Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A weekend to remember - earthquakes, volcanoes, and free spirits mean anything is possible!

SPECTACULAR, SCARY, FUN, DANGEROUS & BREATHTAKING - all the words that described Friday 19th - Sunday 21st July 2013 - read on!

EARTHQUAKES! 3 Big ones in 3 days! I could talk about that quite easily... the city survived the big one (6.9 magnitude) which shook the top of the South Island and Lower north Island on Sunday evening. Yes there was mild damage to the city, but no serious injuries! To be honest the series of aftershocks have been more disturbing to me and the 'planning' that the media and the city had undertaken is pretty extensive. On Friday morning about 09:00 whilst sat in front of the computer at work in the office, I felt a little rumble under my feet, then felt the building move in a way that buildings should not be moving (sideways)! I went deadly quiet, (thought about diving under the nearest table as I have been taught to do by a multitude of school children on tv adverts), and looked out of the window to see the workmen holding onto the scaffolding of a newly constructed building across the street. Everyone else in the office seemed calm, and no one jumped under the desk, despite saying it was one of the biggest quakes felt in Wellington for some time... 

Part of the reason I think I'm not feeling too panicked is because I missed the entire big event on Sunday! After feeling Friday's warm-up shake whilst at work, I was quickly out of Wellington and driving up North for one of the most incredible trips I have had since I arrived here - up a volcano at Mt Ruapehu at the time of the Earthquake!

The weekend itself was pretty mesmorising from start to finish! Moving from the city of Wellington, to remote farm land Friday Night, then to the thermal geysers of Rotorua, and Lake Taupo on Saturday, before the splender of Mount Ruapehu and return to Wellington on Sunday! All this was with two wonderfully spirited new friends, who both originate from Brazil and provided non-stop entertainment from start to finish! I'm tired just reading that sentence! I could talk all day about many aspects of this adventure, but I'll try and stick to the main points so: go put the kettle on, get a cup of tea and a biscuit and sit down to enjoy the story! 

Filled with quite a bit of excitement at the weekend ahead, and a long drive of 3 hours, I finished work early, (@ 3:30pm) picked up my hire car. (Another free upgrade - I should keep asking for 'manuals', because every time I do, they never have any and give me a free upgraded automatic). I had ALL my CD's, and set about singing my way (along with the cast of Glee, and the odd musical) 2 hours north to Palmerston North, to pick up Sonia, - a friend of my friend Dayanne. Sonia and Dayanne are both Brazilian by birth but have been over here in NZ longer than I have. Me and Sonia drove for another hour up to Takapau, to Dayanne's farm house - in the middle of absolutely nowhere! No noise, no neighbours and a clear star filled sky! After a home cooked lasagna (yummy indeed), it was a relatively early night before waking up at 0530 the next morning - solely at Dayanne's insistence so we could get to the Lady Knox Geyser by 10:00 just outside of Rotorua. I thought I was being tortured to be made to get up so early on a weekend, but I will publicly admit that it was the right thing to do as the video and pictures below show the wonder of the Geyser demonstration, which is actually brought about by adding soap powder to it! There is 26000 litres of water suppressed underneath!

starting to go...
It might be early, but we're happy campers!
The Geyser was impressive enough, but was nothing compared to the wonders of the WAI-O-TAPU 'Thermal Wonderland' just down the road from the geyser. These thermal wonderlands offer bubbling mud pools, both small and large coloured pools of water, coloured differently by the different minerals that sit in the pools. The only problem was the sulphur smell (rotten eggs) that followed us around the park... or was that actually the remains of last night's lasagna?????
Large Thermal pools... & smelly too!
So excited, Dayanne jumps for joy!
'Fantail bird'
Cheesy Pictures!
Stunning Thermal pools...
Thermal pools...
Wonderful colors...
HUKA FALLS - The next stop on Saturday was Huka falls just outside of Taupo, which is a little gorge where an awful lots of water passes through as fairly high speeds, making it a nice little stop and tourist attraction, with a 'jet boat' and viewing platforms, I'll let the pictures do the talking here...
Huka Falls, Taupo
powerful falls...
TAUPO Saturday evening was going to be a night out in Taupo, (home of the seriously beautiful and huge Lake Taupo). We thought it was a good idea to do a touch of shopping, and me and Dayanne even tried to fit in a tandem bungy jump, but arrived too late to jump that evening. Sonia wasn't very keen on for me and Dayanne to go jumping off a platform tied to only elastic, and she found her own way to cope with her anxiety! (see picture below)
Coping with the idea of a bungy watching us bungy jump
On arriving at our hotel we were all looking forward to jumping into the free thermal spa pools, but I got distracted by the sunset (yes I know I always get distracted by sunsets - thank you Helen Clark!) Check these sunsets out at Lake Taupo...
Taupo Sunsets
Lake Taupo Sunsets
Lake Taupo Sunset
That was pretty much the last thing I saw (outdoors), as after a good soak in the spa, and a few tasty ciders later, the early morning start had caught up with us all! Whilst me and Dayanne sat watching the movie 'my big fat greek wedding' on tv, whilst waiting for the longest ever pizza delivery, Sonia was in the land of sleep and adding some funny noises to the movie soundtrack!


Having woken up, to some sunny skies, and cold pizza, Dayanne was bouncing round the room (like tigger from 'Winnie the pooh') because there was sunshine hovering over the Tongariro National Park and over the volcanic Mt Ruapehu. One quick stop at the bakery was made before driving out to the national park and first stop was the drive up to Whakapapa village and the now famous Mt Doom! Take a look at this!
Mt Doom
Mt Ruapehu from Whakapapa Village
We may not have been skiing, but there was plenty of life on the volcano with families all over the place making snowmen and sledging on the way up to the ski-fields. I wasn't really sure what to expect as the snow didn't look too heavy, but once we managed the long long walk up to the chair lift (because it was so busy you just couldn't park anywhere close) the adventure began.
The views just got better and better as we got higher, and the mountain had poked it's head though the surrounding cloud, to leave an almost perfect circle of blue sky surrounding us. I could easily try describing the views, but I couldn't possibly do it justice, so enjoy the photos... 
The ladies chatting away...
Looking over at Mt Doom from Ruapehu

Busy ski-field
Chair lift to heaven!

Two very happy ladies!
More chair lift views...
Thumbs up for this experience!
Snow covered mountains...
A very long drive home followed the time up the mountain, with some funny conversations in the car about what superpowers would you chose to have if you could pick any 3 powers. Sonia seemed to want to use any power for numerous forms of world domination, which we pointed out was not allowed in the rules of the game! Time passed relatively quickly in the car, and we soon arrived at Palmerston North to drop Sonia home, and make a mad dash to use the toilet - not lasagna related!
I returned to Dayanne's farm to pick up my car and prepare for the 3 hour drive back to Wellington (which unbeknown was still reeling from the earthquake). I couldn't leave without a final piece of lasagna, to see my through my drive home, and finally arrived home just before midnight.

When these kind of spontaneous events happen, with near strangers, I do wonder if there is a higher meaning in these connections. Just over one week before this weekend I had never met these two ladies, and would never have imagined having spent a totally spectacular weekend in their wonderful company. So thank you Dayanne and Sonia for a weekend filled with fun, laughter, wonder, laughter, some weirdness, more laughter, a little alcohol, a bit more laughter, and plenty of lasagna!

Hope you've enjoyed the blog (if you made it this far)...
Regards from New Zealand

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