Lakes & Volcanoes in the North Island

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, October 7, 2011

Taupo is a town set on a large lake and very popular for adventure sports in summer and so there are plenty of bars and restaurants. We stay just outside the centre and first take a walk to Huka Falls.  We walk along Waikato River that feeds that falls which at the start seems to flow quite slowly until you realise how deep the river is – the river bed falls away very sharply.  This means that when the river is compressed into the rock channel it is incredibly forceful – the falls are short (only 10 metres) but 220,000 litres pass through the falls every second.  It's New Zealand’s most visited natural tourist attraction.  On the way back we have a paddle in the river but where the cold water is met by a natural hot spring – all a bit strange as the hot water stays at the top of the river while the cold water is on the bottom. 

Also in Taupo we drove around the lake for views of the volcano which were slightly obscured by cloud, impressive scenery nonetheless.  Saturday night is spent in an Irish pub watching the rugby.  Even outside of Auckland a pint is 4 but at least wine is slightly cheaper than beer so I’m off beer and back onto wine.  The atmosphere in the pub pre-game is good, with a stag party performing a slightly drunk Haka, and some England fans teaching everyone some energetic drinking games.  Unfortunately the scores don’t go so well with Ireland and England losing and so it’s onto supporting New Zealand to win!

Next stop is Tongariro National Park.  On our way, we stop off for some more walks around the many lakes and a stop at an old battleground where apparently the first battle using trench warfare happened.  We get to Tongariro National Park where some of the Lord of the Rings films were filmed but also is a walking and skiing destination.  We drive up to the ski centre for an impressive view of the sparse landscape – except for the odd volcano towering about us, including 'Mount Doom’ from Lord of the Rings.  We watch the South Africa-Australia game (possibly the most exciting game we saw) and New Zealand-Argentina game at the campsite, during which we meet a couple from New Zealand – after the game they give us their phone numbers for a contact in an emergency.  We have encountered this several times now – the friendliness of New Zealanders.  Plus stories from other rugby world cup fans that have been taken fishing or offered a place to stay after meeting people in pubs – the hospitality of New Zealand has been a highlight so far – along with all the amazing scenery and rugby banter. 

Unfortunately the ski season is still on and so we can’t do the Alpine Crossing day hike we had planned for the next day, instead we settle for a 17k hike around the lower areas and Tamas Lakes.  The scenery is amazing, the weather stays dry (although we never see the top of the volcano) and the view of the lakes are impressive as they were created by crater blasts.  We hope to return here in the summer to do the Alpine Crossing and maybe see the top of the volcano!
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