Week 10 in New Zealand: The North Island
Mount Taranaki and The Tongariro Crossing
Unfortunately do to the guidance of an very helpful Ostepath, I had to sit these two serious day hikes out. My feet and shins are healing, but it’s a slow process and the very best thing I can do is rest. It’s hard to sit still when there is so much great hiking to do and I’m getting use to hiking everyday, but I have to remind myself that I have 5 MONTHS! of hiking ahead of me. If I want to make it Maine, I need to rest when my body shows clear signs of needing rest.
Instead of summiting Taranaki with Maria I did an “easy” 14km hike across the side of the mountain. This is prior to talking to the Osteopath about resting, and let me tell you, 1 hour into the six hour hike I wanted to crawl off the mountain. My ankles locked up, my arches where screaming, the bones on top of my foot hurt to the touch. Why I didn’t turn around, I don’t know, but 5 hours later when I limped off the mountain I knew I needed to get help. Since than I saw the Osteopath, when to a sports therapist and am trying a new pair of kicks sans the insoles. The general consensus is that my insoles are not working. I feel better in my new kicks from La Sportiva, but haven’t put any serious miles on them. That is coming in a few days when I do three days on the Queen Charlotte Trek. Until then, rest. Posterior Tibialis strain is no joke, but at least I can heal from it.
Waitamo: Glow Worm Caves
This is the most surreal experience of my life. If you’re like me, you look at pictures of where you are going before you get there, but the pictures do not prepare you for the splendor of seeing the glowworms in person.
We took Spellbound Tours, which has access to two private caves and keeps you away from the masses of people and their annoying camera flashes. The first limestone cave is really a warm up for the glow worms. It gave us good views of the rock formations and a lesson on how the caves in the are a formed. We even got to see the bones of the extinct Moa bird, but only a few scattered glow worms. The second cave you go down in a little raft, with thousands and thousands of glow worms lining the ceiling and walls for the cave. The glow worms looks just like the milky way, but much closer. The whole experience was truly magical.
Rotaroa: Thermal Pools
We awoke in Rotoroa to a rainy day, not what we where hoping for. But what can you do on a rainy day in a lake town? Find the secret geo-thermal rivers near by and go swimming, of course! After a quite morning catching up on life (blogs, emails, family, etc) we headed 30km out of town to Keresone Creek, a small river . The main swimming hole sits just below a waterfall and had maybe a dozen people floating around. Maria and I prefer a more quiet spot to relax, so we continued down the path for another 5 minutes or so to our very own swimming spot. Much to my delight, the path past the swimming hole was lined with deliciously ripe blackberries. I channeled my inner bear and picked handfuls off the bushes as we walked.
The water was hot, like hot tub hot but the sand, it was scalding! We must have been right underneath a vent, digging your feet into the sand was almost too hot to handle. The hot water/sand was a perfect compliment to the cold drizzle falling from the sky and the hot water mixing with the cold air produced ethereal streams of mist floating into the air. New Zealand yet again went above and beyond my expectations. Everything we do here is vying to be the “coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Towards the end our time in the pool a man dressed for hiking slowed down as he passed, assessing the swimming hole. He had on jeans, boots, gators and a hiking style shirt. He smiled at us, and being the friendly person that I am, I asked “Aren’t you going to go swimming?” (Thinking he was just hiking around based on his appearance). He smiled back, responding “Yep, right now.” Then proceeded to take off all of this clothes. Thankfully Maria and I had gotten out of the water at this point, so all we got was a view of a pretty nice ass as we skirted back up the path to our car.
If you are ever in the area, there is a second hot pool you can swim at called the “secret spot.” Just google it and you’ll get great directions. The water here is slow moving but even hotter than Kerosine Creek.
Later that night we steamed local fish in a steam oven at our campsite. How am I going to leave this place in two weeks?
Lounging in thermal creeks, wild blackberries and a naked man, all and all, a great rainy day.
The Shire, Hobbit Movie Set
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a total nerd. While it’s been great to see so much of the Lord of the Rings scenery just by wandering through the New Zealand wilderness, I could not pass up the chance to visit the actual Shire. I’m so glad we took this tour, it felt like we got the chance to be apart of Middle Earth for a while.
In true LOTR fashion, everything in the Shire is meticulous. All 44 hobbit holes are built from real/permanent materials, the garden at the center of the village is full of real and somehow perfect veggies and no matter where you look, every last detail is paid attention to. The tour starts in the garden, slowly makes it way up and around the hobbit holes to Bag End (Bilbo’s house), to the party field and down to the Green Dragon, which is a fully functional and beautifully designed pub.
Visiting the set it like stepping into another world for a brief moment in time. The colors, details and charm kept a smile spread wide across my face the whole time. The tour group does a good job keeping the tour sizes reasonable and not rushing you through the set. My only regret is that we didn’t get to see any hard core fans dressed up in custom while on the tour. That would have been awesome.
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