Or “The gangs of Plimmerton”
We got to Turangi late in the afternoon, the stench of sulphur still hanging above us like a cloud of rain. Since Tongariro National Park boasted not one, not two but THREE volcanoes we thought it fitting that we spent some serious time exploring the region, maybe even catching a close-up view of an eruption (yes, my hunt for active volcanoes is somewhat obsessive, having spread across 5 countries and 3 continents now, but what can I say? The 2012 doomsday movie had volcanic eruptions all over it, so call it research for when the world explodes!).
Moreover Mt. Ngauruhoe is the famous Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. So not just a volcano, but a pop culture monument as well! As you might think, I was all over it :-)
Unfortunately, the weather was as dooming as Mount Doom. We were hoping to do some hiking in the park, which is claimed to be one of the most beautiful in New Zealand. In my head I had already set up a blog entry where I would compare the real volcano to the hell-like mountain of the movie. But what we got was a whole lot of rain, thick, almost pregnant clouds, and a lot of uncertain weather, with cold wind blowing into our faces. So this is the best we got!
But having travelled for six months we learnt how to make the best of a storm, so we opted for both a scenic drive around the three volcanoes and some shorter walks in the park. These both gave our legs a little rest and an opportunity to see little gems like this one...
The second day we tried to conquer the mountain-top again, but again were thwarted by looming doomsday clouds. No way was I going to head into the wilderness when it was pouring! But funnily enough, about 700 meters below, the sun was out and we got a glimpse of the valley below and the sunny side of Mount Doom.
So instead of hiking up the mountain, we found a quiet little lake at its base and walked in the cover of the surrounding forest as cloud after cloud rolled in. Did we have fun? Sure thing we did!!
When we came back to the motel, the owner kindly informed us that she had raised the Israeli flag in our honour, so what could I do but take a picture of this memorable even?
We finished the day in the hot tub, soaking up in bubbly water and letting the muscles in our body become a nice little pudding! What can I say? Life is hard :-)
We left the volcanoes behind us, all the time trying to get a glimpse of the top, but even on our third day the mountains were shrouded in a veil of clouds. The road took us along the eastern side of the mountain range, what was considered to be the land of Mordor in the movies. With its dark-brown shrubs that scattered the arid flatlands, this certainly looked like the scenery of a hellhole. But having seen the tundra of Peru and loving it, I could even find empathy for this kind of land, its wickedness and almost awkward ugliness. But after a while we entered new territory which was filled with farmlands and small rolling hills. The car was starting to get uncomfortable, my lower back raising its shrill complaining voice that we shouldn’t have been so cheap and gotten a real car and not an aluminium tin box on bicycle wheels. The gear was placed in a very inconvenient spot so that only dwarfs and four year olds could reach it, or people with extendable rubber arms whilst seated in what can only be called an Asian-butt chair.
But we didn’t complain (too much at least..) and finally we reached the outskirts of Wellington and settled in our home for the next few days, a small little village called Plimmerton, which is right on the beach and boasts four food establishments and dozens of high-end villas. For those of you who are wondering, no, we did not sleep in a multi-million dollar villa, but settled for a hostel (the only one in the village) which did boast million-dollar views.
A twenty minute walk along the beach took us into ‘downtown’ Plimmerton with its street-gangs (kids advertising a garage sale), the hustle of rush-hour (4 instead of 2 cars in the roundabout) and high-profile business meetings (two house-wives trading recipes). This was going to be a place to relax and with almost nothing to do except watch the sea, it was perfect.
We did venture into Wellywood, ah sorry, Wellington for one day, but in all honesty weren’t dazzled. And not because there weren’t enough people trying very hard to look dazzling and cool. No, we found plenty of those. It’s just that it looked like any other wannabe cool town with a funky look, and I think that title has already been given to San Francisco...
But we did manage to squeeze in a lunchtime matinee, buy some new sunglasses, and meet up with an old friend from Ireland in an Irish pub (yes, yes, I do get the irony!).
In the end though, we returned to tiny Plimmerton to do what God intended for us to do when we reach small places.....absolutely nothing!