Day 5 Wed 22/2 Whakatane Rest Day.

After the twin luxuries of sleeping in a bed and being able to make toast, rode down the bike path along the river for a coffee as I finally got the word the tour is going ahead.  Rain started just as I rode off and was pretty drenched in a minute or two – great start to the day.  As I climbed on board the boat I really wondered if this was the day to be doing this.  This doubt was amplified when we left the river and picked up full speed out on the ocean.  I was sitting outside upstairs under cover facing backward.  Those facing forward – who could actually see something of where we were going – were soon forced inside after being deluged by rain and spray but managed to stay dry where I was.  A few people had to make use of the little bags provided and after 90 minutes of this I was wishing I’d had one less drink last night but as approached the island the rain stopped and the sea calmed ever so slightly.

This is a technically active volcano and a protected area and landings are controlled, so we had to be ferried from the boat to a tiny jetty via inflatable. As were waiting to transfer we’re handed our mandatory safety gear – a hard hat and a gas mask! Spent a couple of hours doing a slow guided tour around the small portion of the island between the old sulphur works and the main crater lake.  Bizarre barren landscape with the odd mud pot and lots of sulphur vents particularly closer to the crater.  I’d thought the gas masks were just a precautionary thing, but once we got closer to some of the bigger vents we were ALL using them.

While it wasn’t the best conditions to see the place in it was still great.  Back on the boat spent a few minutes cruising around the island shore with big colonies of gannets nesting on what looked quite alien greenery given the barren nature of most of the island.  Then it was back toward home.  Much more pleasant trip back as we now had the sea and the wind behind us and were surfing the swell – great stuff.  Not back in town till 4 and everything shuts down early here so getting a coffee was a bit of a challenge.  Back into camp for dinner and to hear the latest dismal weather forecast – the best we can hope for tomorrow is that the strong winds wont be full on head winds and that we get a bit less rain than the 100mm plus total per day they’ve been getting on the South Island

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