As I type, I am sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of a roaring fire.
What could possibly have gone wrong?
The weather. Hence the log fire.
Of course, being English, said log fire in December seems entirely appropriate – more so than sunshine and Santa hats.
I am in a village, (frankly, it’s a stretch to describe it as a ‘town’ no matter what the guidebook says) called National Park and it’s the highest urban township in New Zealand at 825m above sea level.
For the pub quiz fans, it’s on the edge of Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s first national park, and the world’s second national park (after Yellowstone).
The park was created in 1887 after the Maori leaders gifted the land to the government as way of protecting the and from settlement.
I am reliably informed that, from here you can see Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe (alao known as Mount Doom to the Tolkien fans), and Mount Ruapehu.
I’m not sure that I’ve been able to see any of these because of the rain cloud.
And, that’s how the weather has gone wrong.
A storm is apparently on its way and this morning’s shuttle run services to the start of the Tongariro Pass, which is why I came here, were cancelled.
This didn’t really matter to me because I was riding up the Northern Explorer listening to more geographical, historical and railway engineering audio commentary.
However, the likelihood of tomorrow’s shuttle buses running is very low so fingers crossed for Wednesday.
I’ve got four nights up here.
The hostel staff seemed a little surprised that I was staying for so long: “Most people stay one night to do the Pass and then go”.
I imagine that works well when the weather is good and the Pass is open.
I had thought, when I planned this, that the weather could be unreliable so I booked extra nights in the hope that at least one day would be good for hiking the pass.
That may not be the case.
If the weather isn’t great for hiking, the options are limited. I’ve been for a walk around the village.
I spotted a signpost for the ‘Historic Railway Station’…
…but don’t get excited… that’s the one I arrived at.
However, I have since been told that the cafe is good, so this will be investigated. There might be cake.
As some of you may remember, I am trying to do this trip by public transport (apart from the next three weeks when I will be hiring a car with two friends).
This is not easy in the national park.
Getting to National Park was fine but around the park…unless you hitch hike and, travelling alone, I am not prepared to do that… you’re relying on shuttle buses and to be quite honest, the prices are daylight robbery:
- Ride to the start and pick up from the Tongirio Pass: 40NZD (approx £20)
- Return trip to Whakepapa Village 35NZD (approx £17) and this is a 30 mi ute journey each way.
There aren’t even discounts for groups as one girl told me that she and two friends are paying 30NZD each to be taken one way to the Tongariro Pass.
I knew that prices would be high before I came and I knew that the easiest option was to hire a car. The next few days are going to be interesting to see if I manage to do the things I came to do.
All dependent on the weather, of course.