Tongariro II - Love is a Volcano

Trip Start Jun 25, 2003
Trip End Sep 2004

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Monday, August 11, 2003

Greetings from the land of the "long white cloud", Maori name for New Zealand - and unfortunaltely quite appropriate. It's been a cold week or so since we've been here but despite the sometime cloudy, rainy weather we've been enjoying the North Island.
We began in Auckland - just to get ourselves organized for both New Zealand and the whole trip in general. We scored amazing around the world tickets, I won't bore you with details but those of you planning similar trips may want to know more and should email Janice, as usual I really don't understand what's going on and let her stay in charge of tickety bits and the like.
Leaving Auckland we packed up our stuff into a brand new 1972 Mazda Familia, white with off white racing strips, in trunk spoiler. We have christened the familia "pokey". This is not like calling a fat man "tiny", unfortunately our up hill speed maxs at 40mph. We have a sign in the rear window apologizing to other drivers and asking for an occasional push. But hey beggers can't be choosers and this way we can enjoy the scenery at a more leisurely pace. Lots of sheep to see after all.
So off to see exciting wonderful things like - supermarkets, our budget doesn't allow eating out so I am getting creative with tuna.
Then reallly off to see things - first thing was the Waitomo glowworm caves. This is, yes you guessed it, a cave full of worms that glow. Actually kind of cool, like lightning bugs that don't move, or shut off. So not really lightning bugs more like 40 watt light bulb bugs. The strange thing is when we bought tickets for this they asked "would you like the tour wet or dry" in true Kiwi fashion nothing can be simply enjoyed as is. After al they did invent the bungy jump etc. So instead of just looking at glowing bits of wormy things you can don a wet suit and go flying through the undewater rapids through the caves and catch glimpsesof glowing wormy things as you rocket past. As much as Janice wanted to do this we chose "dry".
Yesterday we had one of our better days here in the North Island winter (not that our tour of the honey hive wasn't spectacular). We are currently staying in Tongariro National Park which is a nice way of saying at the base of an active volcano that the Kiwis like to ski down.. The major activiy we came here for is the Tongariro plateau crossing. A hike at 8000 feet between the two active volcanoes. Now since it is winter it's a bit tricky what with sudden snow storms and falling lava, kind of like Into Thin Air meets Joe Vs. the Volcano. But we got lucky and yesterday the weather cleared and we managed to do the crossing. It was very cool actually, one of the volcanoes was used as Mt. Doom in "The Lord of the Rings" movies. I kept pointing out Orcs to Janice but she was always too slow and missed them. Beside the Orcs the coolest part was strapping crampons onto our hiiking boots and using our ice axes to get up one of the ridges to cross over an active crater. We hiked along stuff like this all day, it was a blast - not literally the volcano never went off.
Next off to Napier and the New Zealand wine country before heading to the South Isand where things should continue to get more scenic and adventuresome. I'll be happy to leave this volcanic area actually. It smells like sulpher from all the hot springs and Janice keeps blaming it on me.

P.S. Sorry about all the email alerts you may have received but we finally got all of our best South Pacific pictures uploaded, except for the amazing fire boy video which will be coming soon to a theater near you.
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