My dear friends.

I was going to wait a while before another letter,
but too much has happened in the past few days that the
letter would just be too long if I waited any

I am currently in Wellington waiting for my ferry
over to the south island. This country is absolutely
incredible. So far, I have seen such a variety of
scenery that it has encapsulated some of the most
beautiful places I have seen across the globe, but
concentrated in just a small island. The land is so
many shades of green that you no longer have to fill
in the potential spectrum with your imagination.

Yesterday was a highlight so far....As you all know,
I am a Lord of the Rings fan. Well, yesterday I
climbed Mount Doon!!!!!(in Mordor, I think this is how it is
spelled.) Mount Nguaruhoe, at 2287 meters, is a
perfectly symmetrical crater, and as volcanoes go,
is relatively young at 2500 years old. It looks
exactly as it does in the movie. We were hiking the most
popular day hike in New Zealand, the Tongariro
Crossing, which at 17kms is quite a challenge in and
of itself. I am currently still sick, I probably
have bronchitis because I am hacking away at night. I
have also dislodged two ribs in my back (again!!) from
coughing; did this deter me from making the
ADDITIONAL 3 1/2 hour return trip to the top of the volcano, a
35 degree climb of 750 meter vertical ascent???? Well, I
do need my head examining, because it didn't. I
still can't believe I made it; I can honestly say it was
the most challenging hike I have ever completed in a

The views were completely stunning; I have never
hiked in a volcanic region like this before. There was
steam coming out of the rock, the lakes were emerald
from the ground minerals, and the streams flowed HOT
water (yes, HOT water - How WEIRD is that????)
Looking into the crater of Mount Doon was such a
highlight. And yes, I threw the ring in, sat and
waited for the eagles, but when they didn't come I
slid down the mountain in about 20 minutes by
practically "skiing" in boots through volcanic ash
and sand.....

What a day...I was so exhausted I was literally
cursing and screaming out loud about an hour before
reaching the bus; I didn't think i could physically
keep going.....somehow the feet kept moving.

Everyone clapped when I finally got on board; no,
they weren't congratulating my accomplishment, they were
ecstatic that I had finally got my sorry ass back on
board after they had waited over an hour for me to
turn up!

I am paying the price today. I can barely move.

The rest of the tour has been wonderful too. We
visited some incredible limestone arches at a beach
called cathedral cove, gone surfing, soaked in some
thermal hot pools, attended a Maori concert and
feast(my god these people can SING) - saw the famous
"HAKA" performed, and drank lots of beer and sang lots of
songs(well, I sang lots of songs)(well, except for
the mad spontaneous "like a virgin" moment yesterday
where all danced on the bus). There is a wonderful 60 yr
old man on the trip called Larry from Oklahoma. It
just so happens that Larry adores musical theatre;
so I have been his favorite person on this trip,
constantly relenting to his never ending requests
for songs from the shows. Of course I am loving the
attention, but I think the others are secretly already
planning my murder....

In Rotorua, we visited Wai-o-Tapu thermal land,
which reminded me of a condensed version of yellowstone
national park. It was great; lots of bubbling mud
and rotten egg smelling geysers. We have been fortunate
with weather after if poured for 24 hours after our
arrival (putting up tents in a downpour was much
much fun!!)

Off we now head to the south island. Tomorrow we
shall be in Kaikoura, and I shall be going
whale/dolphin watching.... Will write soon.

Love to you all.