Northern Circuit

Thursday 18/3/10. Went for a walk around Lake Rotorua, taking in more bubbling mud and sulphurous gases seeping out of the ground. I'm sure I'd been transported to another planet. After that I got on a bus back to Taupo and spent the remainder of that day and Friday 19/3/10 planning my last week in New Zealand. I wanted to do the Northern Circuit great walk and the Whanganui river great walk (not a walk at all, kayaking but it's part of New Zealand's great walks network). The Northern Circuit is a recommended four day walk, I had one and a half days because the only way I could do the kayaking was by starting on the Monday.

The Northern Circuit is a circular walk that includes the Tongariro crossing, regarded as the best one day walk in New Zealand if not the world. According to the leaflet's estimated times from hut to hut for me to complete the route in one and a half days meant I would have to walk for about ten hours on day one and possibly eight hours the next starting at 6am in order to catch my bus to Ohakune for the Whanganui.

Saturday 20/3/10
Up at 6:30 for the bus to Whakapapa (pronounced Fakapapa). Everybody except me got off at the start of the Tongariro crossing, I dropped some bags at Whakapapa and got walking at 9am. I can't put how good the walk was in to words so look at the pictures to get some idea of how incredible the scenery was. Even they don't come close to doing the landscape justice though. In one day I went from bushy scrubland to the top of a red cratered volcano, past turquoise lakes, a blue lake and on to a volcanic rocky desert before entering a forest where the Waihohunu hut I was staying in was sat overlooking a pretty river. I'd covered 30km of tough terrain by the time I got to the hut at 5:30 so when some of the seven people tried talking to me I struggled to give more than monosyllabic answers. The next morning it was an easy four and a half hour walk back to Whakapapa. It had been yet another unbelievable experience. Just another day in New Zealand.

I was left with three hours to kill and in this tiny village there was only one place to kill time. It was pub o'clock. I'd earnt it and a couple at lunch time doesn't count as drinking so I was doing well on sober day 6. The girl putting out tables opened the bar early for me and gave me drinks at local's prices. A lot of tills in NZ have two prices. She also only charged me for two of the three drinks, apparently because she was leaving soon and didn't care any more. I had a good chat with her and her boyfriend before catching the bus to Ohakune. At Ohakune I had a dorm room all to myself, it occurred to me that I hadn't slept alone for nearly two months so I celebrated by getting naked and farting. Adventure complete (the walk not the fart) and tomorrow it would be the start of another great adventure - The Whanganui River.

N.B. I have breasts in the picture of me in front of the old red hut. I don't know where they came from or where they went but I wish I knew they were there so I could have had a go on them.