Tuesday, April 16, 1996
Woke Up: Whakapapa, New Zealand
Went to Sleep: Whakapapa, New Zealand
To commemorate our wedding twenty-one years ago, and subsequent month-long honeymoon trip to New Zealand and Fiji, here is a day-by-day account of our travels. To travel with us from the beginning, start with Tuesday, April 2nd.
We greet the day thankfully not dead from a lahar, tephra, a pyroclastic flow or any other type of hell from above. Today is our day to hike the trails in and around the volcanoes. It’s a nice day, but the ceiling is low. All the peaks have their heads in the clouds. As we hike, we get glimpses of the cones. Mount Ruapehu has a fresh blast of ash down one side, easy to see against the pristine snow covering its slopes. The rest are steaming and venting. The sky never clears enough to get a full view of the peaks, though. Darn the luck.
Our photos of the day are of the trails, the disturbed moonscape that passes for terrain here – messed up so many times by so many eruptions. There are signs marking “end of lava flow.” There are interpretive signs with titles like “The Debris Avalanche.” There are boulders the size of UPS trucks everywhere. Thousands of years ago, they were ejected from the peaks and landed here on the fly. We’re pretty happy we weren’t here when that happened.
We settle on the Taranaki Falls Walking Track for our morning’s excursion. We’re on our honeymoon after all, so there will be no back-country hiking or hut stays. Just a nice walk through the detritus left here by centuries of volcanic eruptions. The disturbed ground and lava flows are covered with red tussock. The trail follows the Wairere Stream to the falls. We get peaks at Mount Ngauruhoe, but not a clear view all day.
It’s still a beautiful walk. We’ve never seen anything like this park. It’s beautiful even if it’s a little hard to take in the magnitude of the volcanic and seismic activity. Here, Mother Nature is reminding us that she bats last.
Back in Whakapapa Village, which consists of two very different hotels the park visitor center, a general store and a tavern, we find lunch and head to the hotel we’re not staying at – the Chateau Tongariro – to check the place out and have a drink at the bar. The Skotel is a perfectly okay place to stay, and ideal for ski bums and trekkers. But the Chateau is a honeymoon place. Alas, it’s also a wedding place, so it’s booked for the nights we’re in the park.
We take our drinks to the Chateau’s front sitting room and write some postcards. In New Zealand, the overseas stamps are round, and come in sheets. The empty sheets make great masks that do not go with the decor of this a fancy hotel. Fortunately, the hotel has been empty all afternoon, so there’s no one around to take offense.
Hey, wait a minute. The hotel has been empty all afternoon. Hmmm. We go to the front desk (after putting away the stamps) and ask where everybody has gone. The concierge tells us they had a big wedding party cancel at the last minute. Say, we ask the concierge, does this mean you have rooms available? It is our honeymoon after all. (“Thank you very much. Yes, we’re very happy.”) It turns out they do, so we book a room here at the Chateau. Then we hastily trot across the road to the Skotel, pack up our stuff, drive 50 feet back to the Chateau and check in before they change their minds, or the bellhop mentions the thing with the stamps.
We have dinner at the Chateau. There is one other party in the dining room. It feels like a private dinner. We are feeling very lucky and very pampered. The room does not have a volcano view, but we can’t see them today any way.
[click any photo to launch a slide show]
At the End of the Day: The Chateau Tongariro
After 21 Years:
The volcanoes of Tongariro National Park have not been quiet. There have been eruptions every couple years since we were there, starting with a major eruption of Mount Ruapehu a few months after we were there.
Tomorrow: North to Lake Taupo