February 28th 1983

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Chris with broken glasses

Time to move on today.  Mike breakfasted with us, we arranged to meet in Taupo, the next designated port of call, + then he was off.  It took Val + I an extra hour or so to pack up our tent, + we followed suit.  Except that he got a ride all the way, whereas we had to walk the 6 km from Chateau out to Route 47.  But it didn’t do us any harm, + shortly afterwards we too fixed ourselves a ride, all the way to Taupo.  The guy dropped us at the Municipal campsite, where we paid our money, we pitched our tent, and wandered back to the Information Centre, where we ran into Mike once again, ahead of our scheduled meeting time. An uneventful afternoon, spent wandering round the shops, purchasing provisions, + attempting unsuccessfully, to have my glasses mended – I’ve been surviving with the 2 halves held together with sellotape.  We decided to eat together at our camp, since Mike’s place was further, but we soon discovered that our cooking facilities were poor, + ones for eating non-existent, so off to Mike’s it was.  Nothing like the luxury of Skotel, but a pleasant enough place, + Val cooked up a cottage pie, which was much appreciated.  Drinking in the evening, in a grotty hovel which seemed to be downtown Taupo’s only pub.  They did have a fair juke box, + we had a pleasant if distinctly non-riotous evening.

Very little to comment on here, as it was a workaday day – packing, travelling, etc. And my glasses, of course, though that seems to be an ongoing saga.

February 27th 1983

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Today, the assault upon Ruapehu, the largest of the North Island’s mountains.  Dave, Val + I (the assault crew)met at some ridiculously early hour, had breakfast, + then were off.  It looked for some time as tho’ we would have to walk all the way up to the end of the road (some 7 kms) but eventually managed to catch a ride.    The journey up to Crater Lake was a comparative piece of cake, with Mike as our guide.  I suppose experience has lent him the ??, but once again he picked us out a route up to the top which was relatively easy.  Over the first section, I was bloody weary, + frequently lagged behind, but gradually I picked up resources of energy, + was able to keep up.  We stayed on higher ground for most of the way, meaning more climbing + rather less just plodding uphill.  So, quicker than we anticipated, we were on top of one of the mounds at the top of the mountain, + looking down into Crater Lake.  Up until now, we had had beautiful sunny weather,  so it was really quite a sight up there, a contrast brilliant white + sparkling blue, with the milky lake beneath us.  We even had the benefit of plunder found along the route, one ski + one ski-pole.  The ski was of no value to us, , so we left it stuck in the snow at the top, but the pole proved handy as a walking-stick, so we hung onto that.  We made at this point what proved to be the mistake of attempting to skirt around the lake in order to climb Ruapehu’s true peak.  It was more difficult than it looked, kicking steps in the snow, + scrambling across the side of a steep slope.  Val had a lot of trouble at this point, her shoes not providing her with any grip, but she struggled on with a lot of spirit, + after about an hour the 3 of us were on the other side of the lake, just below Ruapehu’s peak.  Val + I decided that it was too steep + difficult for us to attempt to scale, but Mike gave it a whirl, + he says, got within 25 feet of the summit before fast-encroaching cloud forced him back.  The weather was starting to look ugly at this point, so we lost no time in retracing our steps, moving now at a greater pace.  Reaching some shelter, we paused briefly for some lunch, but no sooner had we got underway again than the clouds closed around us completely, making a white blanket all around us.  It was very, very disturbing, relying on part instinct + part memory to keep us moving in what we thought was the right direction.


Very much to our relief, it lifted after about 10 minutes, enough for us to see the peaks + choose the right way out.  There were 3 phases to our descent.  At first we slipped + scrambled down some mud + scree – not a pleasant way to travel, + slow.  Then we moved on to the remaining snow-fields, which once we had learnt the knack of moving, was fast + fun.  At one stage we were all fair hurtling down, almost skiing without skis (tho’ Val did still have the pole), but when the snow ran out, we had to clamber down the rock.  We were becoming tired by now, + slowing in any case, but were even worse off when we discovered we were too far round the mountain, + were separated from the ski-village by several steep gulleys, which sooner or later we would have to cross – we left it till later.  What slowed us even worse was me slipping on a stone + turning my ankle.  It hurt like hell, but Mike was swiftly to the rescue, binding it with an elastic bandage.  With the ski pole I could manage to move fairly comfortably, but as I said, it slowed us a lot. 

Even when we were close to the village, we seemed to have to scramble down + up a good half-dozen gullies, + finally we landed back at the car park, tired, tired, tired.  All the cars were gone, even tho’ we had been the first to reach the crater, but it was our fortune to catch the Wellington Catholic Trampers Club (I tell no lie) who had been working on their hut, just as they were about to depart in their mini-bus, + they were kind enough, Christian enough I suppose, to squeeze up enough to fit us in.

We hobbled from the motorcamp immediately around to the Skotel, changed + descended into their hot-pool.  It was filthy + wonderful.  It’s nothing more than a big bath, of course, but that’s why I like it – I like baths.  A shower next, + while Val started to cook dinner, Mike + I dealt with the pile of dirty clothes.  A fine meal, after which we hobbled in to the TV room.  There were some good programmes on, especially a play about Disraeli.  And then home.  I have not been so tired for a long, long time.

Quite an adventure, by our standards, and good to have Mike to push us just a bit more than we would have done on our own. And clearly it was worth it, with a real sense of achievement, added to by the exhaustion we felt upon our return. And my ankle, of course, though there waas no lasting damage there.

February 26th 1983

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The crew of Old Patch

The people from the rafting company were supposed to be picking us up at 7.45, which meant an early start.  However, we weren’t the only ones, as the whole village was throbbing with orienteers – there was some national meet on, so they were there from all over the place.  Certainly from Auckland, as I spotted Herman, our host from way back in October.  No time for more than a very brief hello, but it was still very nice to see him again.  With all the crowds around, the man from Buttercup (a curious name for an outdoor adventure company) had great difficulty in finding us, but he managed it in the end, + we were soon whisked on our way to the rendezvous point.  There were 5 of us from the Chateau, the 3 aforementioned, plus a couple of middle-aged expat Yorkshirepersons, Colin + Mary.  We 5, plus one other gentleman, were the only ones doing just a half-day, so were all in one boat, just the 6 of us, plus the guy who’d picked us up, who was the owner of the organisation, + acted as our captain + instructor.

There was quite a lot of messing about first, of course, meeting other people, signing indemnity forms, shifting onto other vehicles, but eventually there we were, down at the start point, sitting on our inflatable raft, perched on dry land, sitting in wet suits, life-jackets + crash helmets, being drilled in the rudiments of paddle-handling, water safety, + general piracy.  3 hours later it ws all over, + we were all standing round, drinking tea, exhausted + exhilarated.  It had been terrific.  Believe me, this had been no passive passage, a la roller-coaster.  We had been perched around the edge of the raft, one leg in, one leg out, holding on desperately with our legs – with both hands on the paddle, you can’t hang on with anything else.  We paddled forwards, backwards + sideways, fended the boat off cliffs, spun round, + occasionally just hung on desperately.  We’d shot thro’ rapids, bounced against rocks, bucked over small waterfalls, + had a terrific time.  And we’d also found time to chuck water  we did, over the “riff-raff” (there were many rafts on the water) + issue the war-cry of the infamous Pirates of Old Patch.  We were very lucky, you see, to have the captain we did, because, as well as being good at his job, believed in making the whole thing more than just a rafting trip.  So he splashed us with water, we splashed all the other rafts, + tho’ we were a respectably quiet + diffident half-dozed when we began, by the end we were whooping + yelling like any pirates.  So, a wonderful time – one I would like to repeat.  In addition, we were taken to a public thermal pool for a relaxing swim.  Val + I were in a dilemma at this point, since we hadn’t yet been asked for any money, + it seemed likely we could get away with it.  However, meeting the boss pricked our consciences into life, + we coughed up.  The day had been well worth the $30 apiece.

After dinner, Val + I went over with Mike to his place, the Skotel, to take advantage of their telly.  Stayed till late watching Visconti’s The Damned, a film which nobody but us seemed to like.  It certainly rambled, + didn’t translate well,, I think, to the TV screen, but was still interesting – a modern Macbeth.

We thoroughly enjoyed our expeerience of eafting, and vowed to do it again, but the only time we have done so was during a family holiday to Canada, when, becuase mary was so small, we opted for the safest option… which was so tame as to be tedious. But anyway, this time was wonderful, and we were in the right sort of boat, with a leader well-used to such a collection of oddbods.

February 25th 1983

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Outside the hut in the morning

Dave + Brian froze, of course, as soon as the stove died out, but the rest of us slept the sleep of the just.  Everybody else left quite early, once they’d had breakfast, in the direction of Ketetahi,  but not one of the buggers did any of the chores around the hut, + the place was in a real mess, so it was left to us to clean up, sweep floors, chop wood, etc (ah, the life of a frontiersman.)  Not that we had any real objection to doing so, since it was supposed to be only a couple of hours walk back to the Chateau.  Still, one doesn’t like to be taken for granted, does one?  The final leg of the journey home was uneventful, + tho’ fairly easy, aside from having to scramble down + up the banks of the numerous streams which cut across the path, rather boring, being mostly thro’ waist-high scrub.  Still, we found it pretty tough, far more than we’d expected, + were relieved when the Chateau finally hove into sight.

We went straight to the pub, to purchase a pie + a pint (or half-pint each, anyway), + then spent the afternoon lazily, washing clothes, showering, sitting in the motorcamp kitchen.  Much to our surprise, Mike turned up at about 5 or so, having charged all the way round the other side of the round the mountain trail in just one day.  Val + I had already phoned to book ourselves a rafting trip for tomorrow, + he did the same.  And then, after a meal, we all went off to the pub – that is Mike, Val, myself, + another Pom Mike had brought along, name of David.  He was typical British public-school product, having a holiday out here before, surprise, surprise, going home to join the army.  And not as a private, I think.  We were also joined by an Aussie, who, for a change, had a very nice line in self-mockery.  And a good evening was had by all.  The place was a typical Kiwi pub, that is, horrific, a big barren booze barn, but it’s the company that makes the evening, + after a couple of jugs each, we were all getting on fine, talking in a mildly drunken manner, + having that conversation, the one I must have had a dozen or more times, telling one’s favourite comedy sketches.  We finally left at 10.20 or so, after giving + taking a bit of stick with the staff, + then someone had the foolish idea of popping in to the Chateau for a nightcap.  Fortunately, the Chateau were well-prepared for such an eventuality, + had 2 guys in dress suits stationed at the door.  “Can we help you?” they asked.  They couldn’t, of course. + knew it, + lost no time in telling us so.  So we went home to bed.

And so the end of our first NZ trail, which had proved excellent. But the civilising effects of a pie and a pint were welcome all the same, as was a night in the pub. Clearly we are experiencing a quasi-English lifestyle – the food, the language, the culture – but with definite added pluses – the scenery, the walking, the huts.

February 24th 1983

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Mike and Chris looking down into Blue Lake

The ravaging hordes were up + away at a very early hour.  Some of the oldies present (notably Canucks + Kiwis) were patronising to + about them, but they were well-behaved, polite + considerate – far more so, I imagine, than 40 27 year-olds would be.  However, it was still nice to have the cabin to ourselves again.  We breakfasted + then set off.  There was a fairly clear division by now into last night’s top-bunkers and bottom-bunkers.  We were pleased to be with Mike.  There is a degree of North American conceit, but also he is an interesting enough bloke, good natured, sense of humour, etc, etc.  He set the pace, + kept us moving along very nicely, especially since quite a lot of it was tough-going, especially one section up a steep scree slope, when I was carrying the rucksack.  However, it was worth it.   The landscape was lunar – jagged peaks, craters, etc, with some beautiful little lakes.  It was, however, no place to linger, since there was an icy wind blowing.  So on, on, ever on, till we passed by the base of Ngawohoa, a still active volcano.  Mike had come out especially to climb it – he was returning to Ketetahi tonight – + we had, perhaps foolishly, allowed ourselves to be persuaded to go along with him.  So leaving our heavy pack at the bottom leaning against a sign-post, + taking just Mike’s daypack with some lunch, off we set.

The first part was very easy, just a regular trail, but once we started to climb it was far more difficult, since most of the slope was scree, 3 paces up + 2 down, or sometimes vice versa.  However, Mike was sensible + experienced enough to select a route that followed a rocky spine up the mountain.  Like a spine, sometimes it was showing + sometimes it wasn’t, but for the parts where it was, it saved us great quantities of muscle power.  There was more actual climbing, of course, but the footing was good, + it was both faster + less tedious.  So, in about an hour and a half, + to my surprise, we were suddenly at the top, + looking down into the crater.  My first active volcano crater was not what one might be led to expect – no bubbling red sea of smoking lava, just steam + sulphur smoke.  But we were there, high up, with a beautiful view – I’ve forgotten to mention, the weather was glorious sunshine.  We sat in the shelter of a rock, + ate a most satisfying lunch, +{ then prepared our descent.  As if to say goodbye, the clouds began to crowd in.  The downward journey took us about 15 mins, scree-jumping (leaping from step to step, braking by landing ankle-deep in loose stones.)  It was exhilarating, + once one got going, not at all difficult, tho’ my leg muscles were screaming for mercy once we reached the level once again.  It had been a terrific trip, quite the highlight of our New Zealand stay… so far.

And so, we said farewell to Mike, + continued on our way rather anti-climactically, to Mangatepopo hut.  It was an easy walk, + we arrived there in good time – as yet the only occupants.  A very clean, + attractively laid-out hut.  We lit the stove, + other people arrived, first a Dutch guy + Swiss guy, then 2 Poms travelling with an American, + finally another couple – German perhaps.  The Poms were the most interesting… + entertaining too.  At first they bothered me, because they presented a sort of “thickie” act, as if they were skinheads, or Teds.  But in fact, as we discovered, they were both educated + possessing of more than the usual quota of cheek.  They’d been friends for some time, had both been involved in TEFL, + were is Sydney over the New Year.  It seemed that the cruise liner “Canberra” was in, so out of a mixture of bravado + drunkenness lone morning, one of them, Dave, had bluffed his way on board by pretending to be crew, + the other, Brian, tho’ lacking in some degree both of his mate’s 2 prime characteristics, had managed the same.  And so they stowed away to New Zealand.  They nearly starved, they said, because all meals had already been paid for, which meant allotted seats for breakfast, lunch + dinner.  However, they survived the 3-day trip , eating Mars bars, sleeping in disused corridors at night (once the  bar had shut) + on deck during the day.  Dave even got involved with a young Australian millionaires, but turned that particular option down… for reasons of his own, no doubt.  And so Dave + Brian, marching off the ship in Auckland (as crew, they didn’t have to pass thro’ immigration) found themselves in New Zealand with very little money, virtually no clothes other than what they stood up in, + perhaps worst of all, not only no record of leaving Australia but no entry into New Zealand either.  Still, they seemed to be surviving on their wits… their wits + Brian’s overdrawn visa card anyway.  For today at lunchtime, they had eaten the Chateau’s smorgasbord, + not only stuffed themselves silly, but filled pockets, bags, etc with mountains of food, + then  left.  Brian [paying with his Visa, Dave not paying at all.  Quite a pair.

We spent an enjoyable evening sitting by the stove, cooking dinner + swapping experiences + travel talk (best boarding house, how to avoid currency controls etc, etc) + finally all crawled off to bed.  D + B, of course, were without sleeping bags, but improvised with plastic mattress covers.

For once, first impressions of someone we met were positive – and Mike proved a useful and companionablecompanion. And good to see a most positive account for once, instead of trouble and disappointment.

Brian and Dave seemed to be quite a pair of characters – quite a pair of chancers too, judging by this account of their adventures. Sometimes I am impressed by and envious of people with such bravado, sometimes I think they are just taking advantage of others, but on this occasion they seemed to have sufficient natural charm.

February 23rd 1983

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Steam near the top of the trail. Val can be seen (just) on the far right.

A very early start, woken by the alarm, + then busily dressing, packing, + dismantling the tent.  We even had time for some breakfast before rushing off to unload our surplus baggage in the Park HQ, + waiting for the bus, which supposedly arrived at 9.  Robert + Marion, 2 Canadians we’d already met in the kitchen, also arrived – they were off to do the same trek as us.  Which was unfortunate, as we didn’t like them very much.  Both, but especially Marion, were loud, talkative, self-opinionated.  Which sounds awful, + they’re not as bad as that, since their faults are leavened by a considerable chunk of humour.  But they’re still not the ideal travelling companions for us.  However.

A car stopped to give Val + I a ride, + R + M asked if they could come along too.  The bloke was going to National Park, so only 6 kms of his route was helpful to us, but Marion virtually took the poor chap over, + somehow shanghaied him, playing on his good nature, into taking us 25 kms out of his way, to as far as it was possible for a car to go along our route.  If the road had gone right to the cabin, I’m sure we would have been there.  He was interesting, a Pom, working in the film business, here looking for locations for an Anglo-French film about a bear terrorising the Canadian wilderness.  However, once he’d said goodbye + departed, we were off on our own into the New Zealand wilderness.

Somewhat to our relief, R + M decided to stop for a while to breakfast, so we were able to forge on alone.  We had just the one pack – Val’s new one – so we swapped it back + forth as we grew tired… quite frequently.  It was a pretty steep walk up thro’ a handsome little forest, + then we were lured on by the sight of the steam rising from Ketetahi hot springs.    When we arrived there, they were really interesting, the water in the stream coming down the mountain growing hotter + hotter as we climbed up towards the source, steam shooting out of holes in the rock, pools of water bubbling furiously.  We had hoped to bathe, but the water looked rather unappealing, being of a dark red mud colour, so having taken some photos, we pushed on the final half hour to the hut.

There was a school party there when we arrived, just about to leave, 12 young girls + 2 adults.  They informed us the springs could indeed be bathed in, + as they were leaving that way, they would show us the place.  The place turned out to be the stream that we had rejected as being too muddy.  Still, once the schoolgirls had disappeared over the hill, we stripped off + immersed ourselves.  It wasn’t quite deep enough, but still rather pleasant.

On returning to the hut, we discovered that a) it had been left rather dirty, and b) it was full of large + noisy blow-flies.  We left the dirt for the time being, but endeavoured to remove the flies.  And then we just sat + relaxed.  We thought for a while that it would be a quiet evening, but then 4 girls + a teacher arrived, advance guard, they announced, for a party of 41.  In a cabin with beds for 22.  And as various other, non-school trampers wandered in, it became more + more clear that it was going to get crowded.  Val + I cooked our dinner early, so as to get out of the way.  Bangers + mash we had (again!) + a splendid feast it was.  There ws a Kiwi couple we chatted with, plus a Canadian guy called Mike.  He was, to use a Kiwi expression, good value, + later on (after the horde of 41 arrived) there was a moderately interesting discussion between him, me, Val + Robert.  The 41 didn’t do too well – they’d transported 4 large billy-cans of stew all the way from the previous hut, only to discover, after they’d cooked them for about 2 hours, that they were off, + so had to be thrown away.  These poor buggers had to content themselves with a sandwich or 2.  Still, they had their consolation – the whole bunch of them slept in the same room – they were 2 or more to a bed, + tho’ I doubt that sex was part of the curriculum, it presented the opportunity for surreptitious cuddling.  We did have 2 girls billeted in our room, + tho’ they were undoubtedly more comfortable, they seemed understandably put out to be missing the fun.  Val, Mike and I also missed out on our own kind of fun – there was a strong marijuana small emanating from the lower bunks.

Well, some things don’t change, such as my instant judgments on people we meet (nearly always derogatory.) But it does seem as though they were, at the very least, pushy. An enjoyable walk, however,especially with the dramatic landscape, and even the chance for a bathe. For once, I did not seem to be too negative about our fellow hut-dwellers. I am far more tolerant of chioldren now (being further away gives me some perspective, I suppose.)

February 22nd 1983

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Chris on the walk to Taranaki Falls

Decided to find ourselves a decent shop to stock up on provisions for our forthcoming “long hike” – the one at the motor-camp being entirely useless.  Happily, we chanced upon a couple driving out of the site to Taupei, so we cadged a ride to Turangi, the nearest town, about 20 miles away.  The couple were really nice, a Pom and a Scots girl, living in Christchurch – they gave us their address.  And then chore no. 1 was to find someone to fix my glasses.  Last night in the tent I had somehow managed to break them very neatly down the middle.  Since I’d also broken a lens in my other pair, back in October sometime, I was now somewhat buggered.  Turangi didn’t have an optician, so I tried an electrician – I was hoping he might be able to solder the two halves together.  One gets desperate – I’d even borrowed some superglue in the morning + tried that, but despite its professed abilities to hold elephants to trees, + old gentlemen to toilet seats, it couldn’t manage to keep my glasses together.  However, the electrician couldn’t help.  Apparently, it needed to be brazed, + his brazing equipment would likely melt the things.  He suggested a working jewellers.

We bought our food supplies, +then headed back.  This proved remarkably difficult – quite a few people that we’ve met have commented that hitch-hiking in this area is a pain.  We waited a long time (by NZ standards anyway) but eventually a lorry stopped.  Then we had to decide the best place to get off.  We passed one turning almost immediately, which disconcerted us considerably, but more by accident than design we descended at the right road.  Cars were few and far between, but the 3rd one picked us up, as well as 2 Swiss girls who happened to arrive at just the right time.  It was a fun ride with, I believe, a group of Maoris + activists off to a meeting.  They dropped us at the road leading to the Chateau, + tho’  we all started walking, a big lorry stopped, + the 4 of us rode on the back.  So, ultimately, things didn’t work out too badly.

In what was left of the afternoon, we went on a short walk, one of several one can take from the Park HQ, to Taranaki Falls.  It was pleasant enough, but certainly nothing over-spectacular – more, simply a pleasant way of killing a couple of hours.   In the evening, Val baked pasties.  They weren’t quite as successful as the ones she’d made in Huntly, but that can largely be attributed to a lack of home luxuries – rolling pin, baking tray, decent lard, etc.  They were nonetheless quite delicious… even if they did fall apart.  She even made an apple pastie, for dessert.

For me, glasses problems and tooth problems pretty much equal themselves out, both requiring attention by specialists, both costing money. And then we were preparing for our first proper walk in NZ, even goung so far as to go on a “shakedown” hike (as pictured.) NZ has excellent long-distance hiking (or tramping) trails, with huts at sensible intervals.


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With Sama and Nada…

As ever, two weeks conflated into one, entirely because I forget to take a photo at the end of the class!  Apologies – I will do better!

Three missing today – Aisha, Frishta and Dasha – but we were still able to make some progress on our new play, “No Waiting”, focusing on the scenes that we could do, chiefly “Godot”.  We were a little nervous that SAli would be disturbed by the words in the extract we are performing, but he does seem to have overcome this, and he could shine in the role, especialloy since it is basically clowning.  On this basis, and to introduce an element of fun into the class, I presented them with their own sets of juggling balls, and some basic instructions in how to perform the 3-ball juggle.

The following week, we had an almost complete set of people, with only Abdulaziz missing, and I was also looking forward to passing on some exciting news, that we are to perform in a real theatre, alongside a performance from the Compass group, in April.  It does mean some pressure, but I am confident that they will rise to the occasion.  However, on the very same day, we received the pretty devastating information that Nada and Sama, the two sisters from Saudi Arabia, had received a letter that they were to be moved… this Friday.  To Plymouth.  For them, it is actually excellent news, for they will be sharing proper accommodation in their own flat, and will be able to begin re-building their lives.  But I can’t help also feeling downcast at losing two of our best, most fluent, most expressive actors.  (And the fact that Sama was pretty much the only one to start mastering how to juggle merely an extra sprinkle of salt on the wound.)

…and without

But we rehearsed anyway, and there were some very encouraging signs.  It was the first opportunity to see the more personal asylum seeker/official scenes, and they were excellent.

And “Zhvar”.  We were looking for a name, something a little catchier than the Wembley Drama class, and have settled on Zhvar, which is (I hope and believe) a Farsi word for a meeting place.  And a happy one (something like rendezvous, perhaps) so it seems like an appropriate choice.

February 21st 1983

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Waitomo caves

We intended to see the other 2 caves at 10 + 11 this morning, but we got up too late.  So, taking our time over showers, breakfast etc, we managed to miss the next tour too, thus blowing our hopes for an early start.  There were 2 caves, + the longest one was by far the best, designed, as our deadpan lady guide told us, for atmosphere.  The other (Aranui, I think) was short + pretty – too pretty for me, like marzipan.  Val had suggested hat we lug our  bags all the way up to the caves (about 3 kms) in the hope of getting as lift straight out from there to the main road.  This we did, tho’ it proved a mistake, it didn’t work out too badly.  At the end of the tour, Val rushed over to one of our fellow-tourists, an Australian guy travelling with his son, + asked if he could take us down.  This was almost a necessity, as the walk up the hill had almost flattened her.  He was very nice, + took us down to the hotel again, but any hope we had of being taken further were messed up by the fact that he was off to the Glow-worm cave.  Ah well.

We stationed ourselves on the road, thumbs out, grins fixed, all in vain.  For about an hour, when along came our Aussie friends, who were driving right past Tongariro National Park.  (Originally, we had thought to go to Rotorua, until we looked on the map, + saw that we would largely have to re-trace our steps.)  It was a comfortable ride – almost too comfortable, I was nodding off, but in a very short time we were out + saying goodbye + thank you.  The road leading in to the Park looked pretty barren, but a lorry stopped + took us in to the turn-off for Chateau, the virtual admin centre of the Park, + we flagged down a car heading in there virtually as we climbed down out of the lorry.  The Chateau itself was a large + ugly hotel,  but we found ourselves a spot in the motor-camp, set up tent, + cooked our tea.  A bit Spartan – cheese on toast + soup – but perfectly adequate.  (And the kitchen there was amazing – just huge.)  And so to bed.

Slowly working our way down through New Zealand and its various tourist attractions, which can be an expensive business, despite our best efforts to save money wherever possible. But hitch-hiking at least removes travel costs.

February 20th 1983

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Huntly Power Station

After breakfast, Sandra drove us into town.  Fortunately, she had to go in to buy some bread in any case, thus assuaging our guilt somewhat.  She dropped us off at the big power station on the edge of town – it was having an open day today, so we thought we’d seize the opportunity to look around.  And it was quite interesting, more from an aesthetic impression point of view than because of the engineering, since there wasn’t nearly enough information being given out.  One went on a long walk thro’ the complex, + that was all.  There were lots of people around (wearing hard hats) to answer questions, but as one of the feats is knowing exactly which questions to ask, that really wasn’t very much help.  Still, as I say, all those pipes were interesting – but we had to pay $1.50 each for the privilege.

Afterwards, it was affair little walk into town, especially as we were heavily laden.  But once again the hitch-hiking was easy, even on a Sunday – we were at Waitomo, our next stop, by late afternoon.  The rides of note were with a garrulous Dane (in NZ we have met 2 Danes, or Danish ex-pats – both have been convinced the world is going to pot, + that it’s the Communists’ fault!  I suppose it must be something in the bacon), + with an elderly couple who bought us ice-creams.  Anyone who buys us an ice-cream automatically gets a mention in the diary.  How’s that for fame!

Diane had told us that the Waitomo Hotel have rooms at $5, so we went there.  She was right, the room was $5… each.  This is still by no means a bad price, but we’d somehow got the impression from Diane that the rooms were a bit special.  She’s gone on especially about the bath.  Well. The room was seedy, and the bath in the communal bathroom was dirty + didn’t have a plug.  Still, the building was beautiful. 

The price of entrance to the caves gave us a bit of a shock – $8.50 for the ticket to all 3.  Still, we were there to see them, so bought our ticket, + then went down to look round the museum.  It wasn’t bad, but the guy in charge was a bit too enthusiastic + conceited for us.  However, he did tell us we could see the Glowworm Cave this evening, so we rushed off there.  It was a very good trip, most especially the last part, a short boat-ride thro’ the Glowworm cavern itself, + out into the open air – that was just unreal.  What a place to be stoned!  (Or maybe not.)  As usual, of course, there were some right show-off eejits in our group, making inane comments + fools of themselves (in our view, anyway.)

After the trip we returned to the hotel, fixed ourselves some dinner in our room – amazingly, after 10 months of idleness, our little stove fired first time – then relaxed in the lounge for the evening.  That was another plus – the lounge was ace.

Our photo album for this section of the trip devotes 3 pages to the power station, which was definitely somethkng of an overkill. And it was interesting enough, i suppose.

And then Waitomo. For quite a while, it was my favourite word, simply because of the sound. And again, it was quite an enjoyable outing, but maybe a bit too much like common or garden tourism.