We did it! We actually got up at 6:00 and hit the road at 7:55! It's our earliest start yet!
Today we were heading into and through Tongariro National Park. There is a famous trek called the Tongariro Crossing. We did our own crossing. First we had a decent climb, then a nice downhill to Lake Rotoaira. We pulled off at a little wayside/viewpoint. With my little monocular scope I could see what appeared to be black swans on the lake. There was also a nice view of Mt. Tongariro. About half way up the mountain there is a vent that steam was coming out of. We were still in the thermal area.
We had another longish climb up to the Tongariro Highlands. We had spectacular views of Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu. We kept stopping to take even more photos! Since we were basically riding the length of the mountains, we saw them from all angles.
We stopped to fix some lunch (bagels with peanutbutter and honey) at a place called Mangatepopo Camp School. The kids were up on the mountain today. It looked like a pretty cool school to go to!
We made it to the town of National Park. We stopped at a cafe/store/post office. I was finally able to get stamps and send the postcards from Waitomo Caves. I also had a Coke and a chocolate/coconut brownie.
From National Park we continued toward Raetihi into an extremely fierce headwind. I was wearing the Da Brim. I thought perhaps if I angled it just right I could utilize the Bernoulli Effect and fly! But...no. However, except for not really having to use my brakes going down some of the hills (the Da Brim was doing the braking), it didn't seem to be that bad. I never took it off.
Finally, we hit a long downhill into Raetihi. The wind was still blowing, but but I was flying along anyway. For several kilometers I managed to go at or above 30 kph. It made the last 10 or so km go by pretty fast!
We pulled into Raetihi with the plan of staying at The International Airport and Backpackers* (*airport not included). I had seen the place online at home. It looked intriguing. However, when we arrived it said "No Vacancy". That was okay. We just went to the Holiday Park instead. Turned out to be our cheapest night of camping yet ($10).
I finally figured out how much Betsy is off in kilometers. For every actual 1 kilometer on the road, Betsy says I've gone 1.8 kilometers. So, today's ride in "Betsy km" was 99.0 (really 85.4km or 53.4 miles).
We also saw a Kiwi road sign today. Of course we didn't see any Kiwi birds (they are pretty nocturnal). Also saw a whole herd of deer (including a buck with quite the nice set of antlers). We weren't quite sure what the deal was because they had ear tags on them.
Tomorrow is Leandra's last full day of riding. We will ride to Wanganui. From there we will take a bus to Wellington. Then, we will have 1 1/2 days in Wellington before Leandra goes home and I continue to the South Island. It seems like we just started! I'll be sad to see her go, but I'm excited to ride the South Island.
Here's some Tongariro and other photos from the day.