I’m Totally an Experienced Hiker

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Mt. Taranaki

This  Devin hotel was luxurious. I had the most glorious shower- the pressure was intense yet not painful, and the temperature could be fine tuned. The towels are so fluffy I’m gonna die. Imagine if bunnies were super absorbent. Since there was a violent storm outside, after swimming in the pool in the rain, we decided to dine downstairs at the bar. I ordered a Fruitum Drinkum, which was bright pink and tasted like a berry creamsicle.

We leapt out of bed and make a beeline to Pack & Save to collect supplies for our hike. After running back to the hotel for pants, we were ready to go. At the bottom of Mt. Taranaki, I decided we did not have enough water. My dad agreed, so we purchased some more bottles. I packed as light as possible, with only an over the shoulder little backpack stuffed with my windbreaker, a long sleeve cotton (sorry UCOCers) shirt, and some light gloves. Also water, of course.

I pranced towards the trail, leading my parents and skipping cheerfully by the sign that said “Experienced Hikers Only.” The first part was easy; basically a steep road. It got more tedious when the path got narrower and the wind picked up. It was necessary to use my hands quite often. I liked climbing over the bigger rocks. Then came the staircase. First we strolled up some stairs under a dripping rock face. The next part was 430 steps out in the open, give or take.

As we ascended, the wind continued to strengthen. It got steeper too. We scurried from big rock to big rock because it would not take much to be knocked over when not holding onto anything. Eventually the terrain was all gravel, with few stable boulders. I would describe it as rather lunar. The wind became so loud that we could not hear each other yell. I was pushed down several times, and my mode of transportation was eventually reduced to a determined bear crawl. About 500 meters from the summit, we took cover at a huge, Dad-sized boulder, within view of the ridge.We watched as a strong, experienced-seeming hiker struggled his way to the ridge, then turn around and slide back down towards us on his butt.

Daddy decided that if he could not make it, we couldn’t. Several other hikers join us at our rock for a powwow. We finally began our descent. It involved much sliding, surf-style. I also ended up sitting on the ground unexpectedly, several times. I would lean into the aggressive wind to resist its power, and then it would suddenly die down momentarily, just long enough for me to lose my balance, before it started up again, effortlessly pushing over. My mom was speedy at descending- maybe because she could not wait to get out of there.

We ate a picnic at a bench mid mountain, proudly eating the baguette we carried up and back. When we arrived back at the hotel, we instantly got in the hot tub. I did laps in the pool after I tired of pressing the bubble button for the hot tub every 5 minutes. When we walked in search of food, we accidentally happened upon an antique car show. When we found a Thai restaurant, I enjoyed torturing my mouth with the spiciness of red and green curries.

Kia Ora

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One of the most diverse things in hotel rooms is the shower. Sometimes the hot water tap is on the left, sometimes on the right. The water could be a powerful massage source or a meager trickle. I can easily spend a good two minutes figuring out how to get the water to come out of the shower head. In one hotel, it took me a moment to realise there was no shower door. In this motel, the dial was super sensitive, so Canadian icicle was a mere half centimeter from boiling lava.

Pro tip: if you ever go to New Zealand, it is unnecessary to  pack chapstick or lotion. They have these brilliant creations called iSites, which I found in every town we visited. Among helping you book hotel rooms and plan hikes and activities and having several hundred pamphlets to add to your ever growing pamphlet collection, there are testers of all sorts of lotions and lip balms. You can completely moisturize with the samples of lanolin body lotion and honey eye serum. If you are willing to go find a bathroom to rinse off, you can even test the mud masks.

We drove to the Wai-O-Tapu hot spring park. We viewed pools of all different colors, thanks to the various minerals and oxides present. My parents and I made a game of guessing what compound was in each pool, based on the color. The weather switched from cold and rainy to hot and dry, causing my mom and me to take our rain jackets off and on at a comically frequent pace.  My dad played tour guide, reading knowledgeably from the pamphlet at each geyser. Getting engulfed in sulfurous steam smelled gross but apparently it is good for your skin. My favorite sight was Devil’s pool, because of its bright, acidic green color. The mud pools were entertaining to watch. It looked like boiling clay, with bubbles of various thickness and size. I couldn’t help but think of Shrek’s hot tub.

Next stop was a hot spring designated for swimming. It was on the edge of a river. I waded into the cool river water, and as I got closer to the springs, the water gradually got hot, especially near the surface. I braved the heat and climbed up to the source pool. I felt like I was standing in a hot tub turned up to the highest setting. Other people in the pool encouraged me to stand under the hot waterfall. It was worth it. It was basically like having a hot shower.

I woke up to rain. When we arrived at Whakarewarewa, the precipitation had transformed into a light drizzle. During the journey, as we followed a large white van, the door to its luggage trailer swung wide open, and as it entered a roundabout, a suitcase escaped. We pulled over and rescued it, leaving it at the nearest iSite.

To enter Whakarewarewa, we sauntered across a bridge and set foot upon the geothermally active land. I loved the Maori cultural show. They make great use of their tongues and even make their eyes look as if they are popping out, all to confuse and scare the enemy during war preparation dances. I put this knowledge away for use in future Snapchat face offs. The villagers knew how to put the free geothermal power to good use. They built wooden boxes over steam vents for steaming meats. They had a designated hot pool for cooking leafy greens, corn, and seafood. The locals took baths in the hot water twice a day, curing arthritis and bug bites among many other ailments. It felt oily due to its richness in minerals.