Thursday, October 22, 2015

Taupo and Wellington, New Zealand

On our way down to Taupo from Rotorura on September 30, we stopped over at a large obstacle course called Rock 'n Ropes. It was a rope course with 6 increasingly difficult feats. Marc bravely volunteered to go first for each (whew).

1. Tight rope line with one safety rope on the side (scoot along sideways)
2. Tight rope line with two safety ropes on either side (walking forwards and backwards)
3. A shaky suspension bridge (no holds)
4. A long and narrow log (no holds)
5. Jump from the top of a tall pole to grab a trapeze
6. Giant swing where you jump from a tower

My strategy was not to look down and to try to do things as fast as possible, so that I wouldn't freak out, chicken out, pass out, or fall off :)

Me on rope course #1
Marc on #3.
Marc on #4.
Marc on #5, probably the scariest! You stand on top of that pole and jump for the trapeze on the right.

We then stopped over to see Huka Falls, an extremely aqua blue falls that feeds in from Lake Taupo. 

But the real reason we were in Taupo was to tramp the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is an all-day 19.4 km or 12.1 miles hike that take 6-9 hours to complete. It goes from 1100 meters or 3600 feet elevation up to a peak of 1886 meters or 6188 feet elevation and down the other side of the mountain. The terrain is volcanic with the last eruption taking place in 2012. At this time of the year —early spring— there was still a lot of snow on the peaks. We woke up very early at 4:15am, geared up with all our warmest clothes, and rented gloves, hiking boots, and snow crampons. We parked our car at the end of the hike (Ketetahi car park), and took a shuttle to go to the start of the hike (Mangatepopo car park) at around 7am. The car park was basically empty, and we only saw 3 or 4 hikers on the way up. The weather forecast predicted a low cloud cover and some wind, but the clouds were even lower than expected, so it was foggy most of the time execpt at the very beginning of the hike.

Walking into the mist.

The hike is very well marked, and the beginning of it even has nice winding boardwalks for easy walking. At the top of the Devil's Staircase (oof) is South Crater, which was completely covered in snow and wind became stronger. As we tramped through the snow, we noticed that it would be quite easy to get lost because it was impossible to see the next sign post due to fog without venturing out into the all-white cloud. Spinning around, it felt like being in a large silent all-white room.

Crampons were essential for walking on the snow and ice.

We got to the base of the Red Crater (the highest peak of the hike) and the wind was now blowing even harder. Several times I was pushed over into the snowbank. A guide from another group chased us down and told us it was too dangerous to go any further, since winds were estimated to be 100 km/h or 60 mph at the peak. I felt mountain-delirious and really wanted to just get to the top, but Marc wisely talked me out of the idea. We ate our packed lunches and retraced our steps all the way back down the mountain. By this time, the fog had lifted a bit, and we were able to see the beautiful alpine scenery, which I only half enjoyed, feeling grumpy for not having crossed over, haha. 

The next day, we took the 5-6 hour drive down to Wellington, stopping over in Paraparaumu, a seaside village for a short walk on the beach.

In Wellington, we met up with my high school friend Christie's older sister, Julie and her husband Paul. It was great to catch up and get insight into the city from locals. We visited Zealandia, a cool bird sanctuary in the middle of the city. 

Great to see Julie and meet Paul!

New Zealand is originally predominately populated by birds, with only a small fruit bat mammal and some smaller lizard and frog species. They had one set of birds called the Takahē that were thought to be extinct, but were re-discovered, and are now in a breeding program. The two who were in the park were a paired couple and were 20 years old! They looked like dinosaur birds. 

They also had some interesting reptiles called Tuataras, which don’t start breeding until 14-20 years of age and can live up to 100 years old.

Marc loves viewpoints, so we went up to Mount Victoria (which is probably the third peak or mountain named "Victoria" on this trip so far).

Finally, we left Wellington on October 4 by taking the ferry (with our rental car) to the South Island, which is a 70 km / 43 miles trip taking about 3 or 4 hours.

Next up, Abel Tasman hike...

No comments:

Post a Comment