Jan 4, 2003

Hello, and Happy New Year to all!!  (Bob's comments are in black)

We're in the Bay of Plenty, in a small city called Tauranga.  It's Saturday morning, and we're "housekeeping".  We've made ourselves a to do list, and have devoted the morning to doing some banking, letter writing, and investigation on the internet for things to do.  We're on our way to an active volcano, but more about that in the next installment.

We last wrote of heading back to Auckland for New Year's, which is what we did.  We stayed at our friends Mary, Mark, and Hannah's for two nights.  There we were shown great hospitality, good food, a real matress to sleep on (we had to displace Hannah to the lounge sofa),and luxury of all luxuries, a bath.  There were also copious amounts of chocolate, and, on New Years Eve we enjoyed some excellent NZ Methode Champagnoise and delicious Hapuka, before all retiring at least an hour before midnight.  When you're traveling out of the trunk of your car, and sleeping in tents all those things are a real treat!  Bob did some computer work for himself, and was able to get Hannah's CD roms working, for which he was allowed "six extra chocolates".  Also in Auckland, Bob and I played tennis, and although he hasn't told you up til now, he keeps beating me!!!!!

Next came a trip to the Coromandel, a peninsula south west of Auckland.  There is a forest park in the middle of the peninsula which is managed by the Department of Conservation.  We stayed at a campground the first night, with only 10 tent sites, quite different from the other holiday parks.  It was HOT, about 26 degrees, but not a cloud in the sky.  I know 26 degrees doesn't sound hot, but in NZ, where there is no ozone layer, the sun burns very brightly.  Luckily there was a river nearby, that we could cool ourselves off in.  It was amazingly refreshing to just sit, waist deep, in the stream and watch the water flow over the rocks.  Although I think we both got a bit burnt doing it.  The next day we packed our new packs for our first overnight tramp.  We started off to the Pinacles' Hut, which was advertised as an easy 3 hour walk.  It wasn't excatly advertised as "easy" - they did say that it was very steep, and they weren't kidding.  We packed as if we were going on a longer hike, since we're in training for our big hike in the end of January in the South island.  Other hikers on the track had day packs, and some had nothing at all, just a small bottle of water. Just like the day before, it was about 26 degrees, and very few clouds.  The tramp was in the bush, so there was some shade, but it is quite humid also.  The track followed an old pack horse track that ran beside a stream.  There was lots of logging in the early 20th century, leaving tracks through the forest.  The track was formed of steps that were cut in the stone beside the creek.  They were probably 30-50 cms high, and quite ununiform. (is that a word?).  They were also relentless (another web page says that there wre 1080 steps, and I don't doubt that figure).  It was about 2 1/2 hours of climbing (which resulted in an elevation gain of about 550 metres).  We drank about 5 litres of water (including some water that we gathered from a stream and filtered using the Pristine System), and remember people passed us carrying only small water bottles.  The hut was definitely a welcome sight when it came into view.  We relaxed for about an hour, claimed a bunk in the 80 bed bunk house, and then it was time to push for the pinnacles.  The pinnacles are pieces of limestone that were pushed up with the erruption of volcanoes which formed the Coromandel.  They were advertised as being an hour and a half return, but what they didn't tell you that it was basically mountain climbing, without the safety ropes or helmets.  After an hour of scrambling, then having to find hand holds to pull yourself up, I sat down and refused to go farther.  Bob still had some energy and courage, and he went right to the top.  I'll let him tell you about the view.  Well, the Pinnacles are about another 150 metres up from the hut, and, as Carol has mentioned, you basically have to climb over lots of rocks and boulders to get there.  Many parts of the track involve sheer rock faces with virtually no footholds.  There are even a couple of ladders for thr truly unclimbable portion.  I did make it to the top, and the view was fantastic.  I could see the east coast of the Coromandel (the Pacific Ocean), and I could see the Hauraki Plains to the West.  I could also see all of the Coromandel ranges to the south.  Generally, when you're climbing these ranges, there's something higher than you in one direction or another.  But at the Pinnacles you're above everything and can see for miles in every direction.  It was very cool.

We cooked tramping food, cup-a-soup (red curry thai), and noodles and tunafish.  Our little cooking set is working quite well.  It's made up of two small pots with lids, and a fry pan.  We have 2 enamelled bowls/plates I got for my birthday (from me) and utensils that my Mom took from her flight on Cathay Pacific.  In addition our swiss army knife is indespensible, as well as a small cutting board, which up til this point is always packed away when we need it.  We think we've rectified that now.  We've made one meal on our camp stove, a cassarole that Mary made us in Auckland.  Yummy.

Yesterday we walked down the hill we climbed the day before.  Even though it's not as aerobic, it's hard on the knees, so we're taking it easy today. As hard as the tramping is, I feel like I've really accomplished something when I am done, and am happy that I get to see lots of things that a year ago I could have never have done.  It's truly amazing to think about what we are able to accomplish now, that we wouldn't have dreamt of attempting a year ago.  If someone had described this tramp to us a year ago, we would have just laughed at them, but we actually did it.  And survived.  And enjoyed it.  It's kinda weird.

Last night we stayed at a holiday park in Athenree, where there were hot pools to soak our sore muscles.  What an amazing idea those hot pools were!  We even made a gourmet meal on the BBQ of sausages and grilled veggies with basmati rice.  The folks who ran the park were remarkable in their ability to remember our names.  We spoke to them for all of 5 minutes when we asked for our tent site, and they must check in dozens of new people each day, but later that night, and also the next morning they were calling Carol and I by our first names.

That's it, you're up to date.

Still working on getting our pictures up.


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