After a few days of non-stop rain, we were elated to wake up on Sunday to blue skies, despite a weather app that said "rain will continue". We stayed at Lake Taupo, home to an Ironman and other adventure sports, for 2 nights and did some lovely riding and eating. Then, on to the final 2 Big Adventures of the trip!
|Lake Taupo on unexpected sunny day|
The Joker Stage - Tongagiro Alpine Crossing
One of the most recommended and obvious activities for a trip to New Zealand is to do a gorgeous day hike ("tramp", in NZ terms) in the mountains. The highest-rated tramp within reasonable driving distance is the Tongagiro Alpine Crossing, a 19.4km (12mi) point-to-point trek that passes through a Dual World Heritage site and passes by huge volcanoes, the most iconic being 'Mt Doom' from Lord of the Rings.
My heart was set on doing this hike and not wimping out due to weather, and Zack played along nicely. We parked in National Park Village, rented some trekking poles, and took a shuttle to the trailhead. Despite raging thunderstorms that morning in Taupo (1hr drive away), the weather seemed OK - around 60 degrees and misty. We hoped to get above some clouds to see some of the world-renowned views! Unfortunately, we soon climbed up into the cloud, then were pelted with cold rain in heavy bursts! We hurried along, not stopping for a pleasant picnic, passing hundreds of boy-scout equivalents and jogging a little bit at the end to make it back for the earliest shuttle back. Mission accomplished, glad we did it, but a little bit ridiculous. Luckily, the Airbnb host that night had a very sweet dog to warm us up.
|Going up the 'Devil's Staircase'|
|One spectacular view - descending|
|Crater walk in the rain|
Queen Stage - The Timber Trail MTB
The hardest day of a cycling stage race is called the 'Queen Stage'. We often seem to have such epic days toward the end of our 'vacations' (not sure who plans them! ;)
Zack actually introduced me to The Timber Trail a few months ago, and when he expressed interest in an all-day MTB ride, I readily acquiesced. It's an 84km (50mi) point-to-point ride through timber forests and natural preserves, all on dirt, mostly non-technical singletrack. We'd book a shuttle to the start, then ride back to end at our car. 50 miles doesn't sound that huge compared to road rides, but our longest MTB ride this trip so far had been about 15, so it's a different beast! The website estimates 11 hours for most groups to do the ride and recommends camping or staying at a lodge at the halfway point.
|The trail contains amazing suspension bridges, built specifically for cyclists/trampers!|
|There were only a few major obstacles; |
otherwise, the trail is meticulously maintained and engineered
|Peek of sunshine toward the end!|
|2km from the end, the entire creek flooded. Zack just went for it and didn't realize he went against the NWS PSA of "Turn Around, Don't Drown".|
Thursday we awoke with the bright sun in our faces. A gorgeous, typical summer day in NZ after all that rain! We mainly relaxed and savored the last day of vacation, doing a little work, reading, and going for an easy kayak paddle on the Bay to Pancake Rocks. Raglan, NZ is a little surf town, with black sand beaches, nice water, and a great left-hand wave break (not sure what that means, not being a surfer). Lovely last day.
|Gorgeous beach at Raglan|
Friday will span 42 hours with the time changes, so should be a big day. We plan to drive back to up to Auckland Airport, drop off the rental car, go for a quick final MTB spin nearby, shower (the terminal has free showers, supposedly), fly 13 hours, wake up at 6:30am also on Friday in LAX, work from LAX until 2:40pm (hopefully using my 2 free United Club passes), then fly to PIT. Looking forward to seeing our puppy again and spending the long weekend with Zack's parents!
Overall trip route: Map