27th - 31st January (Spurting geysers and naked geezers!)
I didn't wait more than ten minutes before a young builder picked me up on his way to do a job for a mate. He was nice enough to stop at the bubbling pool of mud en route before dropping me in the centre of Rotorua. After visiting the supermarket I cooked up some pasta - straight back into the old routine now Sasha has gone! I read half of 'The five people you meet in heaven' by Mitch Albom having left Shantaram for Sasha to finish (will have to pick that up elsewhere otherwise it will be on my Christmas list). My first impression of Rotorua is the smell of rotten eggs, caused by the sulpher of all the geothermal activity around here. I spent some time in the late night internet cafe.
The following day, I took a bus to Waiotapu. At 10.15 every morning, in front of a seating area packed with tourists, a man empties some biodegradable soap into the Lady Knox geyser which then bubbles a bit before a surge of water leaps twenty metres intop the air and continues for a good few minutes. Then, with Kee, an American girl on the bus, I walked the 75 minute track around a strange landscape of green pools, rocks of various formations and colours, steam and smelly sulpher. When we got back I left my camera on the bus but soon managed to get it back after a phone call to the bus company. In the afternoon I walked to the polynesian spa pools, at the edge of lake Rotorua where several pools of thermally heated spring water range from the pleasant 36 degrees to the uncomfortable 43 degrees. I sat there, relaxed, finished my book and got shat on by a seagull. The sun was shining, so on the way back I stopped at the local festival where I supped ale, ate barbecued salmon and listened to the local musicians. Watched Shrek 2 again.
The weather forecast for Taupo was looking better so I decided to hitch back there. I checked out, walked for ten minutes then waited fifty minutes for a lift, dropped halfway to my destination by a dodgy dreadlocked dude in a campervan and quickly got picked up by a bloke with a little girl listening to a cd story read by Baldrick. I checked in to a really shabby hostel, then went to town to arrange the bus to the tongariro crossing ($45) and the two night hut pass ($40). I went for a swim in lake Taupo, the water was ice cold but in some places you could dig your toes into the little stones and find unbearably hot streams - weird! The sun was hot, the wind was cold. I went to bed quite early but slept badly.
The alarm went off at 05.15. The 05.45 bus was 15 minutes late. It was raining hard when I awoke but seemed to be gradually improving and after about an hour on the bus it realy looked quite promising, however, the driver got a call telling him the winds were too strong in the mountains and we turned back. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise; I hadn't managed to get any waterproof trousers and the driver said i had the least amount of gear he'd ever seen for a three day crossing. So after a little nap, I moved into the much nicer Rainbow lodge, got a refund for my hut pass and booked the bus for a one day crossing with the weather forecast for tomorrow looking very good. Didn't do too much of interest for the rest of the day but played cards with a canadian, a fin, a welsh lad and some germans.
With my alarm set for 05.15, a girl in the dorm, also doing the trek, set hers for 04.40 so I got up then feeling rubbish. The weather was glorious all day. The crossing is quite hard work in places, particularly the 'devil's staircase'. I also went off of the track to climb up Mount Ngahoue (Mount Doom) which was quite steep and mostly loose gravel meaning that at times I was taking a step up and sliding half of it back down again, this also made getting back down interesting, the best bet is to kind of run and slide at the same time, good fun but quite hard on already aching knees! Altogether I think the route took about eight and a half hours including 45 minutes of breaks.
Some of the sights were fantastic; emerald lakes, the red crater etc., but the strangest thing was the naked guys at the top of Mount Doom where the wind was extremely cold. A fantastic day where, yet again the weather (on the second attempt) came through when I needed it. I managed to stay up until midnight with the strange concoction of nationalities despite feeling very tired.