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We rose at 6am (ouch) and strolled down the river to check-in and board our boat for our White Island Tour with PeeJay. The ferry and whole outfit was very professional. The boat ride to White Island took about 90 minutes. We were given a snack and saw dolphins from a distance. We also got chatting to 9 year old Tyler from Wanganui, who was a very confident little chap!
When we first saw White Island it looked innocent enough. There was a tell-tale billow of steam rising from the middle which made you realise there was more to it. We boarded a rib to get to the island jetty and clambered over boulders to reach the island itself. We had to wear hard-hats and gas-masks (in case the steam irritated the back of our throats). We had two brilliant guides: Wendy and Jules, who told us all about the history and features of the island. There are cameras pointing at the crater lake in case of another erruption, and you can log on to the White Island website to see what the volcano's up to. It last errupted in 2000 and spat out pummice-like rocks all over the island (it's not the type of volcano to emit lava flows). The whole landscape felt very alien. We walked round the island for about 90 minutes then boarded the boat and were served lunch.
On the way back we encountered a large pod of common dolphins who came to play in our bow wave. It's the first time I've ever seen dolphins up close in the wild, I was leaning over the bow of the boat and could see them really clearly and here their squeaks. It was out of this world! For the rest of the journey we planned our East Cape trip.
We went to the Whakatane Bike Shop for more spokes, some cycling glasses for me (Scott's had to fish two flies out of my eyes in the last two days) and... padded cycling shorts for both of us! After 850km we thought it was about time we checked what all the fuss is about.
Back at the campsite Scott changed his spokes and trued his wheel and gave me my first bike mechanics lesson in the process. There was a Japanese cycle tourer in our campsite who spoke very little English but had cycled most of New Zealand already and it hadn't taken him very long. Our efforts look a bit lame in comparison - something to live up to!
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