Thursday, 25 June 2009
Friday – Rotorua/Taupo
We left Auckland on Friday 19 June, for Rotorua. I had prebooked us into Whakarewarewa Thermal Village www.whakarewarewa.com for the Cultural Display at 1400, so we had a deadline to meet! The weather was fantastic, with clear blue skies most of the way. We grabbed a couple of great cappuccino’s and a hot chocolate in Matamata, and stopped at McDonalds in Rotorua itself for lunch. We got to the Village early, so had an explore by ourselves, walking up to the top of the hill, through the village urupa (burial ground) and around some of the hotpools, before going to the Display. This was performed by 3 women (in piupiu) and 3 men, with the hinderance of a small girl-child. It included a greeting, waiata, haka, poi and stick games. One of the guys was really hamming it up for the people watching, posturing, pulling faces, and having a lot of fun.
After the display, we wandered round for another half hour, noticing how low the water levels were in the lakes, and the general air of having been sucked dry and dying. The scrub was starting to get ahead of the lake, particularly in the shadows.
At 1500 we met up with the guide, who took us back round the village. There are 26 families living on the tribal land, I think around 500 people, aged from 11 months to 84 years. In the last 5½ months there's been a lot of geothermal activity, which is why many of the pools are lower. The "upper baths" have been closed completely, as no water can flow into them.
We drove down to Taupo, trying to find a motel with a restaurant attached, that we could afford. We eventually settled on "Twin Peaks", wondering if there were any plastic-wrapped bodies in the lake. The room was a concrete-block box, freezing cold. The restaurant was "British-themed", and the food was pretty good. David had Chicken Brie, I had a Lamb Shank, and Becca had a burger and chips. It was a long, cold night.
Saturday – Ruapehu/Whakapapa-Waikanae
There was ice on the car and carpark in the morning – aaarrgghhh.
We drove very carefully to Ruapehu – there were a number of vehicles that had gone off the road, driving too fast, slipping on black ice. We drove up the Whakapapa Road to the village – every carpark level was covered in thick ice, the sides of the road were icy, there were icicles hanging from the roadsides. The wind at the Bruce was 50kpmh, gusting to 80kpmh – bitterly, bitterly cold! The car thermometer was at 2degC. I slipped getting out of the car, and just couldn't get warm. Becca got dressed in the car. We walked across the road, gasping with the cold, picked up a lump of ice from the side of the road, and got back in the car and drove back down the hill!
We'd seen a lovely frozen waterflow as we'd driven up, about 4 kilometers back down the mountain, so we stopped just below it where the road widened, and walked over the tussock back to it. You could see the meltwater running inside the frozen icicles and shawls – nanite infection! We met a couple there with two small boys – they were keen trampers, and the guy had not only snow-caved on the mountain, he'd also done two 3-month trips down to Antarctica, and was trying to go on a third. It was about 3degC there, but the windchill was much, much less.
Drove down as far as Waikanae, and found a motel down near the beach – Waikanae Beach Motel. Very nice two bedroom unit with lounge/kitchen and bathroom-toilet. Lovely and warm! Drove back up to town, round and round, looking for a damn restaurant. Settled on Vela, had a very nice dinner, prawns, pork, dessert - $160! Slept well.
Sunday – Solstice!
Today is 21 June 2009, the shortest day of the year, and the Winter Solstice. This afternoon, we will be gathering with other druids, pagans and members of the public at Aotearoa Stonehenge to celebrate the Solstice.
Drove down to Pukerua Bay and found The Woolshed. It's a converted Shearing shed, with a meditation/meeting area and bedrooms downstairs, and a wonderful open space upstairs. Shared lunch. Drove to the place where we met the bus. Caroline, Phil, Theresa, Yvette and Brendon on the bus! Sat with Caroline on the journey over the hills – 70+km to Carterton.
There were 70+ Druids/pagans etc, + 180 members of the public. Stonehenge was amazing. Becca was the Mabon, and said her lines perfectly. The ritual was fantastic and totally absorbing. Stayed in the circle after the ritual, to discharge some energy. Aaaroooooooo!
Fell asleep in the bus, curled up to Becca and slept. Clever babe!
Monday – drove home to Auckland, via Bulls, Taupo and Hamilton – a long drive.
This was an awesome long weekend!