Land on fire

DSC_8395_editNew Zealand does crazy geology like almost nowhere else on the planet. This would be the mountains of Tongariro National Park in the North Island. The classic volcano on the far right might be familiar to Middle Earth fans – Peter Jackson chose it as the location for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park is the home of one of the most spectacular walks in the world, through a smouldering volcanic landscape, but sadly when we arrived all keen to walk the path was closed due to high winds and poor visibility. We had to content ourselves with a walk up to some silicate falls instead. Which was still pretty exciting.

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DSC_8498_editFrom Tongariro we headed back across North Island to the town of Rotorua, where steam gushes from the ground in public parks alongside puddles of bubbling mud. Standard playground stuff.

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DSC_8551_editI’d never seen a geyser before, and Rotorua doesn’t disappoint on that scale either. This is the Pohutu geyser in Te Puia national park, part of the 60 hectares of sulphur scented geothermal activity bubbling just below the surface.

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DSC_0511_editAs well as volcanoes and columns of scalding water, New Zealand also offers plenty of options for the adrenalin junkie. My feeling is that every time I get in an aircraft (nine times in the last three months with one more to go) I face one of the things that terrifies me the most. So anything else should be easy. Zip lining upside down over a 45 metre drop? Easy. Jumping backwards off a small waterfall in a dark cave with only a rubber tube to break the fall? Child’s play.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe latter we did in a place called Waitomo, famous for it’s incredible limestone caves populated by tiny glow worms. In the darkness of the caves these animals produce a tiny point of blue bioluminescence in order to catch insects to eat, covering the walls and ceilings with thousands of tiny lights. It’s quite a breathtaking site, that even someone who is uncomfortable with tight spaces, water in said tight spaces, and the dark, can handle.

After a lot of driving between Tongariro, Rotorua and Waitomo we decided to head to the beach for a couple of days. Waihi Beach is a beautiful spot, a great long stretch of sparkling black volcanic sand that is some of the strangest stuff I have ever seen.

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DSC_8558_editAfter a couple of days rest we were ready for our next epic drive. We drove north to Auckland and stayed one night in a truly awful hostel – when we arrived a police officer was in the back office looking ย through their security camera footage. Sigh! Thankfully we were on the road bright and early the next day, on our way to Paihia in the far north of the North Island. But this post is long enough for now, so I shall save that story and those pictures for later.

Right now I can see the Empire State Building out of my hotel room window, and New York is calling me!

What do you think?