New Zealand – February 27, 2016

This morning, we are the testy travelers. Joss can’t locate our destination with her GPS, which prompts some agita. I spell the name and include even the hyphens to no avail. We had driven past the entrance yesterday on our way to Orakei, but “We’ll find it” did not satisfy her. One could not but speculate upon the marvels within – Wai-o-tapu, Thermal Wonderland. As opposed to – My-long-johns, Thermal Wonderland. Compounding the general prickliness, the Focus is acting a little sulky. We had to get an early start in order to bear witness the daily geyser, Lady Knox, express herself at 10:15. Quickly, a decent long black is procured and the center will hold.

We have time to walk through one of the loops of geothermal wonders before queuing up for the geyser eruption. In the cool morning air, steam pours off streams and pools, wrapping the forest in mysterious gossamer and rising in great clouds before vanishing. One remarkable pool, the Champagne Pool, is a blue depth with a rim of bright rust-colored tracery whose clarity shifts as tatters of steam drift across.

Following instructions to drive to the Lady Knox Geyser site three quarters of an hour prior to her performance, we file into an amphitheater that focuses attention on a four-foot chalk white cone. The entire United Nations files in after us. At twelve past, an amused man with a mic offers the spiel about Lady Knox and her connection to the geothermal nozzle and how this will be an artificially timed eruption. “I just pour in this bag of detergent and within three to ten minutes Lady Knox will blow for fifteen minutes to an hour.” Sure enough, soon she’s foaming with ever-increasing enthusiasm and, woohoo, hot soapy water shoots thirty feet in the air. Photo frenzy. Subsidence. Almost immediately, the audience begins to bail. We linger, because that’s what we do.

After a sandwich and a meat pie, we’re on the road to Raurimu. Anticipation is high: we’ll be making the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow, weather permitting. Predictions have been improving all week, but rain is still promised. Just not in biblical proportions, we hope. At a Countdown supermarket we harvest ingredients for a Joss-and-V-made spaghetti-and-meatball extravaganza. We translate the recipe’s measurements into metric on the fly as we cruise the aisles.

Joss’ immense navigational powers draw us inexorably to the Wood Pigeon Lodge in Raurimu. She is that good. Marinara bubbles and the meatballs fry and up pull two cars simultaneously, Greg and Tori from Tauranga in one and Louise and Devon from Wellington in the other. We are now the assembled multitude. Dinner is delicious. No dessert? No dessert. We nibble Pineapple Lumps, a bona fide Kiwi confection, and the nonpareils I brought from Li-Lac in NYC.

Tomorrow’s the day.

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