let’s have teriyaki taranaki for lunch

today we went on a tramp on mt taranaki.


the day started out cold and drizzling, but we decided to head to trailhead and see if the weather cleared. when we arrived things were better, but knowing how extreme conditions could be on the mountain we checked with the doc ranger before starting our tramp. after getting the go ahead from the ranger as we were heading off to the trail we passed a group of 10 or so indian lads in their twenties – in short sleeves and sneakers for the most part. i give them credit for getting out and doing something, but we’re at the base of a alpine zone with severe and rapidly changing conditions. not surprisingly the rescue service here does a brisk business coming to the aid of tourists. they are currently looking for a polish tourist who went off on a tramp alone without filing a route plan – total needle in a haystack.

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we turned around at the alpine tree line. wild winds and bitter cold as you left the protection of the forest.

you can see the dramatic change in the photo on the left above.

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in the photo and map above you can see the clear boundary between the native forest in the national park and the surrounding farm land.

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just like plymouth – only newer

it’s a three day weekend so we’re off to new plymouth to see some more of nz and hopefully go for a tramp on mt taranaki.

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as we passed though hawera (home of nz’s largest private collection of elvis memorabilia) we got our first view of our final destination – mt taranaki.

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next small town down the road is manaia. the framingham post office looks a bit bland in comparison to the manaia post. you can see the royal cypher of king george v at the top of the building. with his reign from 1910 to 1936 his mark is on all the great art deco works. the build on the right is a small hotel & pub.


we were traveling on state highway 45, known as “the surf highway” as it has easy access to many great surfing spots.

we had expected the road to travel right along the coast similar but realized after a bit that we were always a few k’s from ocean and were frequently passing small country roads that snaked off to the shoreline. we picked one just as it was starting to get dark.

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it’s hard to tell from this photo, but the road ends at a cliff with the ocean crashing onto the rocks several hundred feet below. no fence or barrier.


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looking back from the shore we had some great views of the mountain.

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after arriving at our motel in new plymouth we took a walk into the cbd. lots of great architecture including a movie house with a neon marquee.

the jboss has done some homework and had a list of potential places for dinner. but it’s never that easy. antony left the map back at the motel so we wondering around a bit looking for choice #1. can’t seem to find it. choice #1 is out of business and is now something else. on to choice #2. much harder to find and after asking some folks on the street, and then again at gas station we find it. we review the menu posted outside. looks good, but a bit expensive. we finally decide to splurge a bit and head in. sorry – all booked for the evening. can someone explain why they watched us noodle over the menu for several minutes knowing they were full? most of the other places were either packed or spookily empty with the owner looking at you hopefully as your pause outside. we ultimately decide on a pub.

turned out to be a fine choice. the finals for the super 14 rugby season were on and soon after we arrived the place filled up nicely. the food was just ok, but the beer was fine and it’s hard to beat the neighborhood pub atmosphere.

the shots below are from our drive home, once again along sh 45.


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anzac day

poppy.jpeg today is anzac day.

a summary of the day from nz ministry of culture and heritage (te manatu taonga) is below:

Anzac Day occurs on 25 April. It commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders.

Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians. To this day, Australia also marks the events of 25 April. Among the dead were 2721 New Zealanders, almost one in four of those who served on Gallipoli.

It may have led to a military defeat, but for many New Zealanders then and since, the Gallipoli landings meant the beginning of something else – a feeling that New Zealand had a role as a distinct nation, even as it fought on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.

Anzac Day was first marked in 1916. The day has gone through many changes since then. The ceremonies that are held at war memorials up and down New Zealand, or in places overseas where New Zealanders gather, remain rich in tradition and ritual befitting a military funeral.

we got up early at 0500 (not early enough as we’ll see later) and headed into town for the dawn service. we took the car thinking how hard could it be to find a spot at 0500 in the morning? big mistake. firstly most of the spots are occupied by overnight parkers (parking is free from 6pm to 6am) and we totally underestimated the size of the crowd for the service. as we started getting closer the sidewalks started filling up with people heading to the event. families with little ones. couples in the their 20’s. keep in mind that it is pitch black and a crisp fall morning. and there are hundreds of folks walking in the darkness towards the service at the cenotaph.

well – after some significant parking stress we finally abandoned the car nearly on the far side of town and started walking as fast as we could. sadly we arrived just at the service was ending – but we did get to see the servicemen march off through the huge crowd.

next year i’ll have my full motorcycle license and we’ll be able to scoot in with jackie on back and avoid the whole parking fiasco.

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the dawn crowd at the base of the cenotaph with the aussie, uk and nz flags.

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there were large crowds in cities across the country including over 20,000 in auckland for the dawn service

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is the 10’s of thousands at anzac cove in turkey.

this leads to the the second, perhaps equally inspiring, part of the anzac story. as the summary mentioned above the anzacs were part of an force intent on invading turkey and in the process killing thousands of turks. despite their efforts they were soundly defeated by the turks, who were led in part by mustafa kemal atatürk, who served as a divisional commander at gallipoli and went on to become the first president of modern turkey.

in 1934 atatürk recited the following at the opening of the memorial along the shores of gallipoli:

Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.

further in 1984 turkey renamed ari burnu to anzac cove. in response new zealand created ataturk park and the ataturk memorial. australia did the same in canberra.

i can’t think of another example where a country has established a memorial honoring a defeated invader, allowed thousands of it’s citizens to camp out on it’s shores each year in remembrance, and renamed a part of their coast after the invading forces.

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at midday we climbed up to the anaturk memorial for the midday service.

there was a slightly awkward moment when everyone (including the grammar school age kids behind us) sung the nz national anthem and we stood there silently. reminded me of what happens whenever a canadian baseball team in in town and they play the canadian anthem. nothing like 35,000 fans belting out “oh, canada!, hmm hmm la da hmm hmm…”

we vowed that we learn the words for next time.

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event number 3 for the day was a trip to wright’s hill reserve to tour the wwii fortress.

built during wwii as one of several outposts to defect wellington harbour, the fortress is a large underground complex providing support for large 10″ guns. the fortress was closed after the war and abandoned until the late 80s when the local lions club took began the long restoration process. it is now open to the public 4 times a year (waitangi day, anzac day, queen’s birthday & labour day).

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the gunners in gun pit #1 had a great view of the city.

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last scheduled event for the day was the “we’ll meet again” concert at town hall but unfortunately we were worn out by now and opted instead for a takeaway from the island bay malaysian restaurant.

something to look forward to for next year.

up and over

[ed. i’ll be adding more commentary, but for now i’ll let the photos do the talking]


today we did the tongariro alpine crossing.

the crossing is a 18.5km (11.5 mile) tramp through the tongariro national park that travels up and over the tongariro range. the park has dual world heritage for its natural features and cultural importance to the maori. the land for the park was donated to the nation in 1887 by Te Heuheu, paramount chief of the Ngati Tuiwharetoa people.

“Behold, beyond are the fires of these mountains and the lands we have held in trust for you. Take them in your care and cherish them, they are your heritage and the heritage of your children.”

the summits were all formed by volcanic eruptions. at several points along the trek you pass through areas where the mountains are still venting.

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after the alarm went off at 0530 we scrambled to get ready and met the 0630 shuttle bus to take us to trailhead.

what happened next is now referred to as the “key incident” and after today will never be spoken of again. at 0630 it is still pitch black out as we walk from our cabin to the main lodge to met the bus. we’re the last to arrive and the driver goes through the checklist: food? check, water? check, jackets? check, sunscreen? doh!. i say i will run back to the room and get ours. he says we’re out of time so jackie needs to hop on the the bus and then he will drive the bus down to our cabin to pick us up. i get back to the room, get the sunscreen out of the car and as i’m putting the car key back in my pocket notice that i can’t find the key to the cabin. i’m looking everywhere, on my hands and knees outside the door. after a few minutes the driver shouts out that we have to go. so i run back to the bus and ask jackie to get off since we can’t leave for the day without knowing where our cabin key is. we grab out stuff on the bus and step outside just as one of us finds the key. so back on the bus and off we go. we’re not out of the parking lot when i realize in the panic i have not re-locked the car. our car with my laptop in the hatch. 0638 and i’ve already had a full day. nothing to do about it now so off we head to the trailhead.

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it was still dark when we arrived at the start of the trail.

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this was the view looking back from our first summit at soda springs

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the second climb up to the south crater is ahead of us. hey – how did they know about jackie’s gas problem? mt ngauruhoe is on the right. for lord of the rings fans this is mount doom in the peter jackson movies.

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the walk across the south crater was a bit surreal.

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we stopped at the red crater for lunch even though it was only 1030. after getting this far we definitely needed some fuel.


the photo that just shouldn’t be.

we out on a perfect day on one of the most spectacular walks in the world and i’m on my mobile.

so in my defense i’m not talking work. or to my broker. i’m asking the folks at the lodge to get my laptop out of the unlocked car for safe keeping. hopefully that’s not as bad.

in the we-live-in-amazing-times category, pretty wild that you can make a phone call on top of a volcano, no?

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after we crossed the summit at red crater we began the descent down to emerald lake. this was the most treacherous part of the tramp with a steep decent down the scree. a bit of challenge for those not equipped properly. not too hard with hiking boots and tramping poles – a different story if you’re in jeans and sneakers.

along this part of your trail if your hat blows off you buy a new hat.


here we are at the central crater looking back at red crater and mt ngauruhoe.

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as we started our descent we could see lake taupo in the distance. ketetahi hut is in the distance in the photo on the right. the tramp that we did was just a small piece of a larger walk that takes several days. there are doc staffed huts with bunks and cooking facilities every 1/2 days journey along the trek. for us it was just a brief stop to use the loo and we’re off.

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the trail is so remote that all the trail maintenance supplies have to be brought in my helicopter. you can see a drop zone in the first photo.

we reached the trail end at a bit after 2 pm and we were back at the lodge with beers in hand by 3.

we were quite proud of ourselves for the completing the crossing and through we kept up a fine pace. that said all day we were frequently passed by kiwis that seemed to be just casually strolling along. it is becoming clear that the average level of fitness in nz is a bit above that in the states and that we need to take the estimated travel times quite seriously. we’ve yet to finish a walk in under the time estimated.

forging north

in new zealand good friday and easter monday are state holidays so that means a 4 day weekend for everyone. trying to learn from our christmas mistake of not booking early the jboss had planned and booked a trip for us to the tongariro region and a relaxing spa visit for gromit.

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on our trip up we went the western route through wanganui. since it was good friday the town was locked up tight, but looked like a great place to visit and we’ll put it on the list to return to soon. we did find one cafe that was open and given the holiday we set our expectations low. i was expecting mediocre fish & chips. turns out it was very good. great english beer selection and i had a venison burger with mango chutney. hard to beat.

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another great tree lined main street with cafes, shops and a majestic old theatre. almost all of the banks in new zealand are australian owned (like the one above) including unbelievably the bank of new new zealand and new zealand bank.

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right past the cbd was a huge park along the river. the children’s area was themed around nursery rhymes with the 3 bears, humptey dumptey, etc. inside the big pumpkin was a prep area, huge grill and picnic tables. most of the public parks here have public grills that gas fueled and free to use. they have a flat metal cooking surface like at mcdonalds and are started just by pushing a button. a lot easier (and safer) than everyone bringing charcoal and dousing it with lighter fluid. at one end of the park was the ultimate tree house.

after we passed through wanganui we decided to take the scenic backroads up to our destination. the guidebook described it as a can’t miss vistas – so how could we pass?

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i’m not keen on living out of the city, but if i were the homestead in first photo would be ideal.

two stories behind the second picture. firstly the sign on the cliff. you are entering a single crewed ambulance zone. that means when the ambulance arrives the paramedic can either treat you – or drive – but not both at the same time, so try not to be an idiot and need any urgent medical care. keep that in mind for the photos below. and why is jackie laughing? she is wearing sandals and has just stepped in a pile of poo. guess who’s riding on the roof rack for a while?

the last photo could easily be from vermont, and was a brief glimpse of fall. we had great tall, slender birches lining the road for the early part of the drive.

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the drive started out on a nice winding paved road, but the pace quickly slowed as the road turned to gravel and was frequently shared with local livestock.

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the first shot is great on several levels. firstly the bulls lining the road. “sure – come on down. we’re nice and friendly. ignore the horns. and forget about the sign reminding you that this is a single crewed ambulance zone. what are you waiting for?” nextly is the 100 kph speed limit sign. 100 kph is about 60 mph and is very fast for a paved country road. much less a gravel road with a steep drop off on one side. or more so for a single lane, gravel road with a steep drop off lined by bulls.

at one point we let a local farmer pass and the visibility dropped to zero. we assumed we’d know when we hit the livestock.

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as we emerged from the country road our final destination – mt tongariro – came into view.

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the last town before we arrived at tonariro was raetihi. more than a bit depressing since it was clearly struggling and a shadow of its former prime.
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yet another former bank of new zealand building shamefully degraded to office for a local radio station.

so when the town elders were sitting around the table in the late 1930’s trying to decide how to celebrate the town’s upcoming centennial, how did the conversation turn to a rest room?


mt ngauruhoe at sunset in another this-is-why-we-moved-here images.

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our home for the holidays is the wilderness lodge in national park. yes – the name of the town is “national park”. the first several conversations about where we were staying had a who’s on first quality.

a: “so, where are we going to be staying on our holiday?”
j: “we’re booked at the wilderness lodge in national park”
a: “great – what town is that in?”
j: “national park”
a: “right – but what town are we nearest to?”
j: “the lodge is in in national park”

at this point i give up and don’t see the light until we pass the state highway sign that welcomes us to national park.

after we unpack the car we head up to the lodge for dinner only to find out that they are booked up for the night. this was a bit surprising since the small dining room never seemed more than half full. feeling bad they offered us a bowl of fries. so our good friday dinner was fries & beers on the couch watching willy wonka on the telly.

we were off to bed early after setting the alarm for 0530 so we could catch the 0630 shuttle bus for our big tramp tomorrow.

super bowl monday

with us 18 hours ahead of boston, super bowl sunday is actually on monday. that means it will be up to the jboss to root for patriots whilst i’m off making money for the man.

espn international is part of our cable package and carries the occasional baseball or american football game. we were able to see the 2 pats playoff games, but no surprise the super bowl is only available on one of the sky sports package channels.

on the day it was below zero in green bay we were spending the afternoon at the ocean.


the hats make us dorks look even dorkier, but if you look at the graphic below you’ll see that one country is nestled neatly under the cozy comfort of the ozone hole.

you gotta do what you gotta do.