Tuesday, October 11 (Day 40)
Rotorua - Turangi
As we all feared, last night’s wicked storm has opened up a 10-centimetre gash on the side of the Rena. More than 200 tonnes of oil is now leaking into the Bay of Plenty and hundreds of dead seabirds are already being washed up, coated in thick oil. The biggest environmental disaster in Nez Zealand’s history is now playing out a few kilometres away from where I now write this.
“There are rumours that the captain of the boat was drunk when he ran the ship into the Astrolabe reef,” a Maori gentleman tells me. “If it’s true, I think the locals will string him up and kill him.”
New Zealand lost its innocence when the Christchurch Earthquakes began to hit last year. Those quakes, and the subsequent loss of life, were the biggest modern-day disaster to hit the nation state of New Zealand. This secluded corner of the world, normally directly unaffected by what goes on elsewhere, no longer feels as safe and removed as it once did. Just to add a few dollops of paranoia to proceedings, Christchurch suffered another significant earthquake over the weekend. A 5.5-magnitude quake rattled the Canterbury area shortly after the All Blacks kicked off against the Pumas on Sunday evening. It has caused more fear that, perhaps, another ‘big one’ could still be on the cards.
Flashpackers kindly allow me to check out late and I decide to take the gamble of booking a bus to Turangi, where I hope to do the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow. It is a four-hour bus journey, much of it hugging the attractive shores of Lake Taupo, but as much as the scenery is beautiful, the thick cloud cover on the two volcanoes gives me the fear that this journey will be in vain.
Once I arrive at Turangi the only thing on my mind is to check the latest weather forecast for tomorrow at the local I-Site. It doesn’t look good. Heavy rain and, worse still, strong winds are forecast for the next two days.
I find a bed for the night and the receptionist confirms the general consensus is that no shuttle buses will be running up to near the summit in the morning. Unfortunately, my gamble hasn’t paid off. Looks like I have wasted two days and fifty quid on bus tickets.
Turangi is a bit of a one-horse town. Well, a one-horse town with a big supermarket. There’s nothing really to do here other than to take advantage of that supermarket, stay in, swap war stories with other travellers, cook a decent meal and continue reading Eat, Pray, Love (which has improved after my last slating). I am a little gutted that I won’t get the chance to experience one of the most fantastic one-day hikes on Planet Earth. With my time running out, and the world cup semi between Wales and France to attend in Auckland on Saturday, I am going to get myself back to Raglan for a couple of days and see whether I can improve my surfing skills.