A Travellerspoint blog

Tongariro Crossing, Quad Biking and Wellington

Mist, Wind, Rain, Mud, More Wind


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

The next stop on our tour of the North Island was Tongariro National Park; Famous for the best 1 day walk in New Zealand. Unfortunately when we arrived the weather was less than ideal, and it didn’t get much better the following day. However we were up at 7 ready to go on the shuttle, and with the weather forecast not looking any better for the next day, we decided to just go for it. So the shuttle dropped us off at 7.30 with the promise to pick us up the other side at 4. The walk was relatively OK for the first hour or so, before we started heading up into the clouds. What followed was pretty much hours of trudging through mist, wind and rain, with pretty much no visibility. However we reached the end eventually (after actually having a relatively good section of walk through some forest with a nice river) hoping to find some sort of café to warm up and have a hot chocolate or something, but we were met with pretty much a bus shelter in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately the walk had taken us just less than 5 hours, so we then had to stand outside in our wet clothes for another 3 or so hours to wait for the shuttle… and as sods law dictates, every day since then has been glorious sunshine. Sigh.

What We Were Supposed To See

What We Were Supposed To See

What We Actually Saw

What We Actually Saw

After our relatively unsuccessful visit to the national park, we then drove down to Whanganui (pretty much just to have somewhere to stop before Wellington) and had a go at pretending to be civilized by going to a museum and an art gallery. After a night there, we then made our way toward Wellington, stopping off along the way to do some quad biking (to cover ourselves in dirt and even out pretending to be civilized the day before)

The reserve we did the biking in was pretty huge and we covered a lot of ground on our bikes, alternating between easy tracks and more challenging trails which included lots of mud, holes filled with water mixed with tree roots and generally uneven ground. After driving for a couple of hours, stopping at a nice view point, and discovering you can get a quad bike through surprisingly tough terrain, we headed back to be have some tea and scones (therefore becoming civilized once more).

Quad Biking Through Some Muddy River

Quad Biking Through Some Muddy River

We are now staying in Wellington with Nathan’s Brothers Girlfriend Brother (a suitably vague link…) and looking around at what the city had to offer (other than a lot of windy weather) until our ferry to the South Island on the 21st of Feb.

Wellington

Wellington

Posted by Laura Mitchell 01:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Kawakawa Bay and Waitomo Caves

An Epic Walk In, Low Motivation, Recovery, Abseiling Into The Abyss, Black Water Rafting, Maggots With Glowing Poo


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

After our few days of having the luxury of running water in Taupo we headed to our next climbing destination of Kawakawa Bay. It looked pretty awesome on the guide but in the end turned out to be a bit of an epic. The walk in was about 2 hours, which doesn’t sound too bad but was made a lot worse by having to carry a ridiculous amount of stuff (sleeping stuff, tent, food, water, climbing gear, stoves… it all adds up).

By the time we got in morale was at an all time low, made worse for Nathan by the fact he had to go back for the food and water he decided to ditch half way to make his pack lighter (which also resulted in some of our food getting stolen randomly). Poor motivation and little energy didn’t lead to particularly inspiring climbing, and in 2 days we managed about four climbs. Then we made the walk back out (made mildly better by the fact we had drunk our water and eaten our food) and tried not to dwell on the fact it definitely wasn’t worth it! The positive points did include roasting marshmallows on a campfire each night, and the view was pretty nice…

View At Kawakawa Bay With Our Friendly Neighbourhood Swans

View At Kawakawa Bay With Our Friendly Neighbourhood Swans

After our walk out, we then made the 2 and a half hour drive to Tu Kuwiti and stayed the night at a campsite, pretty uneventful day. The following morning Nathan went climbing, but I made the 15 minute drive straight to Waitamo (To have a day off in case anything mildly epic happened and turned my already low motivation into complete lack of interest in ever climbing again). I spent the day finding a hostel, chilling out, reading, booking our black water rafting, doing a very unchallenging “bush walk”, swimming in the hostel pool and generally recovering my sense of humour. Followed by an even more chilled out morning the next day (reading magazines in my pyjamas on the hostel sofa) I was ready to do something epic again in the afternoon; exploring the Ruakuri Cave with “The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company”.

After we were kitted up with wetsuits and helmets we were driven to the Ruakuri Caves and given a quick tutorial in our abseiling equipment (it involved using your left thumb to control a device and leaving the rope to just slip through your right hand, which felt completely unnatural to me, but we all managed). We then took it in turns to abseil 35m into “The Abyss” (a hole into a big dark cave) and we were off on our caving adventure.

Kitted Up And Ready To Go

Kitted Up And Ready To Go

Wave Goodbye To The Light Of Day For A Little While

Wave Goodbye To The Light Of Day For A Little While

After going on a flying fox zip wire into the complete pitch dark of a cave filled with glow worms, we then sat on the side drinking hot chocolate and eating flapjacks, appreciating the water below us and why they call it black water rafting (you couldn’t really tell if it was water below you, or a big drop into black nothingness). We then got given our rafting equipment (a rubber ring) and made the graceful jump sitting in your ring into the “refreshing” water (we weren’t allowed to say it was “bloody freezing”).

The next couple of hours we spent navigating the caves in our rings, appreciating the pretty awesome sight of the glow worms (which had some of the magic taken out of it when we were told they were just maggots with glowing poo), taking photos with muddy cat whiskers on our faces, doing “drunken” walking (walking through the caves stumbling on the uneven ground), squeezing through the odd hole, climbing up waterfalls, dodging past eels and generally exploring all the cave had to offer. After 3 hours underground we resurfaced, pretty cold, but pretty happy with the adventure.

Pretty Cold In Our Rubber Rings, With Mud On Our Faces and Glow Worms Above Us

Pretty Cold In Our Rubber Rings, With Mud On Our Faces and Glow Worms Above Us

Adventure Complete, Psyched To Be Safely Back In Daylight

Adventure Complete, Psyched To Be Safely Back In Daylight

Posted by Laura Mitchell 23:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Lake Taupo – Climbing and Falling

Questionable Roads, Lake Side Camping, Climbing and Free Falling for 15,000ft


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

After Rotorua the three of us navigated our way down to Whanganui Bay to do some climbing. There were only about 3 turnings to remember to get there, yet somehow we managed to go wrong at all of them, with James trailing at the back of the convoy, the only one with a Sat Nav. Ridiculous. Eventually we managed to get there, even after negotiating the questionable road down to the bay (4x4 recommended, but Ron took it in his stride). Even though the campsite had no running water (therefore facing three days of not showering) the location and the view of the lake from my tent made up for it…

My Tent and My View at Whanganui Bay

My Tent and My View at Whanganui Bay

The next three days we spent climbing round the area; highlights including leading my first 21 (though then being unable to lead a 17 showing just how wildly inconsistent my climbing ability is at the moment!) and doing an epic multi pitch 16 on trad called “Tibia” (which involved being shoved in awkward chimneys, catching Nathans sunglasses out of midair on the second pitch, having a unexplainable panic whilst bridging up the third pitch on top rope and almost getting caught short of rope on our abseil back down).

Jammed in a Chimney Climbing at Whanganui Bay

Jammed in a Chimney Climbing at Whanganui Bay

Abseiling Down to a Ledge, Which the Ropes Dont Quite Reach...

Abseiling Down to a Ledge, Which the Ropes Dont Quite Reach...

We spent the evenings huddled in tents or cars trying to stay out the wind and chatting to other climbers. I also rather luckily managed to replace my shoes seeing as mine had holes in the toes. A girl at the campsite had the same shoes as mine, in my size, used once and too small for her in the back of her car. So I bought them off her, pretty lucky for both of us.

After three days of climbing and not washing (other than a VERY quick swim in the lake with Grupple the rope in an attempt to give him a bath) we were pretty ready to get back to running water. So next on the agenda was Taupo, where we set up at a hostel called Rainbow Lodge. From there I booked my Sky Dive, the main reason I was there (other than to shower).

After a sleepless night in a 4 person shared dorm (1 very loud snorer, 3 unhappy awake people) I was on my way to the airport (a shed and a plane in a field) to do my Sky Dive. After a brief DVD introduction, deciding what kind of extortionate media we wanted to pay for, putting on our jumpsuits and harnesses, meeting our Tandem partners and grabbing an attractive hat/goggles combo. We were all shoved in the plane (literally sat on top of one another) and on our way climbing to 15,000ft.

Nerves didn’t really start to kick in until suddenly the plane door opens, you take off your oxygen mask and you think to yourself “frig I’m about to jump out a plane! I’m sure its not logic to be doing this… Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, turn and smile at the camera, don’t look out the door, don’t look out the door, OH MY GOD IM FALLING OUT A PLANE!”

Smile at The Camera, Dont Think About Jumping out the Plane

Smile at The Camera, Dont Think About Jumping out the Plane

After several confusing seconds of tumbling around, getting used to the wind in your face, figuring out how to breath and trying to cope with how fast your travelling, you’re the right way up again and just continuing to fall. Then the camera man comes to take some shots (in my case you ignore him for a bit trying to look down, even though the instructor is trying to get you to look up into the camera), then you flail your arms around a bit, have a brief stint of pretending to be super man, then your parachute gets pulled and the fall is over (65 seconds in total, but it feels like its about 20)

Few Seconds of Tumbling and Disorientation

Few Seconds of Tumbling and Disorientation

Free Falling from 15,000ft and Having Fun. Honest.

Free Falling from 15,000ft and Having Fun. Honest.

Pull the Chute and the Free Fall is Over

Pull the Chute and the Free Fall is Over

You then spend the next 10 minutes or so parachuting down to the landing pad and actually being able to take in the beautiful scenery. You also get to experience the brief second of pure terror when your tandem partner loosens your harness without telling you and you think your about to drop off him, and then having a bit of mild manic laughter. Then its time to lift up your legs, land and recover.

Finally you all sit and watch the DVD, cry a bit over how much money you just paid to free fall for a minute (but know that really, it was worth it), pick up your “free t-shirt” (most expensive free t-shirt in the world) and then go and sit and doze in a field all afternoon, looking and the sky and remember falling through it.

Posted by Laura Mitchell 22:18 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Rotorua

Hells Gates, The Smell of Rotten Eggs, Rafting, A Face Full of Water, Mountain Biking, Exhaustion


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

After leaving Bryce’s campsite we spent the next hour or two driving to Rotorua. We arrived mid morning and spent some time sitting in a café (where I experienced Eggs Benedict for the first time) whilst we perused the millions of leaflets we got from tourist information trying to decide what to do.

From there we were picked up by Nat (Nathans friends friend) and even though we had never met him before, and gave him about 5 minutes warning that we were arriving; he offered us a place to stay. After we settled into our temporary home, Nathan and I drove to Hells Gates where we checked out the volcanic activity Rotorua is famous for. We put our feet in hot mud pools, wandered round the volcanic areas, did a bit of carving (how that is related to volcanic activity I don’t know) and generally enjoyed the smell of rotten eggs. Afterwards we headed home, had a bbq and drank beer, pretty good.

Mud Volcano at Hells Gates

Mud Volcano at Hells Gates

The next day we decided to do something a bit more active and headed out to do some white water rafting. The highlights included heading down a 7ft waterfall and “surfing” at the bottom of rapids whilst sitting at the front of the boat to get a face full of waterfall. We even managed to not flip the boat (which I was actually mildly disappointed at…). Afterwards we headed back home and in the evening I managed to fit in a game of touch rugby playing for Nats’ team. Pretty active day.

Rafting Down a 7ft Waterfall

Rafting Down a 7ft Waterfall

Just Recovering From Putting Our Faces in a Waterfall

Just Recovering From Putting Our Faces in a Waterfall

The next day was even MORE active when we decided to head out and do some mountain biking. Now normally I’m a bit scared going off a curb on my bike, so I wasn’t sure if mountain biking was going to be a bit beyond me, but thought I would give it a go. At the beginning I met with some trouble (i.e. I was terrified) and had some unhelpful shouting conversations’ with Nathan;
L: I don’t want to go down this hill!
N: Its OK your halfway down, you just need to take your feet off the floor and pedal!
L: I am aware of the logic of cycling Nathan!! I am just. Really. SCARED! I’m getting off my bike…
Anyway after about 2 hours in I was too exhausted to care anymore and actually started to cycle down the downhill sections without being too horrified. I only fell off once (which wasn’t really a fall as I was going pretty slow, my wheel got trapped on a log and I took a relatively slow motion tumble to the side) but by the end I was pretty bruised just from being in a saddle for 5 hours!

Cycling down a hill, about to get scared and get off my bike (its steeper than it looks honest...)

Cycling down a hill, about to get scared and get off my bike (its steeper than it looks honest...)

Nathan Cycling Across a Log (Pressure not to fall in the river)

Nathan Cycling Across a Log (Pressure not to fall in the river)

After I dismounted the bike I realised I couldn’t walk properly, had bruised hands from gripping the bike handles so tight, was completely exhausted and had to hobble back to the car. Even that, combined with being massively scared going downhill, it was still worth it! Would definitely recommend biking in Rotorua, the trails were pretty awesome.

Anyway after a hard days biking, we are now headed to some hot pools to soothe away our aches and pains…

Posted by Laura Mitchell 21:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Some Standard Tourist Stops, Then Back to Climbing

Bay of Islands, Invisible Dolphins, Kauri Coast, Mount Maunganui, Wharepapa


View October 2011- July 2012 on Laura Mitchell's travel map.

My first stop on my solo journey was the Bay of Islands; so I drove to Paihia, the “Gateway to the Bay of Islands” and stayed at a nice hostel called Mousetrap. The owner there recommend I do some kind of boat tour around the bay, so after an afternoon chilling on the beach I settled on booking a swim with dolphins tour the next day. Tomorrow came and it was beautiful, calm and sunny, apparently ideal condition for dolphin spotting. So after having a speech on what to do when we found dolphins (don’t touch them, be playful in the water but don’t jump in etc) we then spent four hours driving round the bay not seeing a single one (which was a bit disappointing after being told we had a 98-99% chance of spotting them). So a bit of a waste of time, though a scenic waste of time nonetheless. I then spent the rest of the afternoon driving to the Kauri coast and settled in a random campsite by a random lake for the night.

Bay of Islands- Note the complete lack of Dolphins

Bay of Islands- Note the complete lack of Dolphins

The next day was spent driving through the rest of the Kauri coast (though nothing that note worthy other than a nice stopover for lunch in a place called Martins Bay and another stop to look at a big tree, not very exciting) and along to the Coromandel Peninsula. Whilst in the area I stayed in an expensive, but nice, campsite right on hot water beach, and walked to Cathedral Cove. All very Picturesque and nice, but getting a bit restless and wanted to do some climbing! So the next stop was to drive along the coast to meet Nathan and James at Mount Maunganui next to Tauranga.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

After spending ages driving up and down the same road over and over to find the campsite Nathan was parked up in, I was back with the others. We spent the first evening up on the mount doing some climbing (it was raining all day and then just as we were driving to the Rockhouse indoor wall the sun started blazing, so we quickly changed plans and I’m glad we did, it was a nice evenings climbing, even if some of it was mildly terrifying). The next day James went on his way and Nathan went to an air show. So I chilled out on the beach until the afternoon, when Nathan and I went back to the Mount to eat ice cream (best ice cream ever) and do some more climbing.

End of the day at Mount Maunganui

End of the day at Mount Maunganui

The next day we drove further south for an hour and a half to get to Wharepapa, where we joined up with some climbers Nathan had met at Mount Maunganui. They showed us the way to a crag called Froggart where I spent all day trying to crank up routes on pockets, failing, watching another girl take a nasty fall onto her back onto a ledge, and generally getting massively de-psyched. After a night camping in a school ground behind a climber orientated café called Bryce’s (only $4 a night!) we hit another crag called Waipapa. Filled with renewed hopes I was soon de-psyched again when I got stuck on some low grade climbing, even an awesome traversey climb called “The Arches” did nothing to re-motivate me due to some tricky crack climbing putting me off before I got to the good bit. Anyway of course there was good climbing too, but at this point was definitely in need of some confidence boosting, and a shower.

The next day we went to a crag called Sheriden, where I finally managed to do a number of clean leads (and only one epic fail). We even managed to fit in a little bit of faff when we climbed up a pinnacle like climb and had to faff around a bit to abseil back down and take photos of each other. All in all a good day, with the added benefit of not being attacked by the heard of sinister looking cows on the way out. Now after several days climbing we have decided its time for a rest day and so tomorrow we are heading to Rotorua.

Waiting to Climb and Preparing for Faff

Waiting to Climb and Preparing for Faff

Abseiling at Sheriden

Abseiling at Sheriden

Posted by Laura Mitchell 00:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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