October 14

This morning we left our graveyard campsite to head to Mount Taranaki to do a hike. On our way to Dawson’s Falls we realized that we were running low on gas. We pulled over to try to find the nearest gas (or petrol) station. The car was also jerking when we drove and it was producing a burning smell. We started to get nervous. We decided to head toward the nearest town and find a mechanic. Fortunately we made it to Stratford, which was about 20 km away. We drove up to a mechanic and they told us it would take an hour to take a look at it. By this time we were pretty bummed, but we figured that we could still make it to Taranaki as long as everything with the car turned out okay.

We went to visit the Isite (which houses the information experts of New Zealand). We spoke to a pleasant woman named Claire who gave us information about our plans for the next couple days. We didn’t book anything since we didn’t know if we would have a car or not. Afterwards we headed to Sgt Pepper’s, a local cafe, to drown our sorrows in lattes, gluten-free chocolate brownies, and gluten-free maple hot cakes with banana and bacon. It was all unbelievably delicious. We made use of the wifi there until Lindsay got the news about her car.

They charged her $100 to look at the car and do a minor fix on some kind of misfire. After this news, we decided to have a red velvet brownie as well. By this time, it was pretty obvious that we wouldn’t make it to Taranaki. We felt like, for the second day in a row, everything was going wrong. We headed back to the Isite to book a hotel in Ohakune for tonight, as we are going to attempt the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow. We decided to splurge for a hotel because we need a good night sleep before our trek and a hot shower. We were warned that it will be an eight hour hike of just under 20 km. We will be some of the first hikers of the season to be doing it. They warned us to turn back if we are at all nervous because the weather can change on a dime and there is still snow on the trail. We were instructed to go as far as we can and turn back or go the whole way and catch a bus later tomorrow afternoon to get back to our car. After we booked for the night, we decided to head toward Ohakune, about a 3 hour drive along the Forgotten World Highway. The highway is absolutely beautiful, chock full of green, rolling hills. In certain parts it almost looks like something out of Jurassic Park in parts, very lush and rainforesty. It is, as all roads are in NZ, very windy with hairpin turns and scarily high speed limits.

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When we arrived in Ohakune we realized that we needed to spend the evening with other people to get us out of our bad luck induced slump. The hotel was actually a backpackers (we really overpaid) and the room had a strange smell. So we decided to check out local bars. The problem was that the town is so small and quiet that two of the four bars were already closed. One was in our “hotel” so we gave that one a wide berth and we headed across the street to a cool looking restaurant with a bar. The bartender served us one drink even though they were closing. We were depressed how our night had gone downhill, just as the day had done. In our misery we decided that the bar at our accommodation couldn’t be so bad after all. We headed back and dove right in to chatting with other people. We were lucky enough to meet several very interesting visitors, all from Auckland, as well as the owner of the bar. One of the people we chatted with turned out to be an Auckland police officer, he gave me his info just in case (“This isn’t a get out of jail free card really, but if you get into trouble then give me a call”), and another gentleman races boats and invited us to participate in the Friday night rum races as part of his crew! We are looking forward to running into them again.

Tomorrow we head out at 7:30 am to drive up and start the Tongariro Alpine Crossing at 8 am. We are very excited! After tramping in the morning, we are planning to head out to Taupo for a couple of nights to recover from the hike.

Ps. Our new experiences for the day were that I tried an iced coffee (In New Zealand this is an ice cream type blended drink) and Lindsay tried a walnut for the first time!

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