Geoff managed to find a beautiful free campsite! Apart from the stinky loos that is! Elodie said they made her feel sick! We quickly put up the soaking wet tent, as it rained quite heavily last night. The tent is not as water proof as one would hope! Seaping in at the seams. Our sleeping compartment was sitting in a puddle…. luckily we stayed dry. Elodie was heard to say ‘that tent hasn’t got much proof’! The forgot highway  fromTauramanui to Stratford was my favourite drive so far. Almost deserted, beautiflul scenery and a great place at the end! We were going to stop halfway along, but Pearl didn’t like the track to the campsite. She sits rather low to the ground with all the gang plus stuff, and scrapes vital underparts when she doesnt like a bump! Geoff seems to like to aim for random bumps in the road. He claims this is not on purpose, but I see no other explanation. The bumps are right there for all to see!!!! Anyway, I digress. This track was practicality solid scrap, so we reversed and pushed on to Stratford.  If we had had less time we would have sailed through here, with a cursory glance at the clock tower, which would have been a shame. We found a pretty little campsite with pool and great playground close by. Papa, R and O discovered ‘the last Jedi ‘ in a little lesser known cinema which caused much pre Xmas excitement! The clock tower did a little Shakespeare performance at 7. All street names are Shakespeare characters. Orlando was pleased to find his! We visited two beautiful English style gardens near the slopes of Mt Taranaki. We missed the rhododendrons but the agapanthus and hydrangea were spectacular! We walked up to Dawson Falls, with beautiful crystal clear pools at the end. Some locals were using the rock as a slide, so Orlando gave it a try! The water was glacial, being pure snowmelt! R and E managed up to their waists! Next stop the surf highway!  Oakura is just south of New Plymouth. Tent practically on the beach! Orlando and papa surfed.  Water pretty freezing here. We didn’t really visit much of the town as the beach was so pleasant, but there isite had a little museum and great library. We met a French couple setting up a little crêpe cabin. At $7 a crêpe Geoff was less than keen. He forked out for 2 nutella and 1 salted caramel crêpes in the end though as they were so nice!

Christmas, our holiday within a holiday, has been fantastic. When you first arrived in wanganui, the town is lovely all old buildings and art and pretty little shops and cafés. As you drive out towards Geoff campsite choice (based on price and proximity to the beach!) You go from beautiful old to rust, run down, dodgy old. Through a seen better days insustrial area, some houses reminiscent of a seedy seaside  town in england and shuttered up shops….. I was most polite due to Geoff having got a bit stressed about booking and stuff, but I will admit to a sinking feeling! The trio, oblivious to all these surface things we tend to judge on, squealed with delight! Charged into the cabin with enormous grins. They were right, it was brilliant!  Such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Wild beach with a bit of swimming (when the lifeguards were there and only on the edge!) Stick collecting and plenty of ‘stealth’ in the sand dunes!  The owners put on a free bbq on Christmas Eve, and we got to try some of a huge crayfish. Delicious!  Minding it’s own business on the seabed that morning apparently.  We made a drift wood tree and had a big Christmas shop! Pak’n’savery pre iced Christmas cake and pavlova plus plenty chocolate and meat selection for the Xmas bbq! Papas old smelly socks for stocking and to bed! Luckily father Christmas was able to find us despite the lack of chimney, and there was much rejoicing on christmas day! Lego played a big part and there was much fun had by all. bbq lunch and pavlova went smoothly, and after a visit to the beach and a relaxing afternoon we all decided that despite not being with anyone else, it was a great Christmas. Wanganui produced great art galleries, walks and even a motor bike race. Geoff, r and o managed to climb a small staircase on the side of the supremarket,  thus avoiding the $35 entry fee to see the motor bike racing! Probably a good thing they didn’t pay. Rio lost interest after the first lap!  The museums were all closed due to earthquake reinforcements  (small cheer from R!) And unfortunately so was the glass blowing studio we had hoped to visit….
Off to new pastures this morning,  but very sorry to leave this little haven.

Mt Doom

So, Hobbiton!  Matamata, though a pleasant enough town, must have been a bit if a backwater before the LOTR. Huge numbers of tourists pop in here to visit the site of the hobbit holes. The information centre has been beautifully renovated in hobbit style,  and the trio were pleased to find a statue of smeagol inside! Much exitement as we boarded the bus! Our Scottish guide was amusing, and Hobbiton was beautifully preserved.  Lots of little hobbit doors, little personalised gardens with honey, woodwork, cheese making ect and little cloths lines with hobbit cloths on! Brilliant to see Sam”s house and Bag End as well as the party tree and Gandalf path. Can’t wait to watch the films again! Great outing, if a little pricey. I asked one of the men in the campsite I’d he had been. ‘No way’ he replied ‘i’m local,  I can’t afford that!’

After making some sneaky purchases in the shop for Christmas,  we headed onwards. Rotorua is still as stinky! Foul wafts catching you wherever you go. The library was particularly wiffy, but managed to get a couple of good books! An early Christmas present for all – Zorbing!  Basically pay a largish amount of money, they shove you into a large plastic ball, hose in some tepid water, then push you down a hill. Waste of money some might say! Not us! We decided on Zorbing,  not Ogo, the new competitor. It seems the inventor had a dispute and left,  setting up a new company. Despite the pro Ogo feel in the town, we found them slightly smug and inflexible. You also got two for one rides at Zorb. Swimsuits on, we headed to the top in the pick up. We did the straight  track first! Diving into the ball, sloshing around, then careering down the hill at top speed! Squealing excitement from me and o,  frozen faced horror from E! Popping out at the bottom, she gave it a half thumb, saying she would probably wait in the hot tub, and give her extra go to Paps! The boys all had three goes! O shouting out ‘this is the best day ever’ as he slooshed down the twisty track! It was voted a huge success! We saw some spectacular hot mud pools. Too much like a chocolate fountain for O!  On our way to taupo we found lake Okareka. What a find! Tent up right on the waters edge, and crystal clear water. Delightful swimming and paddle boarding. I spotted some locals doing a cliff jump, so we headed over to have a look! The boys loved it! Jump off a rocky protrusion, swim round and through a cave, climb back up and repeat. Much fun! E really wanted to do it, but didn’t at the same time….we climbed down to the cave to have a look. The next day E and I paddled out to get a good view and she loved that! Climbed through the cave and back. They all paddled back and Geoff and I swam. After that, Taupo was a complete dead squib. Campdite in town cost way over €100 for a site, Lake Taupo was a no go zone due to some toxic water weed. We stopped at the playground for lunch and encountered the only paying toilets so far! In order to avoid paying, Geoff went on a longish hunt for another toilet. None to be found. They may or may not have used a tree! Unfortunately this toilet hunt prolonged our stay in the car park beyond the offered 30 mins,  and pearl incurred a €15 fine! Poor Papa. Luckily we found another campsite out of town which was cheaper and very pleasant, which soothed his jangled nerves! Taupo, nul points. The Tongariro Crossing next stop. Absolutely amazing. Even though I have done it before, it was still breathtaking. O was all for it! R was keen just so he could see Mt Doom. He debated it though, paring at the 19.4km sign, and the estimated time… G and E stayed behind. O spent most of the walk bouncing along happily. R is more of a plodder, with a few beats starting on the uphill section ‘I almost want to cut off my own head’ came out on a paticularly thigh burning section! I gave him my watch after the fourth ‘how long have we been walking for?’ and that made a big difference. He pearled at it happily every 30 seconds or so. Orlando was very keen to actually climb the mount. This adds 3 hrs onto an already long walk, but he still needed persuading that it was possibly too much!! Rio was more than happy to look at it and eat his ginormous sandwich! I walked in flip flops. The only sensible thing to do. Absolutely no idea why I was the only one, after seeing people strapping up their blisterd feet at the begging of the walk, and peeling their sore, sweaty feet out of their highly expensive walking gear afterwards! Rio walked most of it bare foot to avoid a blister. We were not in the majority. We saw mount doom, climbed up to the red crater and to the emerald lakes. Everyone was suitably impressed with these, and after a fun,  dusty, volcanic shale steep sliding path down to the bottom, we saw that we had done lessthan half the walk! I am glad I had forgotten the last 10.3km, or I am not sure I would have done it!  O started to fade. ‘This is a never ending path’ and so it felt like. A downhill, twist path which basically went on forever. Luckily we had drunk most of the 6ltrs of water i was carrying  (they carried water as well! Luckily there were lots of long drop toilets.) I felt like i was propping all of us up towards the end. Orlando”s legs would nor listen any more, and his feet were dead. We made it. 8hrs. No photo as we just crawled into the car!
  1. Epic!

    NZ always struck me as a barefoot nation. Maybe the walkers encasing their feet in ‘supportive’ footware were all tourists. Most amusing that Geoff incurred a charge for trying to avoid one!