Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 23. Wellington to Mt. Taranaki

Saying goodbye to KC, Tim, and Alvi was a sweet sorrow. I am very glad we got to visit with them and share, even for a short day, their home and their surroundings. I need not say that they sent with us a whole boatload of greetings and hugs to the Owl Creek family.

We were set on visiting Mt. Taranaki, which is the perfect setting for The Lonely Mountain of The Hobbit. It is a very symmetrical stratovolcano that has grown to enormous proportion at the end of a short alignment of older and smaller volcanoes, forming its own peninsula along the west coast of the North Island. It totally reminded me of La Malinche, in central Mexico, with its enormous size, its beautiful symmetry, and its small dacitic domes poking at low elevations (my 30-second theory is that they are leaks from a growing silicic magma chamber growing under the volcano). We dutifully hiked along the lower elevations, which are covered by a dense “bush” of trees and tall ferns that completely obscure the presence of the mountain (but in exchange we got to see many streams and a handsome waterfall.

By 4 pm we were down, and decided to gain some distance toward Auckland, where tomorrow I will need to take the flight back home. It was a magical trip through Middle Earth under the balmy golden rays of the afternoon sun. The central portion of the island is a mild-mannered landscape that speaks in mild tones and is covered by a rustling carpet of sweet smelling grass. Everywhere around us were the small comical hills that are so favored by Hobbits for their burrows (not nasty dark and humid burrows, like those of rabbits, but airy and sunny burrows with well supplied larders). Everywhere around us was the sun gilded Shire.

Eventually we made it to the small town of Waitomo Caves, where Anna and I treated ourselves to a celebratory dinner to toast a perfect trip. 

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