent boat journey, encountered thousands of glow worms, visited monkeys at the zoo, attended a peculiarly Scottish music festival, ponced around another art gallery, caught an overnight ferry loaded with AC/DC fans and tramped around Tongariro National Park. I can't possibly write about it all, so here are the potted highlights:
Here we descended through cavernous limestone cathedrals and corridors past dripping stalactites and ancient limestone formations. Many of our twists and turns were illuminated only by the cave's rare inhabitants - glow-worms which clung from the ceiling like tiny green stars. These larvae lighted the path of our eerily silent boat ride through an underground lake - the reverent atmosphere only broken by the occasional whining of an American tourist with too much to say despite looking like he was about to swallow his moustache.
A stopover on our journey back to the south of the island was enlivened by a visit to a very strange little event in the park! Here, a crowd of elderly people had massed to watch small girls performing traditional Highland dances to the sound of electric bagpipes. History has seen many Scottish people make New Zealand their home, and this display of Highland flinging was not uncommon on our odyssey around the North Island. We made our excuses and left shortly after Ma Fratelli from The Goonies insisted that Rachel move out of her eyeline.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro is one of the most protected areas of natural interest in New Zealand, and deservedly so. Large swathes of the Lord of the Rings films were made here, and it's not hard to see why the director and producers chose this volcanic area to represent Mordor. Rachel and i walked through volcanic craters dyed red by the algae which exists in areas of geothermal activity. We picked our way through fields of volcanic rock which had been belched from the belly of the earth. We skirted over smooth rock fields where red-hot lava had slowed and cooled. We passed the shadow of Mount Doom, quickening our step after reading advice on what we ought to do if it erupted! I struck out alone at one point, tip-toeing my way over a rocky outcrop to get a better angle from which to take a picture postcard image - despite my camera being pretty basic i still managed to snap a picture which the New Zealand postcard industry could learn a thing or two from (despite such wonderful natural beauty, there are a real dearth of quality postcards here).
I also embarked on a solo walk around Tongariro after Rachel decided to grab a deserved rest following her driving exertions. As the evening cooled i set off into the great wide open, bouncing happily through marshland and towering ferns, decaying trees and natural archways. I was accompanied by the sound of water with every step: the squelching of the wet walkway beneath me; the babbling brook which meandered beside me; the coffee-perculator drip of water seeping through the sodden earth and into the puddles below; the growing roar and eventual crescendo as it cascaded over Taranaki falls and onto the rocks below. As this water wound its way into the village below i followed, accompanied only by the sound of birds and bugs which were heard but never seen.
It was a brilliant time to think, reflect and plan for the future. It now seems likely that i'll be dropping anchor in Phuket, Thailand. Here, a job awaits - a far cry from my previous role in a multinational organisation! More will be revealed in due course, but my imagination is in overdrive thinking about how the next few months will develop. Glastonbury is now back on the agenda too as i plot money making schemes and a chance to collect property i'll need from Leeds. The future is an exciting place.
PS Burger King have an offer on. The Summer Stunner is a Whopper Jr, Fries, soft drink and sundae for $5.50. It's actually one of the cheapest meals you can eat on the road and i am, predictably, delighted.