There was no mountain walking, since all the advisey type people say don't go up mountains in the rain or during plagues of giant bugs. The Oasis, where I've stayed for the last 7 years whenever I'm up that way, has changed hands. The kitchen no longer has cooking gear in it (what kind of backpackers doesn't have cooking gear?) and they've stopped cleaning the mineral pools - leading to something resembling soup that I am not putting my body in. This, in combination with the attitude of the service (we said "our room is full of giant bugs" and she handed us a can of Raid and a broom) - oh, and the fact that every time she opened her mouth I wanted to block my ears and back off a dozen steps - meant that not much that was planned actually happened. While we were getting issued with our flyspray, we watched this woman nut off at a German couple who were leaving and wanted their money back. I was ashamed for our country's service industry. Oh, and did I mention the GIANT BUGS*? It was too hot to shut the windows. There were people sitting outside their rooms trying to convince their children that the cockroaches wouldn't eat them.
There was walking - back to the car. There was driving - to Palmerston North, where I finally saw some of the statistics about increasing obesity in NZ playing out. Palmerston North at 1.30am is kind of sad. Many overweight women in boob tubes, udders nestling comfortably atop jutting bellies, then an expanse of flesh above the hip-band of pants that aren't designed to contain such things - all accompanied by drunken rugby boys. OK, so my sample may have been not statistically significant (like - where are all the fat Americans to be seen if you only go to San Francisco? Nowhere, because they are in Reno). But when every woman you see is overweight and dressed in a boob tube, and every man is a drunken rugby boy, you have to wonder.
Another parallel between Palmerston North and Reno - it's becoming strip mall city. Yup, a huge expanse of shop-till-you-drop, but only if you have a car to get between each MegaStore. It speaks volumes that one of my companions, who hasn't been in PN for 10 years, said "They turned the Post Office into a Briscoes."
Anyway, everything was shut so it was back to Wellington, where it was mercifully cooler and there was cooking equipment. Sleep, then steak, then not-walking but sitting around chatting and digesting and enjoying the almost complete lack of bugs. Wellington bugs would not survive in Turangi. They are not aggressive enough.
I would like to add that another attempt will be made on the last weekend in February. This combination of road-trip companions was particularly enjoyable, and despite the lack of achieving anything we planned, I enjoyed myself a great deal and it was nice to get out of town for a while. If anyone knows of a good, reasonably priced place to stay in Turangi/Tokaanu/Taupo (preferably with a hot pool and kitchen facilities), please recommend. I also now own The World's Heaviest Grinder
*I don't normally have a problem with bugs, but when they outnumber me 37 million to one, I get a little nervous. Also, it's hard to sleep when every time you move you know you're killing something crunchy.
In other lessons learned, don't walk backwards down the beach, no matter how much you enjoy watching your dog hooning. There are concrete sticky-outy things that leap out and grab your ankle. Aikido saved my tailbone again, but I will be sitting crooked for a few days I think. How is one supposed to elevate one butt-cheek for the RICE thing anyway?
To the person who was 'helping' me last night, thank you. I would love to know who you are.