Published: December 4th 2006December 4th 2006
Beautiful scenery in the W
Hello again and I won't say Merry Christmas just yet. The decorations are all up here now and it seems really strange to even think that it is Christmas when it is sunny and hot. Mind you, not so much today (Monday) as once again we are holed up in a camp site while we have a dismal weather day. Still, can't all be glorious sunshine as we would soon get bored (?). I have to say though that the New Zealanders certainly give the British a run for their money moaning about the weather - must be that similar climate......
Well, back to Lake Taupo. We drove to Taupo from Napier through what was again beautiful scenery, crossing the Maungaharuru Ranges and stopping briefly at the lovely Waipunga Falls. It was then downhill all the way into Lake Taupo and what a stunning sight. Lake Taupo is a huge lake that was blasted into existence by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions ever about 26500 years ago. Taupo is basically a large caldera and the whole area is still active with three volcanoes at one end and then the volcanic range stretches over to White Island off the coast through
Statue of Capt James Cook at the site of his first landing in NZ - Poverty Bay
Rotorua. We settled in to the Taupo Hot Springs Spa Resort (not the posh hotel bit but the campsite) and immediately went off to the pools to try them out. Loads of different pools with different temperatures and even a hot water park for kids. The 3 of us had great fun turning wheels, opening vents and showers etc...... well, we can't expect Kiera to play on her own. After a lovely 2 hours, I went for a spot of sunbathing and the ambience was ruined somewhat by the sighting of a water rat happily running along the pipes!! Only to be expected I suppose, but you live in hope that nature doesn't take too great an interest. After that, it was a few beers up at the hotel sat on their terrace overlooking the lake. While there we started talking to an australian couple-if anyone knows a Regt Officer called Mark Markovski, we met his in laws!! Small world eh? Thankfully Lake Taupo was not as commercialised as Rotorua and so we were able to see & do some interesting things. Wednesday we went to a place called Orakei Korako which is described in the Lonely Planet Guide as
Bay of Plenty
Spectacular Scenery again
" possibly the best thermal area left in New Zealand". It didn't disappoint and has to be the freakiest place I have ever been to. Some of the BBCs 'Walking with Dinosaurs' was filmed here and you can see why. A little boat transports you across the lake and then it is an uphill walk through the geysers, colourful silica terraces and steaming vents and mud pools. There are lots of danger signs and strictly no straying off the boardwalk as the crust is only 20mm thick in some places - god knows where you would disappear to!! Not for the faint hearted and certainly not a place I would take a toddler, but utterly fascinating - Hollywood could not have made up this landscape. After all that excitement, we drove down to the Haka Prawn Farm which is the worlds only geothermally heated prawn farm. What a load of rubbish and a right royal rip off! The height of tackiness and they excelled themselves with the "prawn" merchandising - you would have to be a prawn to buy it all!!! We had a nice, but expensive, lunch which was highly amusing when the waitress explained to Rik that the
Home of the Art Deco city
prawn cocktail wasn't actually made with their own prawns as theirs were "too muscly" Bemused we certainly were.....
It was then off to the fascinating Volcanic Activity Centre. This is where the real scientists live and monitor all the volcanic activity within New Zealand and some of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. It was a toss up between Kiera's education or the possibility of nightmares, but we went for it anyway. As it has turned out, we bought her a book as well and she is now fascinated - wonders will never cease. We watched a film about the volcanic range and about the plates that New Zealand sits on and then got to sample an earthquake in a little simulator. 6.2 on the Richter scale is really quite shaky!!! The place was packed with little things to do and we were able to learn how a tornado forms, what causes a geyser to erupt and watch a volcano simulate an eruption - Fascinating. The best part was looking at the live seismograph and finding out there was an earthquake that morning on Mount Egmont (Taranaki) with aftershocks on Ruapehu and White Island. We can now safely say that the
Me & Kiera stop for a breather
earth really did move for us!!! If anyone is interested you can look at all the earthquakes on www.geonet.org.nz I look quite often now!! We went off then to watch the Taupo Bungy and see who was willing to launch themselves off that day - Luckily for us a coach load of Japanese tourists had just arrived who proceeded to provide the entertainment for the next half hour - all credit to them though, there is no way you would ever, ever get me jumping off one of those things.!@#@!
The next day dawned with gale force winds and torrential rain. I had looked at the forecast a couple of days before though so we knew it was going to happen and so spent the day in town doing some shopping, writing my blog etc. Had a meal out and generally tried to stay dry - homesickness was quite acute though as it was just like England!
Friday saw us setting off on what turned out to be a bit of an epic journey. It was one of those days where we knew where we were headed but ended up going on a bit, then a bit more etc. It
Some of the bizarre sulphur terraces
was a beautiful day so we started off by driving around Lake Taupo and up to the volcanic range know as Tongariro National Park. First into picture was Mount Tongariro (Plains of Gorgoroth for the die hard Lord of the Rings Fans) and this last erupted in 1926. You can see the hot water gushing out of its side still and is still classed as active, as are all of these volcanoes. Next was Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the film) which is a perfect conical single-vent volcano and exactly what you would draw if someone asked you to draw a volcano. Mount Ruapehu is the highest and most active of the parks volcanoes and has multi peaks. The last spectacular eruption was in 1995 and this one blocked the overflow to its crater lake. The lake has begun to fill once more and scientists predict that is could happen again fairly soon - there are alarm systems at the edge to monitor activity!! We managed to drive up as far as the ski fields, about two thirds of the way up and were rewarded with a little snow flurry. It was very cold and the area up there was
Rik & Kiera look at the crystal clear green water and clean their jewellery!!
not pretty; lots of volcanic rock, obviously no vegetation of any kind and a desolate black landscape. The views were stunning though and it was exciting for Kiera to sit on an actual active volcano. We had hoped to go on the chairlift but it had not opened for the summer season yet, so that was disappointing. It was then back down the mountain and we started to drive.... We wanted to head over to the west coast and eventually to Mount Taranaki, the other volcano, which stands on a kind of promontory. We decided to drive along Highway 43 which is known as the "Forgotten World Highway". We followed the Whanganui River initially, me having kittens as the river was in full flood mode and crashing along after all the rain the previous day. It reminded me of Bavaria last year.... It wasn't so much a highway as a C road, but at least it was sealed - well, for most part as we found out later. The scenery though was just so amazing it was like taking part in Jurassic Park. Deep gorges, huge giant trees and massive ponga fern trees, oh and numerous little land slips as
The seething masses!
well!! It will probably be one of our most spectacular drives in New Zealand but have to say I was so glad when we were at the other end. One of the weirdest things was that everything was covered in a type of moss, and it was hanging in huge icicles from the trees. It had taken over everything from fence posts to telegraph poles and houses and we saw a river where everything in it and along its banks was dead - really, really spooky. We also drove through a tiny settlement called Whangamomona who declared themselves a republic in 1988 after they were sick of local councils arguing over them - bizarre!! We emerged, unscathed, into a neat little town called Stratford (yes, they do have a statue of Shakespeare) where we spent Friday night on a nice campsite run by a lady from Durham - her office was packed with english memorabilia, especially pottery of Winston Churchill, lots of royal souvenir plates and even more chamber pots - I am not making this up!!
We now have the volcano 'bug', being experts you know, and got up bright and early to go up Mount Taranaki. This is
Over looking Lake Taupo
a very picturesque, pretty volcano, (if there is such a thing) and I was able to get some beautiful photos of the snow covered mountain against a brilliant blue backdrop. We drove all the way up to the ski plateau for the incredible views and then came down a little way to have a drink in the cafe. At this point, we walked into mini Switerzerland, into the mountain chalet complete with yodelling mountain music. The Swiss flag was flying and we felt like we were back in Europe. The lady owner, who was Swiss, had married her New Zealander husband and basically transported her homeland to a different mountain. The chalet was totally complete with swiss fixtures and fittings, shooting trophies, skis, and anything else you could imagine - it was lovely. Tragically her husband died on the mountain 3 years ago so she is now running it on her own.
We are currently driving around the Surf Highway 45, making our way back over to the East side and Wellington eventually. I will close now as this is a long one and you are probably all bored to death by now. I will add photos again as and
Ski resort at the bottom of Mount Ruhapeo
when I can and thank you for your messages and comments, we love reading them. Take good care and "blog" you soon.
Lots of Love Nicchi, Rik & Kiera xxxx
There are more photos below