On Our Way North.. (Part 1)

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October 5th 2011
Published: October 13th 2011
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Scenic lookoutScenic lookoutScenic lookout

Our first scenic pit stop displayed the typical rolling hills found throughout New Zealand.
We woke up Monday morning (October 3rd) and explored Wellington transit for the purposes of obtaining our rental car for our trip to Auckland.

Not long after the onset of our adventure we learned:
- How to use the windshield wipers
- Not to trust Google Map directions
- To never take an unmarked road
- That speed limits in New Zealand are a challenge more than a measure of safety

We learned how to use the windshield wipers for the obvious reason.. because it rained for hours.. but also because in addition to the steering wheel being positioned on the right side of the car, everything else is switched as well. Hence, when looking to use the turn signal, the windshield wipers are often inadvertently activated. If you are ever in a country that drives on the left, cars with windshield wipers on during sunny days are usually a good signal that a foreigner is driving.

We embarked from Wellington towards Lake Taupo as directed by our trusty Google Map directions. It was supposed to take 5.5 hours. It took us 8. This was because a) Google assumes that because the speed limit is 100 km/h, cars
Huka fallsHuka fallsHuka falls

Words nor pictures can describe the immense power found at the Huka falls.
will travel 100 km/h on those highways. Winding turns up, down and around mountains generally don't allow for 100 km/h speeds.. despite what the speed limits might suggest.. and b) Google found us a shortcut that connected two highways... 20 km into the 30 km shortcut we were greeted by a road closure sign. 20 km doesn't sound like a very big distance, however when you are averaging 40 km/h on a one-lane logging road with two-way traffic it equates to a size-able chunk of time.

After learning all of these valuable lessons we still managed to enjoy the drive, making the necessary changes to our travel plans along the way. We quickly realized how beautiful and expansive the New Zealand countryside is, and that the notion that you can find sheep everywhere is not a myth. We arrived in Lake Taupo at 7 pm in time to set up our tent, only to find out that it is no longer waterproof. The dampness wasn't that bad in hindsight. The severe thunderstorm would have kept us awake, even if the tent had remained dry.

We awoke early the next morning to sunny skies, excited to see what Taupo
Find the pot of goldFind the pot of goldFind the pot of gold

The rainbow in the foreground of the Aratiatia dam was the silver lining on an otherwise dreary morning. Much to Liza's dismay, there was no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
had to offer. We set out for Huka falls, which is a powerful waterfall that is located on a river responsible for generating 15% of New Zealand's power (according to a sign we read). The falls were jaw-dropping, not due to their size but to the speed, volume and power of the water cascading along. We left Huka falls and hiked two hours downriver to one of the eight hydroelectric dams used to harness the river's power. Although it poured rain for more than half of the hike to the dam, the skies were kind enough to clear up for us the moment we reached our elevated viewing point which allowed us for a few minutes to witness a beautiful rainbow arcing from the clouds to the river below. We stayed to watch the dam open and turn the previously quiet river into fast-flowing rapids. We made the return hike to the car and set out on our way north to our next destination.

Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland is located about 40 min from Taupo on the way to Rotorua. This region of the north island of New Zealand is situated on a shallow-lying thermal fault line, producing many unique
Champagne poolChampagne poolChampagne pool

This nearly 200 ft deep pool is filled with near-boiling water. Its coloration is due to minerals present in the acid waters from the hydrothermal vents.
geological features and attractions. Wai-O-Tapu, meaning 'sacred waters' in Maori, accurately describes what we witnessed in the thermal park. The near-boiling acidified waters created canyons through soil erosion, and coloured the pools of water beautiful yellows, purples, reds and greens. We probably would not have believed its existence if we hadn't seen it ourselves. Although we feel that our pictures are quite stunning, they do not begin to do the park justice.

We departed Wai-O-Tapu and continued along the road to Rotorua, where we spent a much drier evening at a quaint campsite on Lake Rerewhakaaitu. We more than made up for the limited sleep we had obtained the previous night by packing it in at 8:30.

Additional photos below
Photos: 7, Displayed: 7


Lake NgakoroLake Ngakoro
Lake Ngakoro

The green coloration of the lake is the result of sulphur in the water.
Road to TaupoRoad to Taupo
Road to Taupo

On the journey from Wellington we were graced with the beauty of Mount Tongariro, one of two active volcanoes in Tongariro National Park. We also passed through the many climactic regions New Zealand offers, which included both tropical and boreal forrests, grassy plains and the desert tundra seen here.
Champagne steamChampagne steam
Champagne steam

Matt is engulfed by steam rising off of the Champagne pool. It stank.

13th October 2011

Found the rainbow in that pix!!!
Love all the pix..especially the "champagne" steam bath and the colours in the almost boiling pool. John comes to visit this p.m.: leaves for Haiti Monday.. May meet arriving parents as he leaves.Keep us in the loop we are enjoyimg your travels.G & G.

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