So much for my blog-once-a-week plan. Anywho …
Last week, my friend Stefan and I went on a road trip to the central part of the North Island. Here’s the best map I could find for the occasion. Our hostel was at the National Park Village; Lake Rotopounamu is that little lake just north of Lake Rotoaira; and the Tokaanu thermal pools were a bit west of Turangi. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, had we done it, would have started at Mangatepopo and ended at Ketetahi.
(And you thought town names in Washington were hard to pronounce.)
We’d intended on hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, often hailed to be the best day hike in New Zealand. I’ve been planning on hiking it since my last time in the country (2011). Unfortunately, both this time around and three years ago, the weather turned south and hiking it was ill-advised. The day we’d wanted to do it, there were 120 kmh (75 mph) winds at the top. A German girl I met at our hostel said she knew some girls who’d just done it, and they’d had to crawl on their hands and knees at the clearing due to the wind.
I’m adventurous, but not that adventurous. As keen as I am to finally hike it, I’m willing to wait till I’m not miserable in the process. So the Tongariro conquering has been post-poned to sometime in December.
Because we left Palmy early, Stefan and I arrived at our hostel in National Park about 10 a.m., and after checking in, had to fill in the rest of the day now that Tongariro was out. We got some advice from one of the staff members, and headed off to nearby Lake Rotopounamu for a much shorter hike. It took about an hour to get around the lake, and despite the canopy of trees sheltering us (and our waterproof clothes), the relentless rain drenched us. This further justified our decision to forgo Tongariro — one hour of that was manageable. Seven more hours in potential avalanche conditions would have not been my idea of a good time.
Near the end of the hike, we finally got some relief from the rain and a bit of a view of the lake.
Next up were some thermal pools near Tokaanu, with a quick stop for scenic photos:
The thermal pools were a relaxing treat after the rain-drenched hike. These pools are pretty common here in New Zealand, but appreciated, nevertheless. A Kiwi asked me recently if there are any in the States, and I honestly wasn’t sure. (If any of you, O wise readers, know the answer to this, please comment saying where they are.)
Back at the YHA, we cooked dinner and then I took advantage of the climbing wall. I was a little wary, as I hadn’t climbed since I was about 10, but I mustered up the courage to do it anyway. I’m so glad I did. For starters, Monday happened to be the $5 night for the climbing wall, which covered shoes, gear and an instructor.
My instructor was a patient and encouraging Canadian named Mike, and I ended up reaching the top of the (roughly 30-foot) wall on my first try. So long as I focused on the task at hand (i.e. not looking down), I did fine, albeit a bit shaky.
Mike then wanted us to switch places and have me spot, or “by-lay”, him — i.e. be the one on the ground who adjusts the rope as needed. Instantly my mind conjured up images of me messing up and him plunging to his death. Not really the best way to start a holiday (or end one, for that matter). But with another employee, Felix, instructing me, I agreed to do it, and no deaths ensued. I climbed a couple more times before my arms lost their strength, thus ending Day One on a fun note. First step, rock climbing; second step, skydiving, right?