New Zealand 2017: Tongariro Crossing and Mount Ngauruhoe.


Hike-about is an adventure that commenced June 2010. After storing our household movables, ridding ourselves of a house but retaining our 'home' together, we set off with the purpose of hiking in different parts of the world, not forgetting the home country, the USA.

Our primary focus is hiking to mountain peaks but any challenging hike will do just fine. Extended stays enable us to enjoy and experience living in various places amongst differing cultures. Hike-about has evolved into a way of life. It's also a process of discovery, both the world and ourselves.

We work and live 'on the road' but return to the city in which our grandchildren reside, every couple of months. This provides us the wonderful opportunity to be with them as well as a child or two, even three and of course, friends.

By the end of 2022, the blog contained over 1,470 hikes, each a set of pictures with stories and anecdotes from the trails. An index to the right allows the viewer to identify earlier experiences.

Finally, we are often asked about the journey's end.
ur reply, as accurate as we can state, is: "When we are either forced to cease through health issues or the enjoyment level no longer reaches our aspirations, we will hang up the boots."

"A Life Experience As No Other: Dare to Seize the Day Together", published by Fulton Books, depicts our life on the road and mountains until the beginning of 2017. It has developed 'exponentially' since then.

Jenni and Jeffrey Lazarow

Whereas we continue to update the blog regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications often.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

30.06 New Zealand: Mount Taranaki, while a spectacular volcano, nevertheless, a difficult, strenuous and dangerous ordeal.

Mount Taranaki from the Visitors' Centre. Less impressive than from a distance or when snow-covered. Nevertheless, it is awfully impressive.

Some three months or so ago, we saw a picture of the volcano, Mount Taranaki. Frankly, it was a sight of magnificence, particularly with the prominent snow-covered cone. When we discovered it could be climbed (hiked is too general and easy a term), we made plans immediately to position ourselves close by during our sojourn on lower North Island. As we were going to be in Tongariro, we would be about 5-hours distant. Because of the road system in New Zealand, this seemingly small country appears rather ‘large’ and getting around it takes time and effort. Unlike in Europe and parts of America where mountain passes and tunnels shorten distances, the roads we have used tend to go around the mountains. The mountains are rather large, hence…
(Continues at end...)

Sunrise from an altitude of about 5,000 feet. Looking toward Mount Ngauruhoe, the scene of our hike four days earlier. The Maoris have many folk tales and it appears Taranaki was banished from the three large mountains in Tongariro region.

As they say in Texas, 'how dem slopes'? Tasman Sea, farmlands, cities, forests and a dominant volcano.

The editor struggles on the mountain and wins. What a girl! In fact, on the day she was the oldest woman to succeed when another woman using poles turned back after reaching the mid-volcanic rock area.

A section of scree. Desolate, steep and unforgiving. The toughest scree we've ever negotiated down.

Love the definition between forest and farmland. This came about in the 19th century when the demarcation was made by circling the volcano.

The editor remains upright. The hut (see story) sits below, 2,000 feet from the commencement point and 3,300 feet
below the peak.

Crossing the cone on slippery ice as we head for the final ascent after descending a little into the cone.

Surrounded by boulders and rocks at about 7,900 feet, a little overwhelmed.

She did it. 'I knew she could do it and she did indeed.' There's nothing I would like better than for her Mom and Dad to have witnessed this feat.

It was never ending as we climbed part 5, the solid volcanic rock section. Levels off for a few yards.

Jenni at the top, stands before the slab that is viewed from many miles away.

The interplay of the clouds and mountain was stunning. Looking through the gap gives one some perspective of height, steepness and beauty.

We have so many more pictures that we'll add another blog of this spectacular experience later.

(Continues from opening...)

At sunrise on the morning of the ascent, we were fortunate to witness with clarity, Mount Tongagiro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance, the place from whence we set off on Wednesday after completing the 'Northern Circuit’. Bear in mind, the weather is often poor in this region so the chance of being able to climb on a random day was not good. Someone quipped that when you can see Mount Taranaki it is about to rain and when you cannot, it is already raining and fog-covered. Following a period of poor weather at the volcano, we were fortunate to have probably ideal conditions. Nevertheless, the challenge of the climb in Jenni’s words: ‘It was the toughest with some of the meanest aspects that I’ve undertaken’. The areas of scree, at such acute gradients made it tough ascending and almost impossible descending. Put it this way: it was similar to walking on marbles but on slopes. At one stage, after taking a fall, one of numerous, I wondered how I would get down from this volcano. It is easy to form a love-hate relationship with it.

Briefly, the initial ascent is a 1,900 feet steep walk along a jeep track above the Visitors’ Centre to a communications tower and then a little further to a privately-managed hut. From there, one climbs a further 3,300 feet to reach an altitude of 8,261 feet, the peak. Effectively, the vertical gain is a mile. The stage from the hut, takes one over boulders and rocks and then a set of wooden steps. What a treat! Thereafter, one faces three sections of scree. The middle part is more difficult as there is little place to gain traction. The other parts are nearly as tough. After negotiating the dastardly sand-and-small-rocks surface, the track continues with scrambling and climbing on volcanic rock to a little below the top. This is a long section with what seems to be vertical climbs, at times. Watching Jenni, when I wasn't whining to myself, I thought I had married a cat. It was a pleasure to admire her agility as she moved up those rocks like a kid (as in goat). In the last few years, I've observed this latent talent of hers. In the meantime, we both are trying to find my talent, patent or latent.

Back to the rocks. Thereafter, one descends a little, crosses a snow-filled crater and climbs another rough outcrop to arrive at the peak. The snow is iced making it treacherous; the outcrop is very awkward, too. The return trip, because of the scree, is even more difficult. The slopes are acute. When looking either up or down, it’s staggering to think that one is not rolling down the mountain. The views are almost without equal. We were taken in by the forest that surrounds the mountain which in turn is surrounded by lush green farmland and the third ring being the Tasman Sea. The movement of thick clouds complements the natural beauty of the region further. Standing anywhere on that volcano gave us thrills, pain, at times a little apprehension, adrenaline flows, weary muscles and bruised behinds. The latter, of course, more because we were sitting involuntarily. Once in a while, as a booster, I would chant "Tara...Tara...Taranaki" to keep the momentum going. It really is one heck of an experience.

Twenty-four exciting hours. At times, we cannot believe what a stimulating period it was, like so many others. When we first saw the volcano on the way to the trailhead, it would be fair comment to say it was confronting. It stands high, proud and almost smiling at the silly humans who wish to do battle with this giant. Clearly, there is much to be said for the human spirit and the desire not to allow a mountain to get the better of one. Over a period, the mountain will always win but it’s those times when a person sweats, bears the pain, questions him- or herself as to sanity issues, struggles, slides, slips and even wants to cry out to the heavens for assistance that the true test arises. Should one be able to vault those hurdles, the feeling thereafter is one that cannot be matched. Just for the inner-peace, the feeling of accomplishment, not having surrendered to difficulty but all the time knowing that it is within the ambit of one’s ability to succeed, creates incredible feelings. Sometimes it's above one's reach but still, by pushing a little extra, one is able to stretch one’s potential and often succeed. Accomplishment provides comfort and tranquility and a little pride even if for a short duration...until the next test.

We tried something different for this adventure. We booked into the hut for the night so we did get a break for the more than 5,000 feet ascension. We left our lodge mid-afternoon, popped in for coffee at the Visitor’s Centre and made conversation with a few elderly women who were visiting the park. We were rebuffed by one who refused to help carry our backpacks even though we offered a buck an hour. The walk of near on 2,000 feet up the steep jeep path was terrific. Upon arriving at the hut, we were surprised. This privately managed accommodation is operated by the alpine club. It has reasonable bunks, flushing toilets and a shower, lights, a fully equipped kitchen, a lounge and dining room, a library and patio. In addition, there are radios and cassettes, the music adding to the atmosphere tucked away in the clouds with sound. By the way, of the huts we had visited thus far, the toilets didn’t flush and of course, the water was cold, showering was by way of a swim in a lake while all but one was without power. None provided lighting. In case we've led you believe our accommodation was palatial, it wasn't but relative to most others in the country, we enjoyed it very much.

A wonderful benefit was we stayed in the hut alone. Once again, I had the editor all to myself. We put on the music, thought about dancing, re-thought about it and took refreshments and commenced dinner, opening with a fresh salad, instead. Then the power failed. Pity! We made our way down to the tower and spoke to a technician who mentioned it was a general power failure. At least, we thought, we had not committed an error and caused problems. An hour later the music resumed, lights burned and thus we were back in business. Then the water dried up. Apparently, the pump failed. The water source is from rain.

Just when we thought we’d be on our own, a middle-aged woman, Lynn arrived. She was hiking to the hut and back, so we were still to be on our own for the night. She contacted management and tried to help with the water. Although it was never restored, we did find a gravity feed and so enjoyed some water although not in a formal flow. She was very kind and helpful—the kindness of strangers knows no bounds we find, on the mountains

A little later, Jen noticed two young women hobbling close to the cabin. We went out to render assistance to Aiya and Anna, a Japanese and German couple. Aiya had sprained her ankle. What a tough break in a terrible location. We were able to provide water and snacks for them to continue, the water thanks to Lyn. They refused our offer to share the cabin thinking they would make it, what for them could be another three hours of walking, to the carpark. Their pace was extremely slow because of the circumstances.

At midnight, I woke from a nightmare. I noticed the lights were on outside the lounge. Strange! We were on our own; how did the lights switch-on? Instead of staying in the bunks on the middle floor, Jen suggested we sleep on the couches in the much cozier lounge. Nice idea. She also said that when I needed to go ‘potty’, I should wake her. She woke a little after me and wanted to berate me for not waking her as I had obviously gone to the toilet—the lights being on and me being awake. At the basin, stood a man with full backpack who looked similar to Sam Hoffman, a friend from San Diego. Sam is well known and respected personality from that city. What was he doing there? We know he’s an avid hiker but we had no idea he was in New Zealand, too. The short story is that it was in fact Scotty. He and his partner had arrived by helicopter to rescue six people who were lost on the mountain. Wow!

We needed to visit the bathroom so we went downstairs and met Scotty's partner and the 'survivors'. They looked a little embarrassed but in reasonable health. The one guy took a look at us and mentioned that he remembered seeing us earlier. It’s not often I cannot remember a face; I did not recognize him. However, if he was correct, he should never have been climbing at that late hour of the day. The estimated average return time is 8-10 hours for a good hiker/climber.

Back to sleep for us with a very early awakening to enjoy the dawn, prepare for the ascent and relish, and at times, suffer a day that we shall never forget. It was a remarkable experience on an amazing volcano; the sights were matchless, the weather was almost perfect for the region. We asked a couple of locals, on the way down, if they could do something about the scree slopes for our next trip. They thought we were joking.

(Perhaps more at another time...)

Mount Taranaki in the late afternoon from 5,000 feet.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

30.05 New Zealand: Tongariro Northern Circuit: Interim images from perhaps, one of the great experiences.

We have included eight pictures to introduce Tongariro National Park, a premier region of North Island. Arguably, it is one of the great places of the natural world and contains a number of superb hikes. Although we've visited it before (a few times), this is the first time we've undertaken the Northern Circuit. One other thing to be aware of is that the weather is extremely erratic. Full sunshine for a few minutes is fortunate, for a whole day, it's rare. Many visitors to the park come away with sights of thick clouds, wet clothes and reason to return. Some even doubt there are mountains present because of the frequent covering.

Jenni mentioned that on Tuesday morning at sunrise, she witnessed the best sight ever—the red rays reflecting off Mount Ngauruhoe. We have a number of pictures attesting to this spectacle, to be displayed later. I could not help wondering whether her comment excluded the sight of her husband proposing many years before. One can hope.

Back to Tongariro. One year, we were forced to cancel our planned tramp (trek) of the circuit because of 150Km-per-hour winds. Another time we spent the period soaked by rain and battered by high winds. The weather ensured our return once again. Take a look at these eight pictures which are a framework with which we perceive Tongariro.

Jenni heads toward Red Crater after spending some time on Mount Ngauruhoe, at rear. ("Mount Doom").

We descended from the highpoint (rear) to take a seat overlooking one of the chemical-filled lakes.

In a rare opportunity, we witnessed an incredible view of Mount Ngauruhoe at sunrise. This was a truly unique experience. We stood mesmerized watching the interplay of sun, mountain, steam and clouds.

Climbing towards the top of the craters, 'fully-loaded'.

Arguably some of the most beautiful scenes, harsh volcanic desert.

Where there's smoke there's not always fire. In this active volcanic region, the land surface appears dead and is anything but, underneath.

The picture does not reflect the steep gradient of Mount Ngauruhoe as we struggled in the soft soil. (See picture of the cone above to gain more accurate gradient.)

Standing above the bottom lake on the way down a slippery slope. Thermal vents provide a haze.

Over the next blog or two, we'll deal with fascinating experiences, challenges, endurance, amazing landscapes, harsh weather and interesting people from all over the world.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Saturday, February 18, 2017

30.03 & 30.04 Part 2: New Zealand: 4-day tramp, Lake Waikaremoana, an isolated beauty.

"Hey Babe, you wanna pick me up?"
'There was a time I would have jumped at the offer. Now, the spirit is willing but...'

We always thought we would change our lifestyle when something more exciting arose. Little did we know that airplane travel is providing more excitement than the fabulous mountains, scenery and views of the world. To be fair, we have enjoyed a relatively quiet and incident free year of overseas travel. However, this calm period just ended, unfortunately. While air travel does not seem a great topic for a story, this one isn’t half-bad especially should one not be intimately involved...(continued at end)

From a highpoint, looking down lake. The locals tell us they are going through a very dry spell. Observing the
trees and water, we thought that was 'obvious'.

Slowing the fall of the water at Korokoro Falls.

The New Zealanders are 'big swingers'...they love these type of bridges.

Last light.

Getting back to lake level as we search for a way out of the rainforest.

Swan Lake at dawn.

Something different on the other side of the lake.

Peering over the edge in high winds.

The falls 'square-on' from below.

We arrived at San Diego International Airport, a rather quiet field compared with the hubs within the rest of the country. Because we had to vacate our hotel well before flight-departure time, we decided to reach the terminal early and learn something about airport design such as how many coffee outlets one can squeeze into a concourse. The woman at the ticket counter was most helpful; she put us on a flight two hours earlier than our scheduled one. Things were going well especially the fact that we were allotted two large bags each for the hold. The ‘Friendly Skies’ airline was indeed friendly and accommodating. By the time we arrived at the gate for departure to San Francisco en route to Auckland, the flight was delayed nearly two hours. Effectively, we were back on the original schedule. Nice try. We find that should you stare at the information board long enough, it will change. Sure enough, the delay was extended a further half-hour. Apparently, there was some poor weather in both San Francisco and San Diego. For those who don’t know much about the latter city, bear in mind, that when it drizzles and the temperature in winter falls below 60F, it is considered bad weather. We remarked to the fellow behind the counter should someone from Chicago overhear that kind of thinking he would fall over laughing hysterically. Short of calling for an emergency evacuation of San Diego, the personnel grounded planes and commiserated over coffee in the concourses. Aha! Now we understand the purpose of the coffee shops.

Anyway, our last scheduled flight was at 5pm to reach San Francisco for a 10:45pm departure to New Zealand (An hour and twenty minutes flight). After five departure changes, the reissue of boarding cards three times and our exclamation at each change that we would miss the connection, we finally took off at 8:50pm, after sitting on the tarmac for thirty minutes. We had considered remaining in San Diego but the attendant told us it would be problematical especially as they held our bags and would not return them. As all the clothes were clean, it did not seem like a good idea to forfeit them. Dirty clothes? Perhaps.

Would we make the connection? We developed an increased level of stress and asked the attendant to let us know the status of the Auckland flight. ‘Of course, I will,” she answered and then never followed through. We asked another to try and allow us to embark from the plane at landing ahead of the crowd. “Of course, I’ll arrange that for you.” After all, weren’t we flying the ‘friendly skies’? She didn’t.

We darted off the plane, heading for international departures, which was almost a mile distant. To our delight, the New Zealand flight was delayed an hour. Wonderful. It would have lowered the stress level had someone from the cabin staff mentioned that factoid to us. The hour delay increased further as the plane had not arrived from down-under. Quite something to contemplate. The aircraft flies for fourteen hours non-stop, carrying a full load, unloads, refuels and repeats the performance. Hardly a rest at all.

Finally, the flight was called three hours late. We boarded, waited, sat and contemplated travel: The previous evening (technically, two evenings before), we had occasion to call the airline as the ‘online check-in’ procedure did not operate. The short story is that the airline had had a hiccup with its computer system three months earlier but not before sending us a full itinerary stating we were ‘ticketed and paid’. The representative of the ‘Friendly Skies’ informed us that to allow us to fly we would have to make additional payments: $400 for an earlier ticket change that was botched by the computer and $750 because prices had since risen. Effectively, I replied, we had been issued tickets, charged and paid for them and because they had internal problems months previously, we would need to pay a further $1,150. At that stage, we could see the advantage of purchasing stock in an airline.

After some debate and he referring to a supervisor, we settled the transaction in which we agreed to pay $ 19.22. How this figure was arrived at is cause for serious consideration. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to incur the charge under the circumstances.
The fellow, based in India, then asked whether we wanted to ‘hire a car’. It was an unusual question from an airline employee, we thought. It filled us with deep concern. Such a lack of confidence in their aircraft was disconcerting. Jen wanted to know where we would fill the tank along the way. In all our flights across the Pacific, we’ve never noticed a 7-11 or even a lone gas station for that matter. Nixon may have opened the road to China but we did not see the point of establishing a path to New Zealand. Finally, we realized he was cross-selling other services. Relief. So apparently, in a rather strange way, we saved $1,120 which was never due in the first place. Huh!

Back to the ‘henpit’ where the female pilot made an announcement. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ she began, ‘we regret to inform you that the flight has been cancelled. Because of the delay at the gate (now engine issues), the crew is not allowed to fly—it would be too long a shift and hence, illegal.’ Don’t you just love it when people keep on saying ‘sorry about that’ casually as if they bumped you, slightly. We stumbled off the plane at 2:30am. The dark ‘Friendly Skies’ personnel had forgotten to think of something intelligent and comforting to say so they mentioned they were waiting for headquarters in Chicago to decide what to do. ‘Sorry about the delay.’ Eventually, we were herded to counters, given tickets to a hotel and took a shuttle to get there, turning off the light, after a bath, at 4:15am. While trying to get fresh boarding tickets for the new flight for the next day, the attendant said we did not have an ETA for Australia (destination after New Zealand), a sort of visa. A further complication. The funny thing is that tickets for the previous night’s flight were issued without the ETA. What changed? Meantime, somewhere in Auckland our rental car was accruing fees, our hotel would have a no-show and we weren’t feeling that loved either. We also learned from a fellow passenger that some people were abandoned at the airport when the remaining personnel members quit after 3am. Jenni had managed to get to the front of the queue while I notified the New Zealand contacts of our delay.

After a couple of hours sleep, not being allowed to remain in the hotel much after 12pm, we had to hope the flight would depart in what looked like poor weather. Meantime, the mountains were calling and we were out of range. A touch that can only arise from bureaucracy was in the form of an email the following morning. Someone from the ‘Friendly Skies’ company sent us a survey to complete. Bear in mind, there was an element of stress, suffering, wasted time, kids and babies treated roughly and financial hardship to all, with uncertainty thrown in for good measure. With this in mind, the company wanted to know what we thought of the snacks of gummy bears, cookies and chips provided at 2am earlier that morning. We might have offered any number of answers. However, the nub of a fair reply is that notwithstanding the ordeal, we thought the chips should have been more salted. This would have made the night and morning palatable. As the airline told us frequently, ‘Sorry about that…now shut up.’ (One ground staff member was clearly out of her depth in communicating with passengers. The crew on the next flight, the same one of the canceled flight, was great, however.)

We arrived in New Zealand, losing nearly three days of activity: One day of travel, a day delay and twenty-one hours of time change. We zipped out of the airport, collected a rental car but stopped in a McDonalds for tea. Sitting next to us were two women speaking Afrikaans, who had settled in New Zealand. After leaving the content couple following a pleasant chat, we headed on a three-hour trip south and then a further three hours the next day to reach close to the trail-head for a 4-day tramp in remote wilderness of the north island.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

30.01 & 30.02 New Zealand: 4-day tramp, Lake Waikaremoana, one of "The Great Walks".

We commenced Hike-about-30 after learning of the passing of a very dear friend. In fact, Harold Shapiro was more than a friend. A fatherly figure would be a far more appropriate description of this man of honor, kindness and generosity—an 'old-world' gentleman would be a fitting tribute. Rest in peace, dear Harold, we shall miss you deeply.

Having experienced quite a trip to reach the double islands in the southern Pacific, we have much to communicate. However, saddened-hearts preclude us from writing anything of levity or of being motivated to do our usual spiel. Therefore, we'll set out a few photographs illustrating some of the features of a 4-day tramp in a rather remote region and leave it at that.

Jen reaches the highpoint of the first day in blustering winds.

New Zealand is not without water.

After a windy and cloudy day, the sun finds gaps through which to make an impression at dusk.

The editor sends her lapdog to test the water.

When we thought we had all 'our ducks in a row', they turned out to be swans.

The editor continues to ascend, weight on her back keeps the shoulders upright and the mind uptight.

Camera catches editor slackening off as we divert from trail to visit Korokoro waterfall in the rainforest.

Morning view of the last hut as we head to catch a water-taxi, some four hours later.

Close-up of the action at the hut. Michel (Slovakian), Tracy (Australian), Yves (Frenchman) on the step, Judy (Australian) heading for a swim and other nationals.

Some stunning views from one of the peaks.

Bath time. There are no shower facilities on the tramps. With freezing water, one can't help but hope for a little 'global-warming'.

Brunch! All food tastes wonderful when hungry, aided by the surroundings too.

The wind prevented us from getting too close to the cliff edges. The backpack has a strong influence on balance especially when carrying the 'kitchen sink'.

'Similar but so different'...from an earlier one.

More to follow...


Jenni and Jeffrey

Sunday, February 5, 2017

29.15: Henderson: The Return to reach Black Mountain Peak 29.16 Chaparrosa Peak in the Mojave. 29.17 Mojave Preserve: Teutonia Peak.

At the peak of Black Mountain, the privilege afforded the hiker to untangle 'Old Glory'.
In the distance, Mount Charleston and Las Vegas.

After three weeks on the desert trails, we returned to Carlsbad to rest for a forthcoming trip to go down-under. The adventure promises to be a little hectic so we look forward to it as we continue to follow mild-to-warm weather. What babies!

On the trail, we met a young, former military member who looked strong, determined and fit. He was carrying a full backpack. I could not help asking him the weight. Sixty pounds. Impressive. He was in training. We thought we were 'heroes' carrying 35 pounds on the back during a trek. On principle, we had to pass him as we climbed the steep latter part of Henderson Mountain. We had no option. Our backpacks weighed less than fifteen pounds combined. The editor would have been deeply embarrassed otherwise.

The climbing got steep and even worse on the way down.

The first snow of our season.

Lava Butte in the distance, a favorite, easy to underestimate its difficulty and danger, the Frenchman closer.

Jen commences a sharp descent and then diverts from the trail to take a 'suicidal' path. What's with the woman!

Looking back at a classy mountain.

The flag over Las Vegas, one of many perspectives...another plane, too.

In the Yucca Valley region, reaching Chaparrosa Peak.

Peaking a little unsteadily.

Aging gracefully.

Filming of the "Rocky" series on this location. Nice try!

Mojave National Preserve: New technology crosses the old world.

Random desert scene...we find stunning...(actually, only one of us).

Fooling around on Teutonia Peak in high winds on the edge of Cima Dome in Mojave National Preserve. The dome,
which is 1,500 feet high and covers seventy square miles, is the most symmetrical dome of its type in the United States.


Jenni and Jeffrey