Day 203-205: Tongariro NP to Wanganui to Wellington, New Zealand

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August 19th 2009
Published: August 20th 2009
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Tongariro to Wanganui to Wellington

Monday, August 17th

Our necks and shoulders were painfully stiff from the strange exercise we got, so painful in fact, that it actually woke us during the night. The morning was miserable, with freezing rain falling at a 45 degree angle. We made flapjacks with syrup and cheese for breakfast, packed the van and headed of to see what things looked like at Torua. We both felt ready to move on. The gypsy in us has now become so strong that not even the promise of snowboarding can keep us in one place for long.

The weather on the other side of the mountain was just as bad but we drove up anyway, just to see what it's like. For the first few kilometers the road wound through thick rainforest. It was magical. The weather at the top was rainy and the viz was very low. We didn't even get out the van, we just turned around and drove back down. There were, however, a handful of people that went up the lift to do some “blind skiing”.

Back in Ohakune we spotted a ski shop and stopped to investigate prices. They didn't have a big selection so we left. Across the road we spotted a big fat cat strutting around in a gear rental shop. We popped in to stroke him and got talking to the friendly lady "manning" the store. She said that in mid-September (just about the time we'll be coming by here again) the weather at Turoa is great, plus a big shop in town has a huge half-price sale around that time. Perfect!

We drove on, following highway 4 south-west toward Wanganui. En-route we spotted a ton of young lambs. It must be lamb season or something, cause they were everywhere! After a bit Talita couldn't take it anymore and we stopped near a couple of lambs close to the road. The moment we got out the car the mom was there, herding her young away from us. We only got a couple of pictures of them walking away.

On we went, enjoying the numerous waterfalls, skew but almost identical trees, and the rolling hills. Just outside of Wanganui Talita remembered that we'd forgotten our gloves in the dry-room back in the village! Since we'll be passing by that way later she phoned and asked reception to keep them for us.

Once in Wanganui we stopped by the side of the road to see where we'd spend the night. We found a good place and asked Emily for directions. At the camping spot a lady commented that we brought the beautiful weather with us (again)! After unpacking we had a late lunch, then walked to the beach. It's a black volcanic beach littered with hundreds of pieces of drift wood. We took a few pictures but after 15mins we were chilled to the bone. We headed back home for a warm shower, dinner and some overdue blogging.

Today's highlights:
1. Driving through the rainforest to Torua.
2. Tips on when and where to buy our gear.
3. Walking on the log-strewn beach.

Impressions of NZ:
If only the good weather would've followed us to Mt Ruapehu!

Tuesday, August 18th

After leaving our camping spot we drove to the bottom of Durie Hill, the sight of New Zealand’s only earthbound elevator and one of only two in the world. Basically it's a normal elevator taking you from the bottom to the top (or vice versa) of Durie Hill, and was constructed in 1919.

We took the stairs up and had great views from the top of the elevator machinery room. Then we walked to the Memorial Tower, a 33.5m tower built from fossilised shell rock. We both got a little nauseous going up (and down) the spiral staircase. We enjoyed great views of Wanganui. For $2 each we took the elevator down. To reach the street from the bottom of the elevator shaft you go down a very long tunnel. We had fun playing with acoustics.

Once outside we walked across the bridge and visited the Wanganui Regional Museum. We wandered around the museum, enjoying the large collection of butterflies and old Maori photographs.

We got Subway take-away, then drove south out of Wanganui, heading for Wellington. We found a rest area where we enjoyed our lunch under the hungry glare of some large roosters.

We set off once more and had a break in a town called Bull. In Sanson we stopped for petrol and Talita spotted a shop filled with bright and colorful things. She went in while Ferdi filled the van. We ended up having a nice chat with the lady that ran the place.

We continued south along Highway 1. For the first time the drive was tedious with not much to be seen. It only got interesting once we approached the Wellington area. We found the motor home site we were aiming for, settled in, had a shower and prepared dinner.

After dinner we watched a movie. It was raining and we noticed that the "Three Sisters" had sprung a leak. A little water was coming in through the seal on the back door. We put a glass inside a bowl (incase of overflow) beneath the spot and went to bed.

Today's highlights:
1. Great views of Wanganui.
2. Arriving in Wellington.

Wednesday, August 19th

During the night the rain intensified. Ferdi woke to a stream of water falling into the overflowing cup and bowl. After emptying these he replaced them with a big container and went back to sleep.

The morning dawned freezing cold, but at least the rain had stopped. After breakfast Ferdi discovered what caused the leak. A cable displaced the rim of the seal, making it a "leak" not a "seal". He rectified the situation, so we'll have to wait and see if that did the trick.

We got the address of the SA Consulate just outside of Wellington and drove there cause we needed to get fingerprints done so we can get police clearance forms from SA. When we arrived at the address it turned out to be a construction site. Very useful! At least we got to see the beautiful suburb of Whitby. Ferdi hopped onto the internet and found more recent info. One phone call and an email later and we had the forms we needed.

We drove into Wellington to visit Zealandia, a big piece of forest and wetlands where they protect and rehabilitate endangered bird and reptiles. We had a nice stroll in the forest, enjoying the birds and the quiet and just being in nature again. We saw lots of birds, amongst others the Kaka, a kind of parrot with a funny name. We also saw a Tuatara (almost like a brown Iguana) and a lot of cute New Zealand Lizards.

After leaving Zealandia we drove to Old St. Paul’s Church. We didn't have enough cash to pay for the parking (it's ridiculously expensive by the way) so we quickly hopped in, took a ton of pictures, then got out before we got a ticket. We drove around looking for a Pak n Save because our "pantry" was empty and we needed to stock up. We gave up trying to find it on our own and consulted the internet. A few minutes later (with Emily's help) we were in the Pak n Save stocking up. Along with the food we got two sets of cheap gloves as well as two sets of nice wool gloves. Wellington was much colder than we anticipated, and with our other gloves staying behind near Whakapapa our hands needed some protection. Back in the van Ferdi cut off the finger tips of the cheap gloves so that he could wear them pretty much permanently from now on.

Lize and Clive, friends who've been living here in Wellington for more than two years already, had kindly invited us to stay with them for as long as we like. They both work so we had some time to kill. We drove to a pub in the city where we had to pay a very large amount of money for 15mins of parking. The pub was a crowded hangout so we walked on. Every other establishment was too trendy for us so we went back to the van and headed in the direction of Clive and Lize's house. We drove around looking for a nice neighborhood pub and found The Cornerstone. We ordered a couple of draughts and potato wedges to snack on. The draught was delicious and when the wedges arrived we couldn't believe our eyes! It was a huuuge bowl with cream-cheese and sweet-chili dip. Talita was in heaven...

Just before our draughts were finished Lize let us know that they were home and we could come by. Lize, Clive and Luki (their cute kitty) made us feel right at home. Clive cracked open a few beers, Lize put out cheese, crackers and chips, and we had a nice chat while they prepared delicious pies and salad for dinner. We sat chatting for hours after dinner and it was great to get another perspective on life in NZ.

Today's highlights:
1. Walking around in Zealandia.
2. Draughts and wedges at the pub.
3. Meeting up with Lize, Clive and Luki and enjoying a great dinner together.

Impressions of NZ:
The Wellington-ites seem to drive much faster than Aucklanders. There's always some one sitting on
Echo echo echoEcho echo echoEcho echo echo

Tunnel to the elevator shaft
your ass, wanting to pass.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


They are adorable!They are adorable!
They are adorable!

New Zealand Lizard
It's a KakaIt's a Kaka
It's a Kaka

Bad choice of name we think
Can you believe the size of that "snack"?Can you believe the size of that "snack"?
Can you believe the size of that "snack"?

Oh, and draughts were great too

24th August 2009

Wish I was there!
Hi, I'm a fellow South African, in the process of emigrating to NZ, God willing. Wish I could also visit NZ and have such a lovely tour before I come. I'm really enjoying your posts. Hope you have a wonderful stay and that everything works out for good you.
2nd January 2011

Hay, im a kiwi living in Wanganui, cheers for the read! Really enjoyed your account, you sound like genuinely positive people :) Hope you enjoyed yourself :) Kiaora

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