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Grogan Teek Travels

Snow in July at Mount Doom

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 12 July 2008 | Views [538]


4th of July weekend in New Zealand isn’t a holiday, obviously – the Kiwi’s haven’t quite gotten round to severing ties with England yet so I suspect their loyalties would not be with us on the Declaration of Independence.  They would probably deem it too impolite…..


So the 4th was a regular day here but afterwards we hopped in a car and headed for the central plateau to explore Mt Ruapehu in the winter.  Ruapehu is a volcano in the middle of the north island that is currently covered in snow.  The mountain has been burping lately – letting off gases – which make the scientists think that it may be getting ready for some more activity. It apparently has been active intermittently over the years, with some spectacular eruptions as recently as 1996, but none while we were there. 


Lord of the Rings fans will remember Ruapehu as Mount Doom, particularly from Return of the King, or so I am told. 


My poor deprived Florida children had one significant item remaining on their wish list: to play in the snow.  We don’t get much of that in Tallahassee.  In fact, their only other experience in snow was 4 or 5 years ago in Vermont. It was June and we came across an 8 ft square of leftover, ice encrusted snow on the side of a mountain. We had to stop the car to let the girls play in it. It was pretty pathetic so they have been looking for more.  We wondered if we might see some in January in England or China, but no such luck. So off to the mountains we went. 


We stayed in a tiny little town called Owhango.  When I say tiny, little town, I mean that by NZ standards.  It was little. There was the hotel were we stayed (maybe 4 rooms?), a ski shop, one other hotel with a restaurant (but it wasn’t open on Mondays, and about 3 short streets. That was it.


The snowfield was about 20 minutes away in Whakapapa (which is an even funnier name when you remember that WH is pronounced “f” sound in Maori). The word papa is anything that is broad, flat and hard, like rock slabs or a board. Whakapapa means to place one layer on another.  The word, interestingly, is also used to describe the recitation of genealogies within a tribe or iwi.


So we rented some sleds and snowpants and went off to the mountains. For a couple of days the girls got their fill of cold, wet snow.  I’ll attach some photos. 


We have also been exploring things closer to Wellington. A few weekends ago we went off to Makara Bay, where we walked along the beach, climbed some rocks and found paua shells.  Perhaps we should have made some jewelry for, them, because paua jewelry is ubiquitous.  Pauas are a form of abalone, thought to be the most vibrantly colored.


We also went to the newly-opened Weta-Cave. Weta is the workshop of Peter Jackson, the maker of Lord of the Rings, King Kong and a bunch of other movies.  Rings fans apparently have been peering over the fence at Weta for years, hoping to see some movie magic , so they finally decided to open a little store for the tourists.  Kiwis just don’t market like Americans.  The store was small and most of the items were too expensive for all but the most committed hobbit fans: $300 sculptures and $65 King Kong t shirts. I think they would do a lot better with a variety of lesser priced items.  Get your rubber kingkong and gold rings here. 


On the way back home we drove along the coast of Miramar.  Mackenzie shouted to us to stop to see the seal. Sure enough, right next to the road there was a huge seal sitting on the rocks.  The girls hopped out of the car and the seal obligingly posed for a few pictures.  It was really rough weather, so I think he was just getting out of the pounding waves for a while. 


July has been fairly dreary – grey skies, rain and cold, but mostly in the 50s or high 40s, not as bad as I anticipated.  It will be quite a shock to return to the Tallahassee heat wave next month.


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