However it is a 7 hour drive from Wellington to Hamilton, so we went via Mt Ruapehu to do some ski touring on the way (and also on the way back as the weather wasn't too great on the way there).
Aaron testing out his skis, skins and touring boots
Unfortunately the weather wasn't too great on Mt Ruapehu, so we gave up after a couple of hours as the weather closed in. Instead we went and did a couple of low level short walks, Silica rapids and Tupapakurura Falls.
Silica rapids - the strange orange/yellow colour is due to minerals not slime!
With Julia and Chris we spent a day exploring the limestone and caves in the Waitomo area, then had dinner at Raglan on the coast.
Julia caught admiring the rock - she is a closet geologist after all!
A column - joining of the stalagmite and stalagtite
There also several large waterfalls in the region, which we checked out on our road trip.
Bridal Veil falls - looks a lot like the water falls in Oregon, flowing over the columnar lava
Then we headed over to Raglan to watch the surfers and have dinner
Sunday we headed over to Pirongia Peak to climb up the volcano. The track is good at the bottom but gets more undulating and tricky towards the top. It took us 7 hours and we finished in the dark - but we got amazing views from the top across to Kawhia Harbour and across the plains to Hamilton (and possibly even Taranaki and Tongariro if you squinted).
At the lookout at the top of Pirongia - Helen, Aaron, Chris and Julia
The impressive looking dyke sticking out along the ridge we were climbing down
Finally on Monday on the way back to Wellington the weather was much better and we skinned up to the top of Mt Ruapehu so that Aaron could see the crater lake. We were still pretty tired from the day before climbing up Pirongia, so we had quite a few stops on the way back down the mountain to recover from the "thigh burn". The snow was pretty good at the top of Mt Ruapehu (although icy in patches).
Aaron with the crater lake behind
Altogether and exhausting long weekend/holiday - back to work to recover. Thanks for having us Julia and Chris - we will repay the hospitality when you come to visit windy Welington!