Swimming in a crater...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Jul 09, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hello all, we're just about to leave the beautiful town of taupo! this place is idylic, created by a volcano which many still believe to be active and are carefully monitoring its rumbles! The fresh water lake is huge enough to be tidal and has formed beaches all around, the cafes and restaurants are tastefully all around and are lively till late at night, and the views are spectacular, this entire place is surrounded by mountains.  I'm in a little internet cafe which is super cheap and amazingly kitted out - called cyber gate - owned by a couple of japenese people every computer has webcams, head phone with a little microphone attached and each computer desk has sides for privacy.  I'm surrounded by so many people talking different languages as they all call people using skype! (i wish i'd known, i've just had a long convo to home who phoned my mobile! eek sorry dad!). 

We arrived in Taupo on wednesday in the midday heat with our backpacks, jumped off our bus and made our way through the town. We always pop into the citys i-site, they are packed full of info and discount vouchers! i pick up a ton of leaflets and then spend the next few days sorting through for what we want to do! unfortunately our second stop here was at a pharmacy, the insect in rotorua who liked the taste of me had left its mark but more about that later.  Our hostel was lovely, nice shady outdoors decking area and BBQ, laundry and huge kitchen and social area, we had booked our own room, so nice to have some space to spread out!! to ensure bugs hadnt travelled with us we had super hot showers and put all clothes into a hot wash, we had washing lines zigzagging across our room so was all fun! feeling cleaner went out to explore. 

I don't know what quite makes up your mind about a city, each one has a certain vibe, while rotorua was really interesting and I learnt lots i didn't feel like it captured me, but taupo has me hook line and sinker.  Within a few mins walking around Steve had turned to me saying gosh i really like it here, its strange how you can attach yourself to something quite quickly and have no idea why. the town is around the top east side of the lake (see the map).  The lake was created when a volcano exploded so dramatically it took itself off the map and left behind a huge crater.  The explosion in 186AD was so huge it was noted in china - the sky went blood red, and by the romans - the sky turned black, it plunged the world into darkness and its erruption was 50km high! it was the largest erruption in the last 5000years! dipping your toes into the water its hard to believe that such a huge expanse was once alive with energy, the water is huge and calm, beaches surround it, the only tell tale sign when you are there it that lining the beachese are loads of small rocks. When you pick it up its light as a feather and covered in holes...pumice stone!!! created by the lava! think of how much you pay for that in the body shop back in england! here its free for all and there is an enormus supply!!!

Thursday morning we packed a picnic lunch and headed off on a shuttle to mount Tauhara (ta-ou-har-a).  Taupo is surrounded by mountain ranges - their layout beautifully described in maori legends. We got dropped off at the foot of the mountains and looked up, we were at sea level and they looked so high! couldnt exactly tell which one we were going to summit but the track took you up the tallest one in this area and so we followed the direction the little arrow pointed, past the sign telling you this was maori land, across a field and up up up.  It was a jolly hard up hill! never a flat bit for a break, the first few minutes was up a hill infront of the range that was open land so in the hot sun, from the bottom it looked small in comparison but even from the top of there we got amazing views out over taupo and the lake.  The track then headed into the bush, thank goodness! was so glad to be in the shade for the climb.  The track zigzagged up, i amused myself working out if I was on the zig or the zag.  We scrambled up over boulders and trees pushing past the huge ferns that waved infront of us.  I cant explain the smell of the bush here, its beautiful, so green and fresh, its so dense, everykind of tree and shrub, with every kind of bird song. We pushed forward to get to the top and summitted in about an hour (its supposed to take at least 1 and a half hours so we were happy with that time - got to keep the fitness up! 1000meters) and wow! the view from the top was spectacular! you suddenly appear out of the trees and feel the sun and you have panoramic views of the huge lake, the mountains the town, the plains to the east. it literally takes your breath away! we had lunch with our legs swinging over the edge, perfect! we bumped into a couple at the top (orginally from england who had moved out here) so had a good old natter was lovely. I was really looking forward to the descent thinking it would be far easier but nooo! you had to be so careful, tree roots and the steep down hill track changing direction constantly meant our knees were groaning by the bottom!! haha! we started to walk along the road back to taupo when a car pulled up next to us, it was the english couple! our first hitched ride over here (so many people we have met completely get around hitching!) lovely people.

Hot hot hot when we got back to the hostel so a quick change and we pottered down to the lake side and jumped in! its fresh water and so clear you can see your feet even when the waters up to your neck...plus its not the sea so no sharks!! we spent the afternoon swimming, lying in the sun and reading.  We found an amazingly cheap thai takeaway for dinner and ate it on the grass by the lake side as the stars came out, exhausted, happy and full = a good day!

Friday we decided to spend the day by the lake, on the way we stopped at another pharmacy who gave me more drugs to help with the bites (i say gave..i bought them, i cant believe how expensive basic medicine is here, im used to tesco prices!).  the day was amazing, a repeat of yesterday afternoon, we lazed in the lake, on the beach, on the grass, i cant believe people can live in such a beautiful scenic place, your eyes never get tired of taking it all in.  Everyday we stopped at a playground on the way back to the hostel, but i assure you this is no ordinary playground. its like a gym outdoors, there is a kiddy one then across the green is the adult one, we've seen many a tanked man pull up for his work out here.  Set in a huge green area its a course that you get around using your arms (I'm so rubbish at it!) steve loves it! platforms after each stage give you the leg up for the next bit, its moving monkey bars, so pedels for the arms, chains with rings on and moving circles and of course plenty of bars for pullups! steve goes round and then helps me to too! haha!  An irish pub for dinner with plenty of atmosphere and cheap backpacker meals before sitting on the beach well into the night with cider songs and stars.

Saturday was our last full day in taupo, picnic packed we walked out to the river that flows out of the lake and followed it as it twists and widens through the countryside.  On our way we met a lovely austrian girl watching the bungy jumpers from one section of huge cliffs into the river! she was also following the river path up to the waterfalls so we walked along with her. On the way you get to an area of hot springs flowing into the river, lots of people stopped to swim here. the river was so blue and clear and the inlet with the hot springs was steaming! however it was midday heat and we were so warm we decided we would swim on the way back. We carried on climbing up and down the hills that the river had cut through, the river and area was beautiful.  A couple of hours in we heard the noise of falling water getting louder and louder until you couldnt hear much else, we came out of the track into the viewing platform of hukka (pronounced hooker) falls.  Its incredible, the power of the water is unbelievable! the sides of the river suddenly become very close together made of very hard rock that the water hasnt worn away, so suddenly this huge peaceful river goes into a frenzy as it all tries to fit through the passage! its crazy violent as it swirls like rapids through this section going frothy and pale blue before hurtling over the edge of the falls! the sign said because it cant errode the sides its erroding down, so here its about 20meters deep and the falls are moving backwards.  You can stand on a bridge over the rapids and feel the power, its totally insane! about 200,000 litres of water passes over the falls every second! its stunning! Plus - because of its ridiculous power no fish (or eels!) can climb up it as they do in other rivers, therefore the lake is eel free and only has fish that have been imported there! (nice to know you're not swimming with eels!)

We continued through the river path before deciding to leave it to find a place called the honey hive somewhere near by (we heard it was free entry and you got free honey wine tastings!!), getting slightly hot, slightly lost and very dusty we eventually found our way. lunched under a nearby tree before heading into the lovely airconditioned honey hive building. THey had two huge hives in there, behind glass (thank goodness i've never seen so many bees!!) with big glass tubes heading to the outside.  Literally hundreds off bees were swarming all over the honeycomb edges and makes their way to the outside.  we learnt everything about bees, the differnent kinds, that most are female (only about 5males per every season exists in each hive.  They strive to fertilise the new queen who flies up to 20meters up in the air (to make sure she gets the best!) before the males fall back to earth dead, they live maximum a few weeks - steve decided he wouldnt want to be a male bee! haha! 

They had a huge shop of honey products and of course the tasting area...the women took one look at me and took me away from the wine (sniff) and to the healing creams (turns out the running under cold water when we had got in there hadnt improved the look of my hands from the swelling of the bites) she gave me lots of testers to rub on, they smelt and felt so lovely and soothing! we then got to taste! yum! so lovely and sweet, we tried a dark and a light honey mead, i liked the extra sweet one =) we tried everything they could, but they do have a limit on tastings! before looking around the aisles of honey and bees wax candles and kits. as I was trying many testers a man nearby said "ouch somethings been attacking you", yea dam mosquitos in rotorua was my reply, he made a few comments about maybe i should get so help with them, i was holding my arm in a sling position as it was so painful, i said i would, he was lovely and then left us to it.  A few minutes later a tap on my shoulder, it was the lovely man again, he said he felt really strongly that i needed some treatment, its the worst he had seen, and he felt that now he had seen me he felt he couldnt walk away, he said we were risking my health walking through the bush where there are many bugs around and if any got into my bites that were already so swollen we could be in real trouble, and asked if he could give us a lift back.  Bless him i must've looked a right old sight! We gladly accepted the lift and he dropped us outside a doctors, our own little scottish guardian angel!! More drugs and a shower later, we headed back into taupo for another irish pub meal - too good value to pass up and our last stroll down the lakeside.

Taupo is gorgeous, happy, a wonderful community...I definately will be back one day

Lots of love to all,
P xxxxxx

A little note - little maori figerines are everywhere here, carved into walls, stuck on buildings, even on the supermarkets.  We had learned in rotorua these are they to protect the people inside villages buildings etc.  If the tongue is out to the front its a challenge (how you see in the haka routine) and if its out to the side its a welcome! im constantly looking whether we are welcommed or challenged!
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