14/1/16. We had to call in at Turangi library first thing to get Wifi to change the flight bookings from Christchurch. With that done we headed off for our destiny with the climb out of town. At least it was not along SH1!
After a couple of km of flat the road suddenly reared up to 10% as we headed for the Tongariro National Park, which encompasses three volcanoes that still erupt periodically. One of them is over 2,700 metres high and has lots of snow on it even this well into the summer and another was used as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings.
Halfway up the first climb there was a scenic viewpoint where we were mighty glad of the rest and also were mighty impressed with the view of Lake Taupo and the surrounding hills. All too soon it was time to set off again and, of course, as soon as we completed the climb the road headed downwards steeply! Thankfully it was only a small “down” followed by a bit of flat. But then the climbing started all over again. It might not have been particularly steep but it went on and on and on.
Following on from the comments yesterday about the dearth of “civilisation” outside the towns, after leaving Turangi today we passed one campsite. That was all. Nothing else. But perhaps this is not surprising. NZ’s population is 4.2 million (of which ⅓ live in Auckland) which is less than Scotland’s – in a land area that is a little larger than the whole of the UK.
It was a tough day (lugging 40 or 50 kilos of bike and luggage up 850 vertical metres always is!) but the reward was stunning views of the volcanoes off to our left, with their heads occasionally in the clouds. We only covered 44 km but it was gone 5.30 when we arrived at the campsite (altitude about 900m or 3,000+ ft) and we were more than ready for a warm shower and a big plate of pasta, washed down by a couple of beers or sparkling blackcurrant drinks depending on your taste.
As we were unloading the bikes a lady walked over and asked if we were “members” of Warmshowers (the website offering accommodation to touring cyclists) and where we were headed. It turned out that she is from Whanganui where she is a leading light in the “organisation” and she very kindly invited us to stay with her. As Whanganui is the next major town on our itinerary, two or three days away, we will be taking up this great offer.