Bates Family South Seas Sabbatical travel blog

Mount Doom (Ngaruhoe)

Kingsleys Birthday presents in bed

Sunset from the Tongariro Chateau

Lord of the Rings extra

We are back in the truck again after 2 nights celebrating my birthday (late) and Kingsley's birthday (early- well we did wake up there) in NZ's leading hotel- The Grand Chateau at Tongariro. The crew and cast of the Lord of the Rings stayed there for several weeks whilst filming Mordor as it is at the foot of 3 fantastic, still active volcanoes which are currently covered with snow.

We arrived in the dark after another great day at Waitomo, taking in the German Angora Rabbit Shearing show (I jest not) and Billy Blacks NZ cultural show- a rather unusual one man show in a huge barn with A Possum, a pig called Trevor, a cockerel called Winston, several sheep and an enormous Black Freesian Cow. There was a lot of audience participation and told the story of the NZ pioneers and how they managed to "tame the land" and involved Gully and Kings being on stage weilding a massive two man saw, me setting light to gunpowder and Gordon and the boys helping shear a sheep. We were involved a lot as there were only 8 of us in the audience- with a seating capacity of about 200! It sounds dreadful, and I would agree that it was certainly idiosyncratic, but we all thought it was a very enjoyable hour. AND we were all in shorts as the sun was shining (again) and very pleasantly warm.

Anyway, off we then headed for the National Park and arrived in FREEZING temperature with gale force winds and, of course, at some much higher altitude, so we were extremely glad to get into the warm, even if we did look a little like something from Only Fools and Horses, arriving in our rig, checking in and then going out to pack! At this point I realised that the capsule wardrobe which has been worn all at the same time fairly solidly, wasn't really up to a leading hotel standard, so we forsook the really posh restaurant and ate at the extremely nice bistro belonging to the hotel. The ski season is about to start, but hasn't yet, so apart from a Japanese tour we were about the only ones in this fabulous 1920's chateau.

Yesterday morning we woke to see the view- volcanoes and snow (although not in the village - however, there were instructions in the room of what to do in the event of a lahar- a mudslide from volcanic activity) and after a restorative breakfast, persuaded the boys that we should go out walking on a 2 hour treck to a waterfall. Big country and biting wind, but very beautiful if a little overcast and a very well marked route made it a good trip, and the hotel's huge spa pool on return made it even better!

Early supper last night as it was yet more rugby. Kings and I watched in bed in the comfort of one of our massive rooms, with K caving during the second half, whilst G and G watched in the hotels own cinema- where the first rushes for the Lord of the Rings were watched by P Jackson etc. Thankfully a victory. I am sure Gordon will have greater analysis, but that'll do for me!

This morning we had the clearest brightest most beautiful morning to greet the birthday boy who was very happy with his cards from the UK and few pressies we gave him. It turned out that another child staying was 5 today and it was also the waitress at breakfast's birthday, so quite a party atmosphere and free hot chocolates to the special people!

We checked out and set of on another, shorter walk, with spectacular views even as far as Mount Egmont (looks like Mt Fujiama) in the East- at least 50miles away and of the volvanoes and massive uninhabited country for miles around. We then drove up to the lava fields- were the Orcs had their battles (or something rugged from the film- all very inhospitable) and then set off for Whanganui which is where we are currently parked up. Still beautiful weather and another trampoline and also a " jumping pillow"- like a massive bouncy castle that seems to be keeping the boys fit and occupied whilst I do this and Gordon has gone into town to do some jobs.

Thanks to all for K and my birthday messages, I need to drag him in to show him, if he will stop bouncing. WE will try to get to a better internet cafe and get some more photos on the website, but whilst waiting- just watch The Lord of the rings trilogy and think "they are there"!!

Weather forecast for tomorrow remains great but could go bad after that. Gordon doing most of the driving as he has tamed the gear box, but totally no other traffic on the road and wonderful scenery, so all is still well with the truck at the moment......!!

Missing you all, Lots of love Ness x

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