Geothermal Activity, Tramping, and Reflections En Route to Welly

Dec 3
So I just went to write the date and wrote 3/12 and then realized that since that is the metric way of writing the date friends at home might get confused. I’ve always thought the metric system made more sense in many ways and so I have started using it quite a lot. I’ve learned diving in metersm and Barr, do the date as day month year, often speak of temperatures in Celsius (although this is the hardest for me because it was almost always the same temp in Fiji) and even according to Ian have affected a light English/Aussie lilt to certain phrases and certainly have adopted many of their phrases and terms. I think this makes me sound Canadian more than anything.

Anyways enough of my random rant. This morning I went to Waiotapu Geothermal Area which is about a 20 minute drive (and $20 shuttle!) outside of Rotorua. It was incredibly. The morning started off seeing the largest hot mud pool in the world after Yellowstone (which makes me really want to go there), it’s just kind of bizarre to see mud bubbling and spitting and moving all about. Then we went and saw a geyser shoot about 20 feet into the air, again just a very odd thing to see. Finally we got to the park.

I really liked this park. The paths were really nice and well maintained with quite a bit of shade and then benches to rest on. Including a lot of time taking pictures and some time resting the whole park probably took me a little under 2 hours. It was very pretty and varied. The colors of the pools was simply unbelievable: pastel greens, yellows, orange, aqua, deep green. It would have seemed very other worldly but all you had to do was look up and around and there was forest and grassy hills. The sinkholes were part were pretty itense thought looking like a demolition zone. Because of the sulphur it was a little smelly and the “hot” part did make it pretty warm when the steam blew onto you, but it was definitely worth it. Oh and on the bus I met a really nice guy from the Netherlands

Once I got back I ate some lunch. I’ve started buying food at the supermarket and using hostel kitchens, which are super nice here, to save money. Then I headed into town to Kathmandu a store similar to REI with lots of discounts. I asked an employee for her advice for clothing for the Tangariro Crossing and ended up buying a base thermal layer (black long johns that can double as leggings plus a t-shirt that I can wear as such), a hat, and some thick hiking socks (which will be good for e-team in the winter).

I had intended on walking all around the lake but as this point I just couldn’t be bothered so I just walked to the edge and say on a bench and started reading my travel guides. I suppose the best thing of planning ahead is not having to waste a lot of time figuring out what to do on vacation when you could actually be doing something. But then again, planning on the fly allows for input from locals and fellow travelers as well as flexibility. Plus it’s kind of challenging in some ways. After a few hours in the sun I headed for McDs for an ice cream and free wifi. Then to pack up all my bags and head to the bus to Taupo.

On the bus I met up with a woman from Finland that I kept seeing at Waiotapu but hadn’t actually talked to. Turns out she’s traveling alone as well and has pretty much the same itinerary. So we’re going to try to hike the crossing tomorrow. Hopefully she’s okay with my slow pace. I’m a little worried it’s going to be really crowded, but nonetheless it should be fun. Speaking of I need to go to bed since pick up is at 5:30 from the hostel.

December 4
Wow! Just wow and so tired! I hiked to Mt. Ngauruhoe summit today popularly known as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. And I sure did think I would meet my doom of the journey. The entire hike took me seven and a half hours, there and back from the Tongariro Crossing. Just a side note when I did the crossing one of the volcanoes had recently erupted so part of the trail was closed so for us it was an in and out kind of trail.

I actually didn’t even want to hike the mountain when we got to the base of the trail. At that point I had already been hiking for an hour 50 minutes and was tired and sore. The first bit was mostly easy and certainly scenic following a mountain stream, but also they had a killer set of stairs. And i thought the stairs were difficult. So I wanted to hike the smaller peak instead plus all of the warnings on the hike seemed scary. But my spur of the moment buddy really wanted to and I didn’t want to leave and so I found myself hiking up a dormant volcano that had lots of warnings about how not to attempt if you are really fit, that the trail would be unmarked, and there would be parts of it hiking on loose stones.

The first part of the hike wasn’t bad. It was a nice little trail, well marked, gentle incline plus some stairs. But the. It all started to change. Suddenly the trail was unmarked and you were climbing/hiking among big rocks, pulling yourself up a very steep incline. First there was still some vegetation, but then as it got progressively windier and colder it was just you, the rocks of various sizes, and a few other hikers. There was no path, rather you just kind of looked at the top of the mountain, the landscape directly ahead, and where others had gone before and tried to pick the best way.

It was very tiring and very steep. Better yet the rocks are sharp so you are reluctant to grab them and some are loose. There were several points during this part where I seriously considered turning back. I even would vocalize it to my fellow hikers but they would convince me of how far I had already gone. And so I kept going, with legs aching, very tired. And quite concerned about how going down would go.

Then the “trail” got worse. Rather than sand between the big rocks there was little loose rocks so with almost every step you slid back a little. However, you would turn around and see the most amazing views. Of course then it got even worse. Next to a big patch of snow there was just a bunch of loose rocks, most between the size of a golf ball and the size of your fist. This part I pretty much climbed up, though really it was more of a vertical crawl. My fear of cutting my had on the rocks was negated by a bigger fear of slipping and falling down the mountain. Every few steps I had to rest and regain my courage though this pattern of a few steps, rest, and continue had been occurring for a while.

Finally I made it to the top. My fellow trampers congratulates me as I stepped into the intense wind over 2200m in the air to gaze into the mouth of the volcano. It was unreal. Being on the top of a mountain, a volcanic mountain and gazing into the crater that it had once erupted from. The. I turned around and saw the most beautiful views. We were blessed with a clear view and I could see almost to one coast, blue lake, other mountains in the distance, hills, and plains.

Sadly it was so cold that all too soon I knew it was time to go downs. My fingers were already swollen from the cold and I was quite chilly as the wind whipped around me. Looking down though I did not want to go. I was not even sure how to proceed. Following some friends leads I began by “sledding” on my jacket/bum down a large snow patch. That was really fun, if somewhat cold. Then the hard part of trying not to slide through the loose rocks. That was quite stressful, though eventually I got to some big rocks that I used though that was slow going. Finally I conquered my fear of sand/rock sliding and followed other trampers down by kind of skiing on the soles of my shoes through sand and rock. I fell a few times on my bum, but luckily I have some padding. :).

Eventually I met back up with my buddy (she was a lot faster than I so we got separated for quite a bit) on the nicer part of the trail and we hiked back to the buses. Tired, but incredibly proud of myself we bussed back to Taupo. The entire hike had taken me just over 7 hours (I elected to not go to the emerald lakes after the mountain) with the mountain taking around 4.5 of those. I got to check off a lot of life goal boxes there: hike a mountain, do a all day hike, see a volcano, clim a bit, and do the Tongariro Crossing (though I would love to do the entire proper crossing in the future).

Dec 5
Well I just gave myself a huge scare! Despite giving myself 2 hours to pack up and get myself together this morning I almost missed my bus. I probably would have been just on time if I had walked the right direction, but spacey Megan just kind of started walking. And so I found myself being that person, the one that is running and waving their arms loaded down with bags as the bus is pulling out of the parking lot. Luckily humanity saved me again although not without a little scolding, “If this happens again you’re getting left behind.”

Regardless I made it on the 5 hour bus ride from Taupo to Wellington to continue my journey. I’m kind of sad that I’m leaving without doing the Waitoma glow worm caves black water rafting or white water rafting the biggest drop or zorbing or just doing more little day walks.

The longer I am here the more I am realizing that 2 weeks is not near enough time to explore New Zealand even in a skimming fashion, especially considering the time it takes to travel from north to south. I wish I had taken at least three weeks and booked my flight to New Zealand a little earlier from Fiji and a lite later to return. I love Fiji, but I don’t really care to return for 3 full days. Oh well. In the future I think I will realize the worth in extending a ticket a bit even if it is a tad more expensive.

I also know now that I am completely fine to travel alone. Of course I would love to have a good friend travel buddy to share these experiences with, to help me decide things, and just to hang out with throughout the days. But traveling alone I get to meet random people from all over the world everyday. And I’ve found that backpackers and the traveling community are some of the friendliest people. And there are so many other solo travelers out there who are looking for people to do things with.

On a different note I must say that I love these bus rides through New Zealand. I am definitely falling in love a bit with the landscape and the country. It’s full of pastures of sheep and cattle, forests, desserts, sharp hills and mountains. I would really love to come work here. Maybe take a year off of undergrad to work here in hospitality possibly with a horse trekking company or even on a farm. That would be semi relevant to ver school. Though really I don’t want to be so focused on get school that I forget about being young and just living. This is the time to travel cheaply, staying in hostels and budgeting. After vet school I’m going to need to focus on developing my skills and although hopefully I’ll get a job that gives me a month off a year I won’t just be able to take a year off easily. Though I suppose I could work in another country. Or study elsewhere. That is becoming increasingly tempting. Though I do have to a left to see in USA I feel like that will be easy to do later in life.


About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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4 Responses to Geothermal Activity, Tramping, and Reflections En Route to Welly

  1. Jean LaFollette says:

    The mount doom hike sounds very scary. I’m glad I didn’t know about it before you went!

    • mlafollette says:

      Yep, I’m glad you didn’t know about it either. I thought about how you didn’t like Alison and Sarah hiking that one dangerous hike and Mount Ngarahoe is definitely a dangerous one.

  2. Aunt Sharon says:

    Can’t wait to see you soon!!!!

  3. Elise Moser says:

    Can’t wait to see more pictures from New Zealand! That little paragraph at the end is interesting…wonder if you’ll be travelling more in the next few years 🙂

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