We had to get up well up before the sparrows yesterday for our Big Day Out. In fact, we needed to set the alarm clock just to make sure we woke early enough. Once we were up, showered, dressed and fed, we drove down town to meet up with the other members of our 60’s Up group. A full bus of 48 people were travelling up to the Chateau Tongariro Hotel for lunch. Although our departure time was 8.00am, most of us assembled all bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7.30am.
Our mid morning stop was at Gumboot Manor at Taihape. However, the logistics of a full bus load of people (mainly ladies) queuing up at the counter to purchase their morning tea, then queuing up to use the bathroom facilities over stretched the 30 minutes planned stop time quite a bit. Finally, the last coffees were served, the bathroom queue had finally ended, and we filed back onto the bus again.
Then it was Tongariro – here we come! A couple of ladies sitting close by told us that they had both spent the first night of their respective honeymoons at the hotel. And had not returned since. It certainly is an impressive building.
The Tongariro Park Tourist Company Ltd was formed with a grand vision to build the Chateau, an elegant Georgian structure, alongside the original Whakapapa Ski huts. The Chateau was styled after the Canadian Resort of Lake Louise. Fletcher Construction Company undertook the contract at $78,000 pounds, and work started on the 10th of January 1929. The opening of the well-appointed Chateau hotel revolutionised the atmosphere of Ruapehu as a resort. The rich and famous came in their droves to ski on the nearby slopes during the day and enjoy fine dining in the evenings. WW11 brought the glamour to an abrupt end, overseas travellers stopped coming, young Kiwi men joined the forces and both road and rail travel was restricted. When the Chateau was commandeered by the government as an asylum after an earthquake damaged a hospital in Wellington, the hotel served the needs of a different kind of guest. It was back in business once more in 1948, when the newly renovated Chateau reopened to provide accommodation for visitors to Mt Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park.
There was time to check out the elegant surroundings before we went into the dining room. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, cosy fires were burning, and those comfy armchairs look most inviting. Mmmm, this could be my kind of place - pity the funds aren't available to make it happen.
The young staff in the Ruapehu Dining Room served our meals quickly and efficiently. With such a large group, we were all served the same meal. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, veggies and gravy, followed by pavlova for dessert. All very tasty too, and everyone at our table managed to clean their plates, we noticed. The rain came down during our meal. “Perhaps it’s snowing?” someone suggested hopefully.
After lunch the rain had stopped, the clouds had lifted, and what’s this? A lovely alpine sight of a dusting of snow on the mountain.
Back into the bus we went for our long journey home, stopping again at Taihape for a comfort stop. How is this for an omen? A good one, we hope.
We finally arrived back at 6.00pm. It’s a long way to go just for lunch, one of the members was heard to mumble when our day's trip was mooted. Long way or not, it was a great trip to a place most of us had never set in before. A little bit posh indeed, and most enjoyable.