North Island, New Zealand

We buzz straight up from Wellington to the lake Taupo region.

Whapapa, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

We stop at the Mangahuia camp (DOC) site which is right near the Whapapa village. In the village we go to the Tonariro Holiday park and book a shuttle bus to transport us to and from the start and end points of the spectacular “Tongariro Alpine Crossing” trek.

Whapapa Village, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

We’ve done a few treks on the South island, some quite challenging, but the distance on this one is about 19.4km – about double the distance we’ve walked so far. I’ve done a good few walks of this calibre before and I’m curious how Ebru will cope.

Mount Tongariro, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

The day arrives and our weather forecast is fantastic. We take the 7AM shuttle and we’re quite pleased to see that not too many others are starting off at this time, which should give us more peace to enjoy the scenery.

Alpine crossing,Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Mount Tongariro, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

The scenery is breathtaking – a barren wasteland of volcanic activity. There are at least 5 caldera in close proximity and the walk takes you right between a number of them. The view of Mount Ngaruhoe is incredible! It’s a free-standing cone of about 2300 metres; have I mentioned that this is still active? They have a couple of signs along the way telling you what to do in case of an eruption – you know, descend as quickly as possible, preferably along some of the safer ridges – HA! Given the distances involved I wouldn’t expect to be returning home in case of an eruption, period! That’s just an accepted risk as far as I’m concerned.

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Mount Tongariro, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Further along you walk by the Yellow Crater (which is yellow) and the Red Crater (which is red and steaming).

red crater, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Emerald lakes, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

And nearby there are some dazzling volcanic lakes; the Emerald lakes being emerald green and boiling with sulphuric gas, and the Blue Lake which is not as blue as we expect (could be the cloud cover at the moment) but it’s still beautiful.

Worth noting (for those going there, who fail to read the notes in their guide books) is that this is considered a holy site by some and eating by or swimming in the lake are considered disrespectful.

blue lake, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Much more disrespectful in my opinion are those imbeciles who go around dropping their used tissues all over the place – stay at home, you do not belong on a mountain! (And of course I could strangle certain parents who don’t supervise their little brats and let them kick big rocks down scree runs and cliffs with no consideration whether there’s anyone receiving the avalanche below.)


Those rants aside, we have a wonderful day and the views and tremendous. We reach the end of the trail exhausted. Ebru is in pain and promising never to attempt this again, but she’s made it almost blister free and she’s put up a splendid performance in her less-than-ideal walking boots. No doubt the hiking bug will return to her once she sees the Andes.

Tongario National Park, 19.5km alpine crossing, North Island, New Zealand

Artist's Palette Wai-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, North Island, New Zealand

Whangamata Moto Camp, North Island, New Zealand

Further North we visit the Wai-O-Tapu Park and other geothermal features.

Wai-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, North Island, New Zealand

Champagne Pool, Wai-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, North Island, New Zealand

Devil's Ink, Wai-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, North Island, New Zealand

Hot water beach is especially fun, where you can shovel yourself a little thermal bath all for yourself (good luck).


As well as some impressive water features around Kaimanava Forest Park.


In Auckland we visit my Sensei Keith from back home, whom I haven’t seen in over 10 years. They generously put us up in a room and for a whole week we’re graced with excellent company and nice communal dinners, quite nice after eating alone for several weeks.

As an added bonus, Keith has set up a workshop in his garage and he introduces me to the basics of wood turning and knife making, which are his latest hobbies. It’s really interesting and fun and makes me long for the time I’ll set up my own base with a good little workshop to keep me out of trouble.

Whilst here, we also meet Gordon Pembridge, an artist of note. We go around to visit one day have the opportunity to see him progress one of his art works in his workshop. Gordon has a background in the more commonly known skills such as painting, but has since become a keen wood turner, and the work he produces requires a level of skill not many people have achieved.

Keth's family in Auckland

Have a look at his web site to get an idea ( The wooden bowls shown are turned FREE HAND down to about a milimetre thickness! He then grinds and carves them with such delicacy that the end product is about as fragile as an egg shell. No wonder they fetch astonishing amounts at galleries worldwide. We feel honoured to have seen this master at work.

Gordon Pembridge Wood Turning Artist, Auckland, New Zealand

We spend the final few days in Auckland doing our online chores, planting more trees for our Planting Around the World mission, and enjoying the company of the Fords. I’m pleased to say that we even took some time to do some training together for the first time in 11 years. After our time here among Keith and Company, we come away even more inspired to go out there put our hands and brains to use in a creative manner.

Auckland beach

To Keith and Family: we extend our gratitude to you for taking us into your home and making us feel welcome. I look forward to our next encounter and hope that it won’t be another 11 years before we meet again! Travis, thanks for your bed, take care, keep your head on straight and good luck with Oz. Samantha, good luck with graduation and work life, and remember, people aren’t all as mad as you may think 😉