February 24th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
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.

  1. Pamela J Blair

    Scree–I labored up Mt. Kilimanjaro in the scree, and had the same exhilarating experience, leaping down through it on the way back to the hut (15,000 feet–what’s that in metres?) The innards of Kilimanjaro’s crater was covered in snow, as I recall–not even hints of smoke, after so many years. I’ve always wanted to do what you did in NZ, but I think it’s too late for me now! Glad you’re finally getting to see the countryside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.