In the morning we have time to visit the "must do" Te Papa museum. This innovative national museum offers a unique experience and insight into New Zealand's past, present and future. We'll stroll through town, past the famous "Beehive" (NZ's main parliament building), the author Katherine Mansfield's birthplace, Wellington's Botanic Gardens, St. Paul's Cathedral ... Have lunch somewhere ..., before continuing our drive northwards to Tongariro National Park. After a stop in Whakapapa Village, we'll drive on to our accommodation. We'll be staying 2 nights at the renowned "Grand Chateau" near Mount Ruapehu.
On our second day we hope to arrange a guided walk through the national park, the infamous 17 k's "Tongariro Crossing". New Zealand most popular day trek.
Checked out of hotel early and went in search of red cable car to take us up to the botanic gardens. We just couldn't manage to find the cable car stop.
Then strolled down toward the Te Papa museum, very interesting, interactive displays, very modern. By chance Ian Brodie was there signing his LOTR guidebook, bought a second copy (had left other one in the car). R had copy signed and had little chat (mentioned Leuven cafČ, mayonaise ...). NZ TV wanted to do interview with R ("where are you from", bla, bla, bla) JJ hid behind glass showcase when filming. Heather from Kaikoura Whale Watch later sent us an email to say she had seen R on TV that evening (but didn't see it ourselves).
Elizabeth of the Ruby House wanted to make up for the booking error, so offered us lunch at her place.
Left Wellington around 13:35, headed for Tongariro NP. The route towards Whakapapa Village was very beautiful!
Passed the office of "Mountain Air Scenic Flights" where we could book a flight over the park. It's pretty expensive but have not regretted it! Amazing views from above, craters, crater lakes, sunny with a bit of cloud, perfect to get real idea of dimensions. 35 minutes in a small Cesna is an adventure in itself.
Checked in at The Grand Chateau, nice, friendly staff ;-) The old lady is clearly in need of a new paint job, a bit quirky, so less grand perhaps but very cosy and friendly atmosphere, had dinner at ěPihanga CafČ and T-barî.
Next morning after a scheduled appointment with the Chateauís managing director, we wanted to do the Tama Lakes walk.
First stop, visitor centre of Whakapapa Village (just down the road), excellent displays about the park and geological history of volcanoes. No "Tongariro Crossing" guided walks that day, so Tama Lakes walk it is.
First through bush, shrub, then more open and arid landscape, waterfall, surrealistic landscape dominated by active volcanoes (especially Ngauruhoe is impressive with it's perfect conical shape.
Very tiring to walk in sandy tracks, had lunch at southern most crater lake, then turned back, very arid but beautiful landscape.
After walk had a refreshing shower and had a game of golf (Rís first ever) before dinnerÖ What a laugh ... lost a couple of golf balls in the shrub... But we couldnít finish the course as wind and clouds set in. Had dinner in the nearby bistro, a huge burger and wedgies, very tasty after a hard days walk.
Jean-Jacques Halans ©2003