BootsnAll Travel Network

Waterfalls and Mt Doom

I completed my first adventure activity in New Zealand. As I stated in the last entry, I did a kayak trip over a 7 meter waterfall (the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall I might add). I was picked up at the hostel in Rotarua on Saturday and driven to the Kaituna River. I was put into a tandem kayak with me in the front and the guide in the back. After a lesson in kayak paddling and how not to kill myself, we set off with two other rafts full of people. I was the only person electing to take the kayak. I spent the next hour being plunged in and out of one rapid or another, including the very large waterfall. The trip over the waterfall happened very fast and I really didn’t feel anything except a forceful push in the end as I hit the bottom of the waterfall. I believe I did manage to swallow half the river which left me a little concerned about giardia, but so far so good. I bought the CD with the pictures of the trip so that I could actually relive the event and see what happened. It looks very exciting on the CD.

While I was staying in Rotorua, I met a 63 year old German lady named Elke. She was staying in the 4 person share with me and a Swedish couple. It turned out that she was heading to Tongariro and Taupo which were my next destinations. After speaking with her, I asked if she would like to accompany me in the car. I am continually on the lookout for people to share the car’s cost with. She agreed as she wanted a break from the buses for a few days. I thought that was very brave in her case as she barely knew me.

On Sunday, Elke and I set out for Lake Taupo. We stopped at various sight seeing spots along the way. The list including a hot springs sight to watch a geyser which erupts at 10:15 every morning with the help of soap from a park ranger, a series of hot water pools full of different colors from the mineral deposits, and some waterfalls. We made it to Taupo and took a walk to look at the large lake that borders the town.

On Monday, we headed to the town of National Park and checked into the YHA National Park. We made plans to do the Tongariro Crossing on Wednesday as I was supposed to meet up with two British girls that I had met in the Bay of Islands to do the walk with. They were arriving to do the walk on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Elke and I did a hike to some waterfalls behind the hostel. I turned back sooner than she did as I was wearing sandals and the track soon became little more than a muddy trail which was more than my sandals could handle. Upon returning to the hostel, I read until the afternoon and then drove up to the ski resort on Mt Ruapehu which is nearly deserted at this time of year and watched the sunset from high up on the mountain. I returned to the hostel, packed my bag, and planned for the hike the next day. At suppertime, the British girls finally checked in, but had already booked a later bus to the trailhead so we didn’t do the hike together after all.

At 7:00 am the next morning, Elke and I boarded the bus for the trailhead to the Tongariro Crossing. The crossing is one of New Zealand’s most popular one day hikes as it was the filming site for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings. Elke and I started the hike together but agreed to seperate as we wanted to hike at different paces. She wanted to stop and take a lot more pictures than me. The first major challenge of the hike was the Devil’s Staircase which was a very steep ascent to the base of Mt Ngaruhoe (Mt. Doom). The ascent required scrambling over many boulders. I reached the top with my heart hammering in my chest. At this point hikers have the option of climbing Mt Doom. I contemplated it for about 10 minutes but decided against it for two reasons. First, the volcano had last erupted just 12 years ago which was a little recent for my taste, and was currently off gassing again. Secondly, it looked beyond my fitness and skill level as it requires climbing over several 1000 feet of loose rock which if done incorrectly could result in a very long and unpleasant slide.

I continued on through a landscape resembling the surface of the moon with no vegetation in site until I got to the point of the next ascent. I had been passing many people and was starting to leave the crowd behind which was what I wanted. I began the next ascent which was not as steep called the Devil’s Staircase, but was made harder by the fact that by now I was high enough that the ground was covered in ice so it was a little slippery. I made it to the top and was rewarded with panaromic views of the Red Crater and the Emerald Lakes far below me. I was proud of myself as I learned from people hiking in the opposite direction that I was the third person of the day to summit even though my bus got there 20 minutes behind the first bus. I had climbed over 2000 feet in less than three hours, and I felt every bit of it in my legs. I rested on the summit before descending to the Emerald Lakes which required walking down a steep surface full of loose rocks. I soon learned that the best way to descend was to dig my heels in and run down in big steps. The Emerald Lakes were a beautiful green color and occupied old craters. After passing the craters, the last three hours of the hike was uneventful and descended back to the car park through scrub land and finally dense forest. The whole 20 km hike took me about six hours with an hour spent at various rest stops. I did the descent much slower than the ascent as the bus to pick us up wasn’t coming for a few more hours yet. I was quite impressed to discover that Elke was no more than 30 minutes behind me on the hike. I would definitely recommend the hike to anyone visiting New Zealand as the scenery is stunning. It is very hard work though, and should not be attempted unless you are in decent shape. The evening was spent visiting with people at the hostel and telling stories about the hike. I met a man from Lafayette, LA who was visiting his friend in Wellington. He was going to do the crossing today.

This morning I woke up to a sore lower back and legs. I said goodbye to Elke and the other people that I met at the hostel and on the walk. I am driving to Waitomo where I will rappel about 80 feet into the caves tomorrow.

Food: Several people have asked me about the food I am eating. I am afraid it is not that exciting as I am cooking for myself. Elke insisted on cooking for the last few nights and would not let me give her money for food in spite my protests. She is quite a good cook, but she doesn’t like meat, except fish. The first dish she made was a tunafish spaghetti and fruit salad with feta cheese. Another night, she made a potato omlette which left me stuffed. On our last night she cooked steaks for me and another German man that she met at the hostel who will take her to her next destination. Again, I tried to give her money for the food as she had already split some of my car costs with me and she wouldn’t take it. On the tail of such good meals, I have decided to step up on my efforts. Tonight I am going to attempt to make chicken shwarma with some hummus that I bought at the grocery store.

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3 Responses to “Waterfalls and Mt Doom”

  1. Kellie Says:

    I can’t wait to see the pictures! It sounds like you saw some beautiful scenery. Eva says hi.

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. BERYL Says:

    Hi Barry,
    It seems like you don’t meet any stangers! It is sounds like you are having a great time. I don’t think I would have done the kayak, but I am not you. The scenery that you describe sounds beautiful. I would like to visit New Zealand, but that is out, I am afraid to fly. Well keep safe,and we are praying for your safe return.Love Beryl

  4. Ava Says:

    This is my first time reading your blog so I had alot of catching up to do. Sounds like you are having a blast. Your writing is excellent. I feel like I am right there with you. Stay safe.

  5. Posted from United States United States
  6. Joe Says:

    I think “Return of the King” is in order for tonight’s DVD! Take care – let me know if you need anything.

  7. Mark V Says:

    Barry, as always enjoying your updates. I accidently clicked on a “new zealand” link at the bottom of your latest “mt doom”…and it linked my to other travelers. One young lady named Cindy…appears to be trekking the same way as you..latest update puts her close to her updates. Soulmate for you I believe..ha

    hey crazier things happen.

    keep staying safe. Amazed you only have been sick once..

  8. Posted from United States United States
  9. admin Says:

    Cindy appears to be in Omopere at the moment staying at the same place I stayed when I was there. Unfortunately that was three weeks and many hundreds (thousands) of kilometers ago. I am heading to the South Island in a week or so and she is staying on the North Island. Keep on the look out for me though.

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