Despite a rather unfortunate series of events, my friends and I had a good time hanging around National Park. Allow me to tell you the tale, dear travelers.
After the fiasco with the car, we decided to try and go through with at least part of our original plan for the day. It was too late to do any serious hiking, but we all at least wanted to have a good look at Mt. Ngauruhoe, otherwise known as Mt. Doom. So after we waited around for Panelbeaters to open so we could pull some stuff out of the car, we drove back down the highway and up a different highway to the southern trailhead of the Tongariro Crossing.
My fully-loaded (and I don’t mean that in the cool way) C-rolla bounced and shuddered its way down the dirt access road until at last we made it to the narrow car park. The first spot was open so I turned in, made sure the handbrake was on, and we all climbed out into the chilly air. The sun was low in the sky, but there was just enough light left to walk a short way up the path to see the mountain.
Typically, the Tongariro Crossing is an all-day trek. When we arrived, most people were just returning, and we were quite sure they were all quietly wondering what the heck we were doing starting out so late in the day. We didn’t care. We had a mountain to see. I hadn’t realized how much I missed mountains, especially snowcapped ones, until the drive down from Taupo (those first few photos). There at the base of that mighty peak, it suddenly felt like I had never left home, and my mountains, behind.
It took maybe 20 minutes for us to finally pass fully beyond a large rock outcropping and see the mountain in its entirety. From there the photos commenced. We posed with rings and wolf hats and took photos of brilliant and dramatic color contrast. It was safe to say the day was saved. Yes, it still sucked Luke and Hannah were carless, but with the help of friends, the journey continues.
I drove us back to the hostel and we all enjoyed a brew before I drove back to Ohakune. The three of us were stuck in the area for another few days. It was the Queen’s birthday weekend, which made Monday a holiday, so we couldn’t get back to unload the car completely until Tuesday. To save myself some driving, I bunked with Hannah and Luke in National Park for our last couple of nights there.
But I still had one night on my booking to fulfill. Most of Sunday was dedicated to getting organized, for both me as well as Hannah and Luke. I returned to the OCR Cafe, a place I had frequented back in March when I was in town for the Writers’ Festival. I was there long enough to fill out most of my tax paper work and finish a blog post before I made plans to meet up with my travel buds a bit later to discuss logistics for the next couple of days.
That took all of 10 minutes, and after that we walked down the road to play mini golf. There isn’t much in National Park Village, but they do have a bar, and that bar has a mini golf course. As the three of us crossed the parking lot, putters and balls in hand, I shared the fact that this trip to New Zealand had me seeing more movies and playing more mini golf than I had done in several years. Oh well. I will say though, I’ve played mini golf in some pretty cool places here.
I’m not afraid to admit it was an annoyingly difficult mini golf course. I didn’t do so hot, but I also could’ve sucked more. Either way, we all went into the pub after the game to enjoy a nice victory drink. We spent quite a while inside the pub, enjoying the fire place and the music. They were playing some pretty good tunes, along with some not so good ones. It was dark when we finally left to walk back to the hostel. All three of us were shivering and chattering our teeth the whole way.
I didn’t stick around too long. We were all tired and cold and I still had to drive back for my last night in Ohakune. The next morning, though, saw me right back where I had been. Almost. The first place Hannah and Luke stayed in National Park didn’t have a kitchen, oddly enough. So they moved over to a place just next door that had a very nice kitchen. And goodness me, we made some beautiful things in that kitchen.
Just a quick side story to the actual adventures. Each of us, Hannah and Luke and myself, had gone through the struggle of packing up our whole lives into cars, and when you’ve been living somewhere for a while that’s likely to mean you have a lot of foodstuffs to deal with too. In the interest of traveling light, we tried to maximize the amount of food we ate at every meal so we could get rid of as much as we could. And we did a damn good job. We had huge spreads for breakfast, with some very un-breakfast like items on the menu, and massive spreads for tea. Surprisingly enough, we usually managed to get through all of it. I even had my first taste of beans on toast. So British.
So we ate lots of food. Yay. Now, once I was in National Park with Hannah and Luke, I whisked them down to Ohakune, ironically enough. There were a couple set locations down there Hannah hadn’t seen, so I took them both for a look around. Our first stop was Mangawhero Falls. This is where we see Gollum slide down some river rocks in an attempt to catch a fish. We spent some time picking our way around the frosty and ice-covered rocks taking photos. I think the best one we took was the one where we look like a really lame 90s band posing for their album cover art.
From there we walked the rest of the way up to one of the Turoa Ski Field car parks to see the hidden door to Erebor (insert jokes about seeing a hidden door here). Yes, we could’ve driven, but I wasn’t sure my car was going to handle it very well. So we drove up a bit further then hoofed it the rest of the way. About halfway to the carpark, I ditched my hoodie and jacket and finished the walk in my t-shirt (you know you’re from Colorado when…). Sweaty and out of breath, we finally made it. Everywhere you looked there were gorgeous views, so we stuck around for a while and got some pretty kickass photos. We even got a glimpse of Mt. Taranaki all the way on the west coast.
Our last day in National Park was fairly uneventful. We made another huge breakfast before driving up to Taumarunui to retrieve the rest of Hannah and Luke’s things from the car. It went pretty smoothly actually. Even sorting through everything afterwards wasn’t too bad. I kept them both going with my glorious tea. And then just like that our time in National Park Village was at an end. The next morning I hung around with Hannah and Luke for a while before leaving for my accommodation down the coast. They were catching a bus to Wellington that afternoon. It was a weird goodbye because I would be seeing them the next day.
I left them and a hefty amount of bags in the lounge of the Plateau Lodge and set off with my own heavily loaded car for Paraparaumu and the Barnacles Seaside Inn.