forging north

in new zealand good friday and easter monday are state holidays so that means a 4 day weekend for everyone. trying to learn from our christmas mistake of not booking early the jboss had planned and booked a trip for us to the tongariro region and a relaxing spa visit for gromit.

on our trip up we went the western route through wanganui. since it was good friday the town was locked up tight, but looked like a great place to visit and we’ll put it on the list to return to soon. we did find one cafe that was open and given the holiday we set our expectations low. i was expecting mediocre fish & chips. turns out it was very good. great english beer selection and i had a venison burger with mango chutney. hard to beat.

another great tree lined main street with cafes, shops and a majestic old theatre. almost all of the banks in new zealand are australian owned (like the one above) including unbelievably the bank of new new zealand and new zealand bank.

right past the cbd was a huge park along the river. the children’s area was themed around nursery rhymes with the 3 bears, humptey dumptey, etc. inside the big pumpkin was a prep area, huge grill and picnic tables. most of the public parks here have public grills that gas fueled and free to use. they have a flat metal cooking surface like at mcdonalds and are started just by pushing a button. a lot easier (and safer) than everyone bringing charcoal and dousing it with lighter fluid. at one end of the park was the ultimate tree house.

after we passed through wanganui we decided to take the scenic backroads up to our destination. the guidebook described it as a can’t miss vistas – so how could we pass?

i’m not keen on living out of the city, but if i were the homestead in first photo would be ideal.

two stories behind the second picture. firstly the sign on the cliff. you are entering a single crewed ambulance zone. that means when the ambulance arrives the paramedic can either treat you – or drive – but not both at the same time, so try not to be an idiot and need any urgent medical care. keep that in mind for the photos below. and why is jackie laughing? she is wearing sandals and has just stepped in a pile of poo. guess who’s riding on the roof rack for a while?

the last photo could easily be from vermont, and was a brief glimpse of fall. we had great tall, slender birches lining the road for the early part of the drive.

the drive started out on a nice winding paved road, but the pace quickly slowed as the road turned to gravel and was frequently shared with local livestock.

the first shot is great on several levels. firstly the bulls lining the road. “sure – come on down. we’re nice and friendly. ignore the horns. and forget about the sign reminding you that this is a single crewed ambulance zone. what are you waiting for?” nextly is the 100 kph speed limit sign. 100 kph is about 60 mph and is very fast for a paved country road. much less a gravel road with a steep drop off on one side. or more so for a single lane, gravel road with a steep drop off lined by bulls.

at one point we let a local farmer pass and the visibility dropped to zero. we assumed we’d know when we hit the livestock.

as we emerged from the country road our final destination – mt tongariro – came into view.

the last town before we arrived at tonariro was raetihi. more than a bit depressing since it was clearly struggling and a shadow of its former prime.

yet another former bank of new zealand building shamefully degraded to office for a local radio station.

so when the town elders were sitting around the table in the late 1930’s trying to decide how to celebrate the town’s upcoming centennial, how did the conversation turn to a rest room?

mt ngauruhoe at sunset in another this-is-why-we-moved-here images.

our home for the holidays is the wilderness lodge in national park. yes – the name of the town is “national park”. the first several conversations about where we were staying had a who’s on first quality.

a: “so, where are we going to be staying on our holiday?”
j: “we’re booked at the wilderness lodge in national park”
a: “great – what town is that in?”
j: “national park”
a: “right – but what town are we nearest to?”
j: “the lodge is in in national park”

at this point i give up and don’t see the light until we pass the state highway sign that welcomes us to national park.

after we unpack the car we head up to the lodge for dinner only to find out that they are booked up for the night. this was a bit surprising since the small dining room never seemed more than half full. feeling bad they offered us a bowl of fries. so our good friday dinner was fries & beers on the couch watching willy wonka on the telly.

we were off to bed early after setting the alarm for 0530 so we could catch the 0630 shuttle bus for our big tramp tomorrow.

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