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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Ash slide
09/03/2008

The far side of the crater then descends steeply, and the slope is covered in thick ash, along with small fragments of volcanic rock. The easiest way to walk down is to dig your heels in deep at each step; it took me half the slope to get a grip on this technique.
This photo, from the bottom looking up, doesn't really show how steep it is. If you slip (which I did), you just slide a way on your bottom. So long as you stay on the ridge, it's not too bad actually; the ash is lovely and warm after the cold climb. But it creates a small rockslide for the people below which isn't so good.
And there are lots of people! There must have been over 1000 people on the crossing that day, and that's far from unusual. Tourists are bussed in and chucked out into this harsh terrain, and collected the other end. One lass I talked to (a young Swede) didn't even realise she was walking on an active volcano. I was probably one of the slowest walkers that day (a combination of unfitness and a perennial desire to look around, stroke bits of lichen, contemplate the rocks, take pictures and so on.) But I was properly equipped; I saw people in that icy cloud in glittery plimsolls and beach shorts. Not happy people, I have to say.
This track costs a fortune to maintain. Theoretically the bus companies give part of their fee (typically $30) to DOC for this cost, but nothing requires them to do so, or charges the individual tramper. We both think that NZ needs to think of a way of charging tourists, particularly rich world visitors, for their use and abuse of the country's environment.

Places and people
Red crater
09/03/2008

This is obviously named after the stunning colours of the rock from the minerals coughed up through the huge chimney vent.
The lip of the crater gets very narrow as it climbs a few more meters, to 1886m, the highest point of the crossing. This was probably the most alarming part of the whole walk, because it was very windy at this point. I crouched and waddled the 100m or so in an ungainly way, which felt more stable than a striding walk!

Places and people
Ngaurohoe veiled
09/03/2008

At the top, I ate a sandwich and waited a while. Even so, this was the best I saw of Ngaurohoe, and I never saw Tongariro peak at all! Through the clouds I could see glimpses of the plains below spreading east.
From here there's a flattish plain which narrows as it passes the next crater.

Places and people
Sarah's volcano climb
Sarah
09/03/2008

Sarah decided to tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is billed as the best one-day hike in NZ, an 18.5km (about 11 mile) walk up one side of Tongariro and down the other. It's said to be challenging, and this day it really was. Starting at 0630, the bus dropped me (and a few others from the campsite, who rapidly left me behind) off at the road end below Ngaurapoe. This is perhaps 1100m high. The first 100 minutes are pretty easy: a gentle climb through low bush developing into alpine bog. Much of the bog has a boardwalk across it, protecting the fragile plants. It was cloudy as we started, cleared for a short while, and then the clouds rolled back up the valley with a vengeance. Ruapehu shrugged off his duvet, rolled one eye at the sun and then pulled it back over his head. I didn't see him again all day.
From Soda Springs the climb begins. A long haul called variously the Devil's or the Giant's Staircase clambers up the first saddle. It is technically a walk, but there's a lot of scrambling involved. For me, it was very, very slow! But I got there in the end.
At the top of the staircase, there's a side track to the top of Ngaurahoe; it was very foggy at this point, and I felt I was getting exercise enough. So I set off across the South Crater. This stretch is as flat as a pancake and as devoid of life as any desert; by now I was high above the treeline, and only lichens were present. Mind you, it was so foggy there could have been forests out there and I wouldn't have known.
On the far side, begins the last bit of climb. This goes up bare rocks, made slippery by the clouds. Gradually the path narrows and narrows; as the cloud got thinner, I could catch glimpses of precipitous drops to both sides. Some parts of the path are slender walkways along the edges of the rocks. There are no ropes to hang on to, and it's not a place for people with vertigo. The wind was icy, cutting through layers of clothing; it seemed most unfair to be smothered with cloud but knifed by wind.
At the top is the signpost for the summit peak of Tongariro, and the pic is proof I made it!

Places and people
Pip's wilderness adventure
08/03/2008

On Friday Sarah took a writing day and Pip went off to the Whakapapa and Whakepapaiti valleys on her own for a six-hour hike. On the way she entered the Hauhungatahi wilderness, with lots of amazing bog life and stunning views of the mountains. She enjoyed it and was glad it was only six hours. Her feet steamed when she put them in water at the other end.
We had two nights in the Discovery Lodge at Tongariro, to have power and do the washing. This place has stunning views, and on Saturday night they had an excellent BBQ on the deck looking across the central plateau at the sunset.

Places and people
In training
07/03/2008

Sarah took a fully loaded pack including tent on this walk as further practice. It's actually only about 10kg so far, but there's no food in there!

Places and people
Gold and silver: iron and silica
07/03/2008

On Thursday, Sarah got the bus south and Pip met her at National Park. (This is the name of the little settlement, which is basically back-packers and ski-lodges.) We drove back up towards Whakapapa, and spent the night at the Mangahuia DOC site (Pip's second night there.) The next day we walked up the river. On the way, we crossed what are known as the Golden Rapids, where the water is stained brown and yellow (gold in the right angle of sunlight) with iron oxide off the mountains.
Climbing above the tree line into alpine bog takes you towards these amazing rapids. The white aluminium-silicate clay is washed down from the peaks, where the silica is created by the heat of the volcanic action. Where the water runs fast, it becomes aerated and the minerals 'fall' out of it to be deposited in these blinding shelves.

Places and people
Mt Ruapehu
04/03/2008

This is another place of which we have loads of photos. Here is Mount Ruapehu, the largest volcano in NZ.

Places and people
Astonishing volcanoes
04/03/2008, Mangahuia DOC site

The Tongariro Park is named after the northernmost summit of three related volcanoes, Ruapehu, Ngaurahoe and Tongariro. Between Ruapehu and the other two is a high table land, called the Central Plateau. This itself is largely above the tree line, at about 900m plus altitude.
The Maori story has it that a tohunga (priest, shaman) in the great explorations of the North Island, climbed Ruapehu. At the top he was freezing and in great danger. He called out to his sisters in Hai'wiki (the ancestral home of the exploring Polynesians) for the gift of fire. Round the Pacific Rim came the fire, putting subterranean power beneath the mountains. The volcanoes are still very much active.
This is Mt Ngaurahoe (the cone on the right) and Mt Tongariro, taken from the part of the park around Mangahuia, below the village of Whakapapa.

Places and people
Oystercatchers and Pipi
02/03/2008, Miranda

From Thames we drove around the coast to Miranda, where there is a beautiful open beach. Quite a few vans free-park along there for the shell-fishing, but it is such a big beach that it was quiet. This picture looks east to the Coromandel peninsula, but the setting sun is reflected on the clouds.
Miranda is a great beach for shells and before we left we collected quite a few.
From here, we went our separate ways for a few days. Sarah wanted to visit museums in Auckland, but Pip really dislikes the city and ran south to Tongariro National Park.

Places and people
More mining history
01/03/2008, Coromandel

In the morning we drove across the neck of the peninsula to Coromandel, another town which owes its size to mining, although now it sustained by tourism. This building, once a bank, with an assay office at the back, is now a shop selling fishing bait and tackle.
The charm of the sacred matai has worn off and it's pouring with rain as we write this in a holiday park in Thames. We were going to go to the tip of Coromandel, a fairly empty and inviting place, but not when there's gale force northerlies and heavy rain forecast for the next few days. So we've tucked in here for tonight, and had a yummy dinner of fine port (the butchers in Whangamata) marinaded in an excellent Pip-invented mixture using some of our new macadamia nut oil. We hope it will clear enough to walk in the kauri forests tomorrow.

Places and people
Above Cathedral Cove
29/02/2008, Hahei

We drove up the spectacular road the stretches the east coast of the peninsula. Along the way we turned down to visit the Hot Springs Beach, Hahei and Cook's Landing. This is a sweet corner of NZ, full of character and interest; you could easily spend a week or more here, rather than the one day we allowed.
One of our serendipitous finds was the macadamia nut orchard, where we satisfied our curiosity about the price of these scrummy nuts. They're a lot of work! The orchard, in the process of going organic, produces some lovely nuts and dressings (including some which are gluten free). See www.cathedralcovermacadmias.co.nz.
From Hahei, you can walk to the Cathedral Cove, but on this very hot day we decided against it. This view looks south across Hahei Bay, one of the lovely local beaches.
Hei was the sailing master of the Te Atawa canoe which followed Kupe (the Maori discoverer of Aotearoa) here, and he settled in this bay. There are two pa sites at the further end of the beach.
We found a quiet spot to freepark in Whangapoua, a tiny village on the edge of an estuary tucked into the northern eastern corner of the peninsula. It is reached across acres of salt marsh, and has a very nice little fishing jetty and a pretty sailing yacht on her mooring buoy in the stream. Although it was a wild and windy night, we were very secure.

Places and people

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