Thursday, June 2, 2005

eNZed - day 19 (2-6-5)

When we woke up it was very cold. It blew and rained all night and made my morning toilet rather uncomfortable. I definitely didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag and get dressed, but the bladder had made it’s position clear. I ate some noodle soup for breakfast and we were off to the Dawson Falls trail.

It was a nice short walk through moss and lichen covered trees. Very cool. While we were watching the waterfall and taking pics, we got caught in a small hail storm. It lasted about 15-20 minutes and left a nice coating of little ice balls on the sides of the trail. The falls were definitely flowing from all the rain.

After the walk we went in to town and got a Subway sandwich (and feijoa juice) and headed out. Dave and I went to the warehouse and check email, while A went off to shop for a new bag. After our errands, Dave and I walked down by the water and sat for a bit before going back to find A. We also stopped in a music store for a bit (since she was late) and looked around for some blank page books/journals.We finally met up with A at an art store after getting smoothies – I got the sweet cheeks (naturally) and she got the peach pleasure. The smoothie shop owner said that the juice craze going on elsewhere hadn’t really caught on in NZ yet and we couldn’t figure out why. They’re so good!

After leaving town, we made our way to the White Cliffs via the 3 Sisters. At 3 Sisters we made an early dinner (dave just couldn’t wait) and A did the black sand dance over and over again while I taped her. It was very similar to the “YAY! They have pot!” dance =). We had Kumara curry soup and pasta.

Dave and I sat on the rocks for a while, then A and I watched a dead goat wash around between the river and ocean for a bit while we gathered the stones to get closer and closer squealing about how disgusting it was the whole time.

Then we drove out to the closed White Cliffs walk for long enough to listen to a few songs and then get back on our way to Otorohanga (oh-tore-oh-hahn-ga). Once in town we sniffed out a Kiwi park so I could redeem my butt rubbing and dave could sweat in a weight room for a couple of hours. We’re hoping to find a cheap glow worm/cave adventure while we’re here.

The family that ran the kiwi park was quite amusing. The dad had some very short shorts on and seems happily confused most of the time. After much deliberation about the wonder vs. the excitement, Dave and I decided to go for the $225 abseil trip into the Lost World Cave. A squirmed around for a while and finally called Clay, and I still didn’t finish enough of my postcards!

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

eNZed - day 18 (1-6-5)

We woke up to clear skys! We had breakfast, packed up (I hit my head on the cabinet door that Dave repeatedly refused to close), and headed out to see the volcano. We had awesome view for the drive so we got more and more excited. We got so excited that we pulled over into an elementary school parking lot to snap off a few.

We arrived at the visitors center after getting gas where A hassled some local pakeha boys for some smoke (rejected again!) and seeing if the knew how to check the oil in our van.
We crept up a very wet and windy road that looked a lot like Hawaii – very lush and jungley to get to the visitors center. Dave bought some more maps and talked to the guy behind the counter about which way was the best way to get up to the snow. He also told us about the viewing room where he has his morning coffee, so we checked it out and Dave festered about not being able to spend a week camped out there taking time lapse.

The snow was only 220m above the Visitors Center, which I was a little nervous about being more tiring than I wanted to deal with, but I had suck it up so I could touch some snow.
They counter guy warned us that the wind got very strong at the top, but we were sure we could deal with it. We headed up the Summit Trail after putting on every scrap of clothing we could fit under our rain gear. Me personally.. I had 3 pairs of pants, including my outer rain pants; 6 shirts, including hoodie and raincoat; my hat, hood, and rain-hood; and gloves.

After the first uphill leg (meaning the halfway up the second switchback) the raincoat , hood, and gloves came off.
The trail was very uneven and rocky which wasn’t the most comfortable thing to hike on, but it was better than mud. It was also quite windy, coming right at us, of course, but it kept me from getting too over heated which was good – but in the sense that I’d take my hat off to cool off, but then my ears would get cold and hurt, so I’d put it back on, but then I’d get hot again – constant maintenance.

As we got higher, the views got better and better and the wind kept getting stronger and stronger, which was great when it was too our backs when we were going up – it was alt least half the time.
We stopped for lots of picture taking, naturally, Dave won for most pics for the day =) but I snapped a few good ones myself and A got some video.

We found out what ‘windy’ really meant just after 2 guys in a Telecom SUV passed us (A had to ask for a ride, but they didn’t care about her struggle). It quickly became very steep and we really had to bend over to to make any progress up the mountain. I tried walking straight up and turning around and walking up backwards, but I finally just had to take a break with angelica on the concrete 2 track we were walking up. It was just there where there started to be some snow cover on the ground.

I had a nice little stretch, but knew that I’d better get back going or it would never happen. It got more and more cold and windy – so much so that it was stopping me from having much, if any forward progress. We estimated (and later confirmed with the visitors center guy) that the wind was blowing 75+ km/hr. I had to put my raincoat back on because it started getting wet again.. from blowing snow and rain. This is where I started thinking about how glad I was that we weren’t trying to go all the way to the top, but were only going up 2 more switchbacks to the tower where the snow got good and blankety looking.

We finally made it to the top. It was so windy the last switchback, I thought for sure every time A pulled out her video camera, she was going to capture me getting picked up by the wind and pitched off the mountain on tape. On the way up to the lodge we saw a snow-bow. A was very excited. Unfortunately the lodge was locked (for key holding members only) and did not have a snack bar with hot chocolate and a big steak and mashed potatoes, but we had some snacks of our own which we ate in the emergency shelter. I have to say that was the best apple ever.

We ate and watched the snow bow and clouds go by as we got colder and colder. Outside it was getting cloudier and windier. Eventually, we decided we’d better get outta there before it got really nasty. So down we went. I had thought that the way up was precarious and scary, but that was nothing compared to feeling that I wasn’t walking down the mountain at all but rather kind of half falling, half sailing on the wind. I felt like only about 205 of my body weight was on my feet at any one time until I got back to the concrete track part of the trail. I didn’t really enjoy that experience at the time, but it was fun to the visitors center guy about it. Luckily, Dave gave me his bamboo stick to help me since my knees were hurting and I was going to slow – it was a great help with keeping me attached to the ground.

Finally we got to the bottom again. Going against the wind down hill was actually pretty good stuff. A little resistance was nice. We had a lady take our picture (the second of 2 group pics for the trip) before we headed back to the viewing room so Dave could take a short time lapse.

A and I stayed down and jabbered at the counter guy and after a bit Dave come down and joined in for a good chat. The guy told us about a Japanese guy who was out for 2 weeks on the mountain, and about how no one believes him when he says it’s windy up there. He said it’s 75-120 km/h on average! It was a slow day today!

We left and headed to New Plymouth in search of Mexican food. Before dinner we watched the sun set on the Tasman Sea. We checked out all the restaurants on the walk back to town and finally decided on stopping at a pub called the Bull and Bush where we had drinks and food. I had a margarita (yum!) while Dave and A had mexican monsters and later shared an avalanche. I paid for Dave’s drinks so he would join us and he offered me 2 hours of butt petting for a night at a holiday park =)!

After dinner we checked email, played air hockey, and went to a laundry mat to dry stuff – A found a little surprise back baggie in her stuff… how’d that get through security?!

That night we slept at the Dawson Falls trailhead.