I arrived in Taupo on a grey but humid afternoon which didn’t really inspire me to do very much. I settled into my hostel, YHA Taupo, which felt very much like an old style motel, with all rooms pointing towards a central grassy knoll. I apparently wasn’t the only one put off by the weather, as most of the rooms were full of people reading or catching up with friends and family on their phones. I sort of wrote the day off to get on with planning the next leg of my trip, as well as to catch up on some essential life admin that’d followed me around the world and wasn’t going anywhere.
The weather had improved hugely overnight, so much so that far across the lake I could now see two mountains, that definitely weren’t there the day before… Okay, so they probably were, but visibility had been poor enough to hide them completely. The mountains in question were Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe, the latter of which Lord of the Rings fans will recognise as MOUNT DOOM i.e. MORDOR. I found this massively exciting because anything LOTR related has me like a big kid. You could climb the mountain on a rout known as the Tongariro Alpine crossing, however I politely declined this one, mainly because I have little desire to climb an active volcano to be honest.
Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s biggest lake and so the next day I booked myself in for a little boat trip out to see the Maori carvings at Mine Bay. I boarded the Ernest Kemp replica steamboat and we set sail for Mine Bay, which was about 40 mins out on the lake. The trip was beautiful and the sun was really beaming down on us. Of all the travelling I’ve done on coaches and now a boat, I have to say, there have been some real characters behind the wheel of every one. I love listening to kiwis chattering on and I wasn’t disappointed with Ian, our captain, who was very conscious of not “talking until we were sick of his voice”.
The rock carvings were pretty impressive and we got almost close enough to touch them. I’d like to tell you that they were hundreds of years old but I’d be lying, they were crafted in the seventies by master carver, Matahi Brightwell, who saw a blank canvas of rock and thought, yeah I’m gonna carve a big Maori face on it.
Lake Taupo has to be the bluest, most tempting looking lake I’ve ever seen and I was slightly gutted not to be able to swim in it, especially on such a hot day. As we arrived back on dry land I decided to make the best of the good weather and head up river towards Huka falls (though I wouldn’t make it that far).
I set off walking upstream, once again following the trail of the mighty Waikato river, as I had previously done in Hamilton. Dotted along the way were pockets of calmer water, filled with locals swimming and splashing about and I was very nearly tempted to jump in myself. I had donned a bikini that morning in anticipation, however I did forget to pack any dry undies for the walk back, and nobody wants to walk home with a soggy bottom now, do they? Instead I walked up to where people were bungy jumping from the cliffs above the river and sat watching for a bit (with my heart in my mouth). If you’re wondering, I’ve got vertigo, so I’m not about to do a bungy jump anytime soon!
As I mentioned earlier, I had planned to carry on upstream to Huka falls, however a mixture of tiredness and too much sun got the better of me and I slowly wandered back to the hostel instead, in search of food. By some wave of coincidence, Lucy, the British girl I’d met in Rotorua, had ended up in the same hostel as me, and we both agreed that delicious Thai food was needed. I’m yet to warm to the idea of cooking a proper meal in a hostel, mainly because all the kitchens so far have been SO crowded and I can’t deal with it. I’m living on a diet of instant noodles at the moment (don’t judge me) because that’s about as much kitchen time as I can stand right now. With this in mind, we agreed to go eat out, because eh, #TreatYoSelf. I had one of, if not the best, chicken Massaman’s of my life that night so absolutely no regrets.
With a full belly, I happily crawled back to my bed to plan the next chunk of my journey..