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  • Writer's pictureClaire

29/03/24 Picton to Tongariro National Park

So, the early start I mentioned. It would seem like I may have boobed somewhat… we were wide awake at 0400 hrs so decided we may as well get the bed put away and on the road to the short ride to the terminal. Weirdly we were the only ones up and about, and I was calling the other travellers amateurs for their slackness in the morning. Our ferry tickets were already saved and I took the opportunity to check them whilst Si was finishing up.  I then realised I had mistaken the check in time for the boarding time and we were now heading to a port that most likely wouldn’t even be open, and we were going to be waiting there for quite some time…. So instead of it sailing at 0645 it wasn’t actually going til 0845. I am such a dick!  It was a bit chilly so I kept my cwtchy blanket over me like a nanna and wondered how Si was going to take the news! I fully expected to be sacked from my role as your organiser… 

It’s a good job he’s so laid back.  All he said was I wondered why we were the only ones up and about, and the proceeded to take the piss the rest of the day. Meh, I got broad shoulders!!  So in the pitch black in the middle of the night we set off anyway, having successfully woken up the rest of the campsite with the stupid doors bleeping as they open and close. In my defence he had already stated he couldn’t sleep properly because he was waiting for the alarm, but the alarm was set for 2 hours too early anyway.  Oops. 

There was further disgruntlement when we got to the ferry terminal, we could have spent the night sleeping there and ourselves some cash. Although, it was a big trek to the toilets which were in McDonald’s… a long way away!! Because I’m nice I did offer him a small share of the cwtchy blankie, but he declined, I mean, I can’t say I was sorry about that really, as I was toasty warm!! 

Boarding this time was a bit different to boarding in Wellington,  we were scanned in via reg number on the car, and because we’d requested a lift access to the main deck we were directed on at the appropriate time. There was only two check in booths to file through and for about half hour only one was working.  We finally drove on and got to some window seats so we could see the sun rise. I regretted not bringing the cwtchy blankie up from the car, there were people in dressing gowns and pyjamas, so my cwtchy blankie would not have been out of place at all!! There are cabins on board for a fee, but for a mere 3 hours we couldn’t see the point when we booked. However, 3 hours sleep would have been nice in this instance. 

Settled in to our private window seats, Si went to get a drink to warm us up, and by the time he came back we were on our way. To my utter relief, the crossing was as still as still could be, not so much as a ripple on the water. I felt confident enough to go outside and take picture of the sunrise over the Sound, it’s gorgeous in the early morning light.  The sun catches the ripples on the water making it shimmer gracefully as we sailed through the water. I hoped to see some dolphins but was out of luck on that front, so went back inside in disgust. Also I was bloody freeezing. Whilst outside I had successfully located the life boat and read the operating instructions thoroughly that were printed on the top. Fully aware of what to do in the event of an emergency I felt a lot more comfortable. I could see the sides from the boat, just not the bottom, but definitely the sides, which I deduced were within my swimming abilities! 

We arrived in Wellington just after 11.30 and headed North towards Palmerston. We hadn’t been driving long and we came to a standstill. The traffic had come to a dead stop in both lanes.  The reason for the standstill, Accident? Road works? Tree across the road? Penguins crossing? Nope, nothing like that. The idiot who most likely got paid a large quantity of cash for designing the road, thought it would be an absolute splendid idea to get a duel carriageway into a single lane. That in itself wasn’t much of an issue, at least it shouldn't have been. No the issue that caused the problem was that they had decided to do it right at the point where the road fed in off the flyover as well!  Honestly you couldn’t make it up. 

Because the traffic was so bad, we opted for a little detour and got off the 1 highway and went via the little towns. It was a much clearer route and we made up a little bit of time.  Sitting in traffic on a bank holiday Friday is no fun for anyone!

We were more disappointed by the time we had wasted sat in the traffic. One route we looked at to take us to our destination would have worked out a lot quicker in the end despite being an hour and a half longer, and we would have seen different parts of the North Island instead of retracing our steps towards Palmerston. Hindsight eh?!  

As we were off the main drag we kept an eye out for food and toilets and found some in Marcheston.  The toilets were the worse ones I’ve ever been in. Some dirty barsteward had taken a dump on the floor in the disabled toilet and then as if that wasn’t bad enough they’d proceeded to walk it around the toilet and smear it up the wall. Dirty buggers. Big footed persons as well. The stench was making me gag and I had to leave, there was no way I was going in there or any of the others in the block after that. Besides, there was no toilet roll to be found anywhere! 

On the Opposite side of the road we’d parked outside a little cafe selling pies and drinks so we went in there to refresh ourselves. To my relief and utter joy, they had a toilet too!! Spotlessly clean smelt good and had toilet roll. What more can you ask for. And not a bit of shit on the floor or the walls, and soap, handryer and hand lotion. 

We decided a snack was in order, just to keep us going as we had no idea how long it would be before we reached the house. My cheese and pineapple toasty was epic and Si’s triple decker chicken bacon and salad but was pretty impressive too, especially with the chunky chips!  Just next door to the cafe, was a big old aeroplane, not sure the whys or wherefore of it, but there it was anyway! Of course we snapped the obligatory photo and carried on with our journey through Sannon before rejoining the main highway. Although the traffic was now moving and had thinned out quite a bit there was still an awful lot of it! 

The route took us through Bulls again and we managed to spot a few more Bulls and photograph them. Hurrah for bulls, carrying on up the 1 highway turning off at Waioruand  finally into The Tongariro National Park, its three mighty volcanoes Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro utterly dominate the skyline. It’s possible to get really close to them on the ski fields, (when it’s snowing obviously) or by taking a day-long Tongariro Alpine Crossing or the three- to four-day Tongariro Northern Circuit walks. The national park covers 796 sq km, and was gifted to the country by local Tūwharetoa Māori over 100 years ago. In 1993 it was granted dual Unesco World Heritage status for its volcanic landscape and deep cultural importance. The Māori believed that the mountains were strong warriors who fought each other and,  whilst doing so, this wild and wonderful landscape was created. Our final destination for today was Rangataua, a few kms from Okhanue where we are spending the Easter weekend with Morg and Liv. The house we are in looks out over Mt Ruapehu, and as  we arrived we’d missed seeing it due to it being covered in thick cloud. Morg and Liv arrived before us having had more luck with the traffic coming down south and had already been around Okahaune to stretch their legs before making their way to the house. 

Not long after we arrived, and got settled in the clouds lifted and we were able to see the snow covered peak of Mt Ruapehu, glistening in the early evening sunshine. Even with some large trees in the way, the view was still spectacular. After catching up with the kids and unpacking our stuff, we started some supper. Nothing grand, just a spag bol, which we ate watching the setting sun paint the snow covered mountain delicate shades of pink peach and orange. Out the front of the house, the sky was streaked deep orange and red before fading to purple as the sun set on the day. If Si hadn’t been getting bits from the car we would have missed that particular spectacle which would have been such a shame. 

The house is a single level, 3 bedroom place that sleeps 8. It has a big garden and a huge wooden balcony at the back. There is a small electric radiator in the living room, and heater lights in the shower room, but the main source of heat comes from a log burner in the corner of the lounge.  Whilst I was cooking tea Si had lit the fire and it was a good job because the temperature was dropping at a rate of knots.  With the fire built up and pumping out heat, we opened up the bedroom doors  to warm them up for bed. Drawing the curtains and dropping the blinds made it feel all the more cosy, and we were soon toasty not to mention a little bit sleepy after our long day. Add to that food and a load of beer and it’s fair to say our eyelids were getting heavier by the second!!  

The kitchen was really well equipped with everything we needed and thoughtfully, things like tea coffee drinking chocolate herbs and spices were available for our use. We’d bought most of what we needed with us, but the extras were an added bonus.  I was particularly impressed with the hot water bottle I found in the cupboard. Oh how I miss my hot water bottles! Morg and Liv had also bought loads of stuff with them out of their fridge so we have more than enough food for a few days, but you never know do you?? Someone might get an attack of the munchies, and when it comes to food, there’s no such thing as too much. Except when I’m cooking, and then it’s a possibility there is going to be too much! Oops.  

Much love

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