I'd gladly pay $55 to be bludgeoned about the head!

Day 17:
Began in the middle of the night actually when we were awakened by a security guard asking us to move our van. That is a risk you run when you are nomads I guess. At a more appropriate hour we visited a coffee shop for some relaxation while we waited for morning storms to pass. In the early afternoon we partook in some single track mountain biking near the Craters of the Moon Park. Some excellent trails but not quite as good as the Whakarewarewa forest.

After mountain biking we splurged on some internet access and on some boots. Then dinner at the Waterside Restaurant and another night in the van.

Day 18:
Another coffee shop morning. I've started reading the paper again, a habit I'd lost since medical school. Of course, it's the New Zealand paper so I don't really know anything about news in the U.S. but it's still fun.

Today we walked around the Craters of the Moon area except since it's New Zealand we actually had to pay $5 each to walk around in nature, but it was cool. Dinner was cooked by Shaleah in our hotel room and it was delicious.


Day 19:
Departed the Barcelona Hotel (in Taupo) at 10 am and drove towards Tongariro National Park, home of Mt. Tongariro, Nguruhoe, and Ruapehu. You might recognize Nguruhoe as playing the part of Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Anyway, on the way down we attempted to detour and bike what is called the 42 Traverse. This was decidedly unsuccessful. I tried to take us on a shortcut route and we made it about 15 minutes down the trail when we had to make a choice to turn back or ford a waist deep river. As a distant descendant of France I knew immediately when to retreat.

Plan B involved hiking to Taranaki Falls which provided many great views of both Nguruhoe and Ruapehu. Ruapehu actually houses two ski areas, Whakapapa and Turoa. After the 2 hour tramp we ate wood-fired pizza in National Park. Yes, that is the name of the town. National Park, New Zealand. You'll never guess what it's near. Before bed in the van (and a cold night's sleep) I finished reading The Man in the High Castle.


Day 20:
So far August 14th 2007 is the only day in August that I've ever been downhill skiing. That's right, today we hit the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu at the Whakapapa ski area. I had forgotten just how expensive it is to ski when you rent equipment and pay by the day for a lift ticket, but it was well worth it. Of course, this being New Zealand they gouge you for the shuttle ride to the base of the ski area. Actually, riding up is free but you have to pay to get down which makes me laugh. Still, a beautiful, rare, crystal clear day for the most part with 5 cm of new snow and breathtaking views of the surrounding plains.

There are no trees on any of these volcanic peaks so the whole ski area is basically one big run. It was amazing to look out from the top of the ski area onto the green plains spreading out below. Definitely a different feel than you get in Colorado. Like much of New Zealand the ski area is much less developed than the U.S. so Shaleah and I had to dust off our T-bar skills. We only fell off once in three rides, a pretty impressive percentage.

Managed to make it off the mountain injury free and procured a room at Howard's Lodge to avoid having to sleep in the van in sub-zero (celsius) temperatures again tonight. As Shaleah says, we made it through medical school and residency we shouldn't have to freeze our asses off. Or something like that, I forget how the exact quote went. Shaleah cooked dinner so we could feel like we were being thrifty and then we watched Judgement at Nuremburg on my laptop.

Day 21:
Shaleah is sick today. It is good that we didn't attempt the Tongaririo crossing or the 42 Traverse today. Neither of us felt up to it, although I'm not ill. We did hike to the Silica Rapids in the Tongariro National Park, though, and saw some great views of Mt. Nguruhoe. Even this two and a half hour hike tired both of us out. We definitely needed a day to rest before attempting the 42 Traverse.

On the bright side it was $10 pizza night at the Basekamp restaurant. I enjoyed the tandoori chicken, banana, cashew and yoghurt pizza and Shaleah downed the lamb, pumpkin, potato, and yoghurt pie. Good fuel for tomorrow.


Day 22:
42 is the answer to life, the Universe, and everything. It is also the distance in kilometers of the popular 42 Traverse trail. At least I'm told it is popular in the summer. Apparently hardly anybody rides it in the winter. Coincidentally we rode it today with another person, a bike shop owner from western Australia out on working holiday. Well, we didn't actually ride it together. The Aussie was so tough he rode his mountain bike to the trail (20 km), and then rode the trail. I cannot fathom how someone can do that as I was so fatigued at the end of the trail itself that I began to seriously wonder why we had paid $55 for the privilege of inflicting hours of pain upon ourselves. It was almost more than my couch potato body could handle and it gave me new respect for endurance athletes.

After returning and cleaning our filthy bikes we actually drove back to Taupo to stay because it would be warmer at lower elevation. Ate at the Thai Lotus and slept yet again in our trusty Bedmobile.