Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, July 10, 2008

We arrive in Taupo in the late afternoon and, after having a brief wander around town we drive to the "Craters of the Moon", one of the major thermal areas. As the sun sets we spend an hour or so walking around the area which is riddled with steam fissures and holes full of bubbling mud. Even the grass and plant life seems to emit steam. The area has boardwalks all over to help you avoid stepping into any of the steam or mud holes. It is now beginning to get very cold and this seems to make the steam even more impressive and, coupled with the setting sun it really is a spectacular sight. The downside of this beautiful area is the smell! It absolutely stinks because of the sulphur from the steam vents We park overnight in a lay-by in the hills outside of town and it is bitterly cold without the luxury of mains electricity.

The next couple of days are spent at Debretts Campsite in Taupo itself. It is still really cold so the luxury of the on-site thermal pools are really welcome. On our last day we take an early morning a soak in the pools before continuing on our journey. The pools are fed by natural thermal springs and because of the freezing temperatures, sitting in the pools is like sitting in a thick fog. The pools are heated to around 39c which is really warm as long as you don't move from one pool to another too much when you really do appreciate that the air temperature is around freezing!

The town of Taupo is situated beside Lake Taupo, on of the largest lake in the North Island. On a clear day the views across this very large lake to the snow capped Mount?? are incredible.

Before moving on we take a walk from the town out to Huka Falls, one of the mains sites in the area. The walk along the Huka river valley has some beautiful views and some lucky locals have taken full advantage of this by building some amazing houses along the valley.

The falls themselves are not that high but are no less spectacular for that as they have an incredible volume of water being forced through a very narrow gorge. The water is ice blue in colour and very, very clear.

The next day we take a trip on the Huka Falls Jet Boats. These boats are incredibly fast and zoom up and down the river right up to the base of the falls. Being jet propelled, the boats have a number of advantages over normal speed boats. Firstly, they can operate in very shallow water and secondly they can turn a full 360 at high speed in their own length (which they do with great frequency!). Every time the driver turns 360 we get a soaking which the waterproof clothing we are given does little to keep out! The boat driver, has one of the best deadpan comic deliveries I have ever seen and could easily make it in comedy clubs anywhere in the world. This trip is well worth the money (and the soaking and the freezing temperatures although we are too cold to take up the offer of a second trip at half price.

We had intended to do the Tongiro crossing, one of the most famous walks in NZ which is 18km long and takes a day walking across the ice fields. Unfortunately, the crossing is closed due to the weather so the next day we decide to head off to the Tongariro area to take a closer look at MountNgauruhoe the mountain which was Mount Doom in LOTR. Unfortunately the weather really seems to be conspiring against us as we, once again get the driving rain and hail and the view of the mountain completely disappears.

As the weather has made the mountain impossible we change plans and head off to Watimo caves... again another long drive and again more heavy rain! We stay overnight in a DOC car park and awake in the morning to find the car park flooded and, yet again the van has sprung a leak. This time the leak is a big one! We empty at least two full buckets of water and as we drive off through flooded countryside, the water starts leaking from half a dozen places around the van. We phone the campervan company and agree to meet up with them in Hamilton to switch to another van.
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