Monday, April 6th 2009 was the start of my adventure to New Zealand and I was bound for Monteagle House, Twickenham and then catching the 490 bus to Heathrow,Terminal 4 to check in my kit bag and I was carrying my small rucksack and laptop, so very much travelling light as I would be buying some gear in New Zealand and I would gain reading material! Bang on time at 9.30pm I left Heathrow bound for the Lion City – Singapore. After a good flight, but ever so tight seats (thank goodness there was a free seat between me and the young lady travelling back to Singapore from Nice) I arrived at 8.45am (UK time) and 17.05pm Tuesday 7th April local time and thus some 12 hours in the “Air”.
On arriving in Changi Airport, Singapore I went straight to Transfers, was seen in minutes, told and explained how to get to my departure gate and at the same time the clerk also booked me on the Melbourne to Wellington flight and I was also given a boarding pass for this flight. Numerous airport Officials were seen helping passengers with queries. You only needed to look at an information screen and staff asked if they could help. There were electric plugs available at various points to plug in your laptop and use the internet. Internet screens were seen all around with the connection being free. Instruction leaflets were available detailing how to surf wirelessly! There were also two free internet screens in your gate boarding lounge. In the Wanderlust Awards (2009) the airport is voted number one in the world, a position it has retained since the awards began, and I would certainly agree with this.
The journey from Singapore to Melbourne on a Boeing 747-400 was a good one with dinner and a light breakfast being served in the 6hrs journey. I got into Melbourne on Wednesday 8th April at 4am local time and then it was a 3.5hrs onward journey in a Boeing 737-800 to Wellington. Here I had lunch and was able to look down on snow covered Mt. Cook and many other mountains, valleys and rivers as we flew over South Island. I have been in the “AIR” for a total of 22hrs with all flights being on time. I enjoyed the following films and did some reading but did not sleep:
• Revolution Road
• Body of Lies.
Stuart was at Wellington Airport at 17.00pm to meet me and take me to our Homestay, B&B where we had drinks and canapés with Leisha, the proprietor. The B&B is in a lovely location on Evans Bay and we got a lift into town from John (a cousin of Leisha) and had a lovely meal in Monsoon Poon. We got a taxi back home. We had some wine and we were in bed by 12.30am.
Our alarm went of at 6.45am on Thursday 9th April and before breakfast it was an early morning brisk walk to the top Mt. Victoria and from here you saw the city below, the stunning harbour and surrounding rolling hills. In the woods on this mountain side was where terrified hobbits hid from Black Riders but none were around today! After a lovely breakfast from Leisha we were on our way, did a shop for "essentials" at New World, before heading north on the SH1 by way of Levin and at Bulls we went onto the SH3 to Wanganui. A short distance out of the town we stopped for lunch. Before Wanganui and after the town we were facinated by the numbers of small and large glacial mounds we saw; miles and miles of them. Trees were sheading their leaves and lovely autumn colours were in view. Numerous poplars were seen, many planted in straight lines but others having grown wild. We were now on the SH4 by the mighty Whanganui River and this timeless river finds its origin high on Mt Tongariro, starting as an alpine stream and gathering waters from Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. As it decends through the central volcanic plateau it sweeps in a hugh northern arc towards Taumaranui, then winding its way to its exit into the Tasman Sea at Wanganui. It is the first big river we see and we are fascinated by it.
We are bound for the Tongariro National Park where we are staying in the National Park Village at the National Park Backpackers for three nights. This accommodation was recommended to us by Veronica and we so much enjoyed our stay here. We did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on Friday 10th April and enjoyed every minute of it. A fall of snow two days earlier covered all the mountains and it was just a magic tramp. I never saw so many people on a walk. We met a lovely and very fit English girl called Kay at breakfast (now living in NZ and loving it) who walked with us and had done the walk the previous year. She was so impressed with her first walk that she was back for a second time. This is a 17kms tramp and we did it in 6hrs. 40 minutes, starting the walk at 7.50am and finishing at 2.30pm. Along the way we chatted to people from all over the world who were here, like us to do this famous alpine crossing. A bus took us to the start of the walk and at 3pm took us back where we enjoyed a pint or two at the Schnapps Bar. Our evening meal was at The Station Café, Bar & Restaurant which was excellent. Here we enjoyed our meal with Kay and Maria, a girl who was on holiday in NZ from Canada.
I am up at 5.30am to go through my kit, plan the route for the next part of our journey and decide on a route we could take if we were to climb Mt Ruapehu and what were the alternatives for the day if we could not? Kay was going kayaking on the Whanganui River and had offered us the opportunity to do likewise but we had chickened out due to lack of experience in such an activity. We had wanted to have a go at getting to the top of Mt. Ruapehu at 2,797m, the highest point on the North Island, but on checking this out first thing at the chair lift on Thursday 9th April we were told the top was ice bound and as we were not fully equipped for snow and ice activities we decided to return to Whakapapa village, park our car and then walk to the two Tama Lakes, some 17kms there and back. The Tama Lakes occupy old explosion craters on the Tama Saddle between Mr Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe so another wonderful tramp was in store for us. It was a lovely day once again so we set of at 10.45 am and firstly visit the Tawhai Falls which tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow. At 12.30pm we had reached the Lower Lake. Here we had a short break for lunch with just stunning views all around. At 1.15pm we were looking down onto the Upper Lake with its lovely blue water. For the first time cloud had lifted from Mt. Ngauruhoe 2,291m (Mt. Doom) and we just stared at it in all its glory. On our way back the views of Mt. Ruapehu were just stunning. By 3.30pm we were back to our car, another lovely day spent in this stunning part of NZ. There is so much to do and see here that you could spend two weeks and not see all of it. Today Sunday 12th April we move on by way of SH47, SH41 (very briefly), SH1, and SH5 to Turangi, Taupo, and Rotorua to our destination at Ngongotaha where we are staying with Lyndsay and Graham Butcher at Lakeside Lodge. This is just a lovely country.