Le Grand Détour

Remonter la côte ouest jusqu’aux volcans – Heading North to the volcanoes

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france_french_flag [12 mars 2016]

Journée de route en perspective pour rejoindre les montagnes et les volcans du Tongariro National Park, à quelques 4 heures de Wellington. Quatre heures, certes mais avec nos détours et pauses en tous genre, nous n’arriverons pas avant 18h30 à notre destination… Mais ce qui compte c’est le voyage, non ?

Avant de quitter Wellington, nous nous offrons un premier détour par la colline aux éoliennes sur les conseils d’Helen. Nous y découvrons un point de vue imprenable sur toute la ville et la baie, malgré des nuages encore tenaces. Le vent a un peu faibli par rapport à hier mais les éoliennes tournent… Ce qui est logique dans la ville la plus venteuse du monde ! Les collines qui nous entourent sont apparemment traversées de dizaines de kilomètres de pistes, de marches et de randonnées en tous genre, à pied ou à vélo… Ce sera peut-être pour une autre fois car il est temps de reprendre la route.

Le trajet que nous suivons longe la côte ouest de l’île du nord. Il commence par un petit bout de véritable autoroute comme chez nous à trois voies, youpi ! Mais ça ne durera que 20 kilomètres à peine avant de retrouver une route à une seule voie.

Alors que le temps s’améliore et que nous laissons les nuages derrière, nous profitons de nombreux points de vue le long de la côte, jusqu’à notre pause méridienne.

Et dans cette toute petite ville de Foxton, par un hasard incongru, nous prenons le temps de visiter un authentique moulin hollandais en état de marche. Il s’agit du rêve de deux immigrés hollandais qui s’étaient mis en tête de construire un vrai moulin… 12 ans de travail plus tard, celui-ci est en parfait état de marche avec ses quatre étages et ses énormes pâles montées sur rails pour pouvoir suivre le sens du vent. Nous visitons cette curiosité qui a suscité beaucoup de circonspection au départ mais qui au final a permis à cette petite ville de Foxton de se faire un modeste nom.

Nous parvenons ensuite à Whanganui, cette ville côtière où nous ne nous arrêtons pas mais qui marque la bifurcation de la route vers les terres. Et là nous hésitons : nous pouvons soit prendre la petite route scénique sur 70km ou bien la route principale. Le LonelyPlanet ne tarit pas d’éloge sur la route scénique qui ajoute néanmoins une heure de trajet et qui tricote pas mal. Nous décidons de suivre ce conseil. Et nous voilà embarqués sur une route encore plus étroite et plus sinueuse que toutes celles que nous avons parcourues jusqu’à maintenant, en remontant le cours de la rivière Whanganui. Nous enchaînons heureusement de magnifiques points de vue tout le long du parcours, d’autant plus qu’il n’y a plus un seul nuage dans le ciel. C’est juste superbe ! Par contre il faut avoir l’estomac bien accroché… Mais nous, vétérans de la route à zigzags, nous sommes blindés de la boîte à ragoût, endurcis de la panse, coriaces du gésier, increvables du jabot, bref nous faisons face dignement ! Pour autant nous ne sommes pas mécontents de retrouver la route principale car 70km de lacets, c’est long !

Il est bientôt temps d’aller faire quelques courses avant de rejoindre notre auberge de jeunesse au pied des volcans. Nous devons en effet penser à notre diner et petit déjeuner à venir mais surtout à préparer le pique-nique pour notre méga randonnée du lendemain, à savoir la traversée alpine du Tongariro – une randonnée considérée comme la meilleure balade d’une journée du monde ! Rien que ça.

Nous arrivons un peu avant le coucher de soleil dans notre auberge, particulièrement sympathique et confortable avec son spa, sa décoration étonnante, ses couloirs labyrinthiques et sa pièce de projection secrète que l’on atteint en rentrant dans une armoire !

Nous préparons nos sandwichs et notre dîner en faisant connaissance avec une jeune suissesse en année sabbatique puis une japonaise. Visiblement tout le monde ici va partir pour la randonnée du Tongariro demain matin. Nous ne serons pas seuls, loin de là. En tous cas nous sommes bien motivés même si nous ne sommes jamais encore partis pour 7 heures de marche. Il est temps de dormir en rêvant des volcans et des monts et merveilles. Good night !

english_flag [12th March 2016]

Happy birthday Mum!!

We saw Helen before she left for her meeting this morning and said our goodbyes. It’s a shame we’re not staying longer as she’s a very welcoming host and we’ve hardly had time to get to know her. Oh well, maybe next time!

I did get to have a lovely Skype with Mum and Dad. It’s officially Mum’s birthday here so we wished her a Happy Birthday even though it’s still yesterday evening in the UK!?! I can’t wait to go over there and see them in the flesh when we get back!

Before leaving Wellington we had one final detour, heading up to Brooklyn in order to see the city from up there (as recommended by Helen). And once we’d stopped getting lost and finally found the top of the hill, we discovered that she was right — it’s a wonderful viewpoint. Though it was slightly obstructed by the orange netting around the building site where they’re dismantling (or rebuilding) the wind turbine. There are also some nice paths up there for people running, mountain biking or simply just walking (with or without their dogs). It made Stéphane want to ride again…I think he’s getting itchy feet to be back in the saddle of his BMX again!!

But for now we have to hit the road as we’ve got at least a four hour drive ahead of us before we arrive at today’s destination. So we turned on the GPS and drive north, direction « Tongariro National Park ».

And for the first part of the journey we were on a motorway!! Amazing? OK, it may not sound very interesting to you, but this was the first three-laned road that we’d been on since Christchurch! New Zealand is not a fan of motorways or even dual-carriageways to be fair, and you can tell from the other road users on this particular stretch of road that they don’t really know what they’re supposed to do with so many lanes to choose from. One each maybe? ^_^

At one point on the road up the west coast we had a decision to make. Do we fork off to the East to a town called Palmerston North in order to visit the New Zealand Rugby museum or do we carry on along this road and get to Tongariro as quickly as possible? After a quick look in the guidebook and on the Internet we discover a comment made by John Cleese’s on his tour of New Zealand. He called the city « the suicide capital of New Zealand », adding, « If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick. ». Funnily enough the town has hit back by naming their refuse landfill site after him ^_^.

So we decide, in the end, to give it a miss and carry on up the coast.

We stopped for lunch shortly afterwards, in a small town called Foxton. This town is a bit of a one-horse town (one high street and two cafés – plus a shop that looks like a café from far away but actually sells a mixture of vegetables and second hand clothes…for example, you can buy a second-hand wedding dress there or a $7 sack of spuds…whatever takes your fancy!!).

For lunch we opted for the Dutch bakery café which is situated a stone’s throw from a large Dutch wooden windmill. A dream of one Dutchman who had a piece of land and who didn’t know how to grow tulips*. We paid a couple of dollars and headed up the wooden steps to the top. Stopping on each floor to have a nosy and to try and understand how the mill works and where the grain is loaded up and the flour comes out! I think it’s a lovely idea and totally mad at the same time!!

* Apparently the original idea for the plot of land was to grow tulips on it with his Dutch mate, but his mate (who knew how to grow tulips) got bored of the idea before it really started and moved to Australia instead so the first Dutchman built a windmill instead.

Back in the car and once again opting for a scenic route we were sharing the driving as it was incredibly windy (as in breeze) and we were both pretty tired (too much gossiping after Master Chef last night!). The scenic road was beautiful with a river running down the left-hand side for most of it. Some of the road had clearly been washed away into the river and there were a lot of places where they were digging into the cliffs on the right in order to re-widen the road…slightly scary at times…let’s just hope the rest of the road doesn’t fall into the river whilst we’re on it!

When we did find the main road again we told the GPS to take us to the supermarket — which is quite a drive from our hotel and so best to do it on the way there rather than have to head back out this evening. We got some stuff for dinner and supplies for tomorrow (as we’re going to spend the day walking on what is heralded to be the Best One-day walk in New Zealand and one of the top ten in the World!).

We arrived at the backpackers lodge and settled in. Our room was right next to reception and made out of some kind of MDF walls with a tiny shower room en-suite complete with the most ridiculously small sink which had a huge soap dispenser above it and not enough room in the rest of the room to bend over to spit out your toothpaste without having previously opened the door!!

We managed to locate the kitchen in the labyrinth that is The Crossing Backpackers lodge and chucked our supplies into one of their vast fridges before heading out for a wander around the garden. Outside there was a huge oversized table and chairs and a group of about ten people sitting either in the chairs or actually on the table. Each chair was about twice the size of an average chair and so they were sitting two to a chair and had to climb up into them without spilling their wine glasses! ^_^ Totally impractical to have at home, but quite interesting and a great source of conversation in a place like this. And all of this with a back-drop of mountains on every side and the sun setting just to make it even more beautiful!! We carried on our visit of the hotel, checking out the spa and the hidden home-cinema room (that you enter by passing through a wardrobe in the main lounge – à la Lion, the witch and the wardrobe!! Great idea!!).

I headed back to the kitchen where I got on with making tomorrow’s picnic and cooking up a « delicious » meal of pasta and ready-made sauce for tonight’s dinner. We chatted to a Swiss girl who was on a year-off and a Japanese lady (who was busy making onigiris for her picnic lunch which seemed far more appetising and exotic than our sandwiches!).

It seems that most people here will be heading out with us in the morning to do the Tongariro walk…hopefully it won’t be that hard then if there are so many of us!

After dinner we packed our bags (for tomorrow’s walk and, as we’re changing hotel’s our big bags too) before having a shower, writing some quick notes for the blog and getting our heads down for an early-ish night.

Une réflexion au sujet de “Remonter la côte ouest jusqu’aux volcans – Heading North to the volcanoes

  1. Brenda

    Thank you for the birthday wishes, and it was truly great to see you both on your return.
    Loved the bits about Palmerston North and John Clees, and the eccentric Dutchman. Great stories! xx