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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for January 14, 2008

My favourite geothermal feature

We’ve crossed through the geothermally active part of New Zealand. Now, you can have all your high profile, big money geysers, fumaroles, lava flows, hot springs, nicely coloured pools, and terribly healthy spa baths and what have you, for me though, you can’t beat bubbling mud. It wins every time, the best noises, the most amusing movements. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be thick, gloopy and to look like molten chocolate. Marvellous.

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Bah, humbug. No dynamism at all with these fellows.

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Now, that’s what I call entertaining. Who could ever tire of watching bubbling mud?

The high life

After our failure with Mt Taranaki, we headed for some more volcanoes in the centre of the North Island - luckily there was not a cloud in the sky and we took the opportunity for a spontaneous climb to the crater of Mt Ruapehu - an active volcano which most recently erupted on the 25th Sept last year… Oh, and also known as Mordor by LOTR buffs.

We took a ski lift up to knock off a few hundred metres of the ascent and then climbed up scree, snow and rocks to get to the crater itself at an elevation of ~2673m (forget exactly) - probably the highest we’ve been on our travels so far. The crater lake was impressive and steaming, although our view was quickly obscured by incoming cloud, so we had to head back down, doing some glissading (skiing in walking boots!) along the way and stopping at the toilet perched near the top- almost obligatory to pay it a visit I thought.

Chris on Mt Ruapehu

This was a good warm up for the next day’s activities which involved walking the Tongariro Crossing -  the most popular day walk in NZ apparently, and judging by the number of people on the track (literally thousands) this claim seems quite true. The track took us up some more steep slopes (so I’m feeling fairly fit just now, although whether my knees will ever forgive me…), past Mt Ngauruhoe (AKA Mt Doom) and some beautiful lakes - the appropriately named Emerald and Blue Lakes which were rather smelly (think sulphur, think rotten eggs). I learnt another mountaineering skill for getting down mountains fast (unless you’re a wimp like me) - scree sliding - we both ended up on our bums at some point on the way down.

To add to our list of ascents we also took the side track up to the top of Mount Tongariro (only 1978m!) where we had a lunch with a spectacular view. Lovely.

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Milk, mountains and rain

During our two months in Honduras, every morning we thoughtfully eyed the Anchor powdered milk tin and its fine illustration of a conical, snow capped mountain with grazing cows in the foreground. Our resident ambassador for New Zealand, Bex, would, at appropriate intervals, bring to our attention that this idyllic scene was Mount Taranaki on the North Island.

From Wellington we made our way North and expectantly drove towards this volcanic masterpiece, which our guidebook assured us was a fit rival for Mount Fuji. Eventually some heavy dark clouds loomed out of the overcast sky. Now, these clouds indicated the precense of an imposing hill, but were rather tiresomely obsuring it from our view.

We spent the night on the coast and had a fine paddle along a black sand beach. The next day it rained. Then rained a bit more. Then a lot more. No scenic views were to be had today. We drove to a nearby lighthouse, and took the opportunity to drink tea and read our books (I read Ian Rankin’s most recent book - but will there be a post retirement outing for Rebus?).

We spent some of the afternoon in New Plymouth, then camped part way up the mountain, hoping for fine views in the morning. No such luck. We drove to the top of the road and enjoyed a fine walk through the goblin woods in thick fog.

Enough. We ran away inland from where we finally saw the confounded mountain, albeit from a distance.