Oct. 11 - Wine, Quarterfinal Madness, & Mountain Top Panic
NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 12 October 2011 | Views 
Mount Ruapehu & Carolyn
Oct. 11th - Today we were planning to spend in Okahune, a ski town at the base of Mt Ruapehu, but the weather forecast of rain and gale force winds for tomorrow caused us to unplug the van and head north. We skirted the western shore of Lake Taupo and arrived in Tokoroa. Tokorua is a lumber town not far from the thermal spring town of Rotorua. The town’s claim to fame is about 30 totem pole type sculptures scattered through the town centre. They call them talking poles, but they don’t actually say anything. Highlights since our last blog on the morning of Oct. 5th. October 5th: Ignoring the chilly weather that threatened rain we set off on rented bikes with our Welsh friends, Huw and Celia. Our goal was to taste wines at several vineyards in the area and we succeeded. The area, we discovered, is especially renowned for its pinot noirs and they were tasty. Dinner was grilled lamb and hogget chops back at the campsite with bottles of local pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. The campsite owner recommended that we go into town for the finals of the karaoke contest and it was a treat. Our favorite (Pip Maynard singing Black Velvet) didn’t win, but a great time was had by all. October 6th: It was a drizzly day, and we had a slow start. We drove to a vineyard in Gladstone that had been recommended to us, but there was no one there. We had a great meal of lamb fry (livers) and grilled lamb salad at the Gladstone pub before returning to Martinborough for an early night. October 7th: Tom was off before sunrise to catch the bus and train to Wellington to play like a sport journalist at pre-quarterfinal press conferences for South Africa, Australia, and Ireland. Carolyn rented a bike and visited a vineyard after doing laundry. When Tom returned they went to a pizza restaurant in town and shared stories of their day. October 8th: We said farewell to Martinborough and traveled over the Rimutaka mountains for the last time. After parking at the Lower Hutt Top 10 campsite we caught the bus into Wellington. We strolled the chilly streets around the harbor visiting a lovely weekend market right on the waterfront. Our Welsh friends had gathered at a restaurant and bar called Shed 5. We met them there for pre-match drinks before weaving through the sea of Welsh red and Irish green clad fans to the stadium. After the match we met everyone at a very crowded Shed 5 to celebrate Wales’s victory and watch England lose to France. October 9th: At last a beautiful sunny warm day in Wellington inspired us to be up early and wander parts of the city we hadn’t seen before. Carolyn climbed Mt Victoria and Tom strolled through the Oriental Bay market and Courtenay Place Fanzone. We met up at Wellington’s marvelous free Te Papa Museum before strolling along the waterfront to the stadium for a last time to watch Australia beat South Africa. October 10th: The camper van was unplugged, battened down, and heading north by 9:30 a.m. We followed the route to Wanganui that we had driven three times before. We stopped at the un-bull-lievable town of Bulls for lunch and a final laugh at how all the signs in town fit the word “bull” into them like the police station is called the constabull, restrooms are called relievabull, the school is called knowledgeabull, and so on. Although rain was forecasted it was still sunny when we arrived in Okahune. Snow capped Mt Ruapehu seemed close enough to touch. After checking in the campsite we drove the 17 kilometers to just below where the ski lift starts. For the last kilometer the road was incredibly steep and narrow with no guard rails and in places seemed to be falling off the edge of the mountain. We were both wrecks and shaking when we finally found a place to park. We took a few pictures, touched the snow, turned the van around, and slowly crept back down the mountain. And that brings us to now. We’re laying in the camper van listening to the rain beating on the roof after our self-guided walk through the talking poles of Tokoroa and an evening watching Mr. Bean as Johnn y English at the Tokoroa Cinema.
Tags: australia, france, martinborough, quarterfinals, rugby world cup, south africa, wales, wellington
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