Working on the most active volcano on earth
Trip Start Sep 21, 2009
19Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Staff Lodge, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts
So we waved good bye to the City of Sails in typical New Zealand style, absolutely bucketing down with rain. We said goodbye to our new found Auckland friends and our lovely apartment in which forever Tim and I will be the first people to live in.
After working seven days a week since January I deserved a week off and could not wait to take our van for a drive. We had six days to get to the mountain and the north of New Zealand to explore. We were ready to camp and once again live a more "backpacker" lifestyle
I being a self confessed guidebook freak had ticks and stars next to quite a few things in the lonely planet. We also had no real plans or commitments and given the windy windy roads to come this was a good thing.
First stop was a tiny village called Puhoi – a village founded by German bohemian peasants in 1860. They had some beautiful old buildings and a rather bizarre pub with lots of wood chopping memorabilia on the walls. We then stooped at the McKinney Kauri, a giant of a tree that is 800 years old. They had a really nice walk there going through rainforest with lots of amazing ferns. Luckily for us the rain had stopped and we were both happy to be in the wilderness and out of the city. Then it was off to Goat Island. A really special place as it was declared a marine reserve in 1978, making the area a haven for fish. I thought it was great but also annoying as there are massive snapper just swimming around teasing you, begging to be caught. We have decided to head back there is summer for some snorkelling as I think you can only appreciate the area from under the water. We left Auckland quite late and now it was dark. We needed somewhere to park the van but weren’t sure where to stay. We decided to press on to Paihia, the gateway to the Bay of Islands
It was a bit of a hard decision where to spend the night. The whole time we have been in New Zealand there has been a lot of discussion regarding freedom campers, which is their name for people like us who park places and camp for free. We decided that as have a discreet looking van and are quiet, clean people we would not have any problems, and we were right. We parked right on the main street of Paihia and did not have one problem. We awoke to a beautiful, if not misty view and then wandered around and explored the town. The main attraction in the Bay of Islands is not surprisingly the bay. I always imagined myself sailing the bay under full sail and given the mist and the fact it was now winter we decided to wait to part 100 dollars each for a boat trip until the summer time. We wanted to check out where they signed the Treaty of Waitangi but disappointingly it was crazily expensive for travellers (free for kiwis). I was disappointed as I wanted to see the buildings within the grounds but could not justify the price. Instead we went to some waterfalls (Haruru) nearby and then continued on up the coast.
We stopped in at some beautiful small bays, really relaxing places that would be great in summer. We were looking for somewhere to spend the night heading further and further north when we decided it probably wasn’t stupid to drive the whole distance to Cape Reinga the most northerly point of the country accessible by road
After the sun set the mist set in and it was pitch black. We sat down to a gourmet dinner of bread and mushroom soup before setting into a deep sleep at 7pm. We had heard stories about it being a little unsafe sleeping in vans in the north of New Zealand
After speaking on a daily basis with probation officers around the country I had gotten to know some of them quite well over the phone. My favourites were all up north and when I told them we were coming up that way they said we should stop into the office. It was really nice to meet the people we had worked together with over the past six months and they were happy we stopped in for a cup of tea. As they deal with the criminal side of things it was a relief to hear they said we did the right thing in leaving the night before.
That day we drove quite long a time as the roads were super windy
The next day we were up early and on the road as we weren’t really sure where we would stay that night. We knew we had to stop in Auckland as we were going to buy our laptop but weren’t really sure if the roads were going to be straighter than the day before, other wise we knew we would not make it to the Auckland. We also had to stop at two tourist attractions along the way
After the tress next stop we wanted to see were the Kai Iwi Lakes near Dargaville. That was a waste of time as although they looked nice and I am sure its a nice picnic spot and waterskiing area they didn’t really have the wow factor for us. We then pressed on to Auckland and after a quick stop at a Dutch Deli for some dropje we made it to the computer store where we wanted to buy our laptop. In typical Tegan and Tim luck the shop sold the last of the laptop we wanted moments before
It was not even 10 by the time we had bought it and then it was off south to the famous glow-worm caves at Waitomo. We had breakfast along the banks of the Waikato River, the longest in NZ. The town near Waitomo Caves was a bit of a backward place and Tim got grumpy at the simple kiwi that served us in the tourist centre. The caves were worth it though, they were more amazing that we both expected. You walked down into the cave with a guide and then took a boat ride along the river in the pitch black with a roof full of the brightest lights you can imagine. They have sort of spider webs hanging under them to catch their food and when you looked through these webs it looked like the whole roof was these moving lights. A surreal sight. Like always there were plenty activities that could have kept us in the area but unless you have an endless supply of money you have to be careful and pick only the things you want to do
It is now Wednesday and we have been officially “Staffies” for 3 days. First impressions of the staff lodge.....Tims are it was alright but Kiwi. What he means by that is it is really rundown, quite old and I think Kiwis will live somewhere until the place falls down around them. Although its old it has its charms and now its home. Moe importantly we don’t have to cook or clean for ourselves for the next 4 months. We get a cooked breakfast and dinner everyday and so far the food has been surprisingly good. We were inducted into work on Tuesday and I started work that day. Tim started work today and he did his mountain driving training. We learnt how to deal with avalanche and volcanic eruptions. Being a supervisor I have to be a fire warden so walked around today in a vest and looked at fire alarms, all the fun stuff.
Well that’s enough for now. More to come on work here on the mountain and our life in the staff lodge. We are still happy and healthy and miss you all xxxxx