After completing The Crossing we got back to Bruce and headed to our next port-of-call, Lake Taupo.
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in the North Island and covers about 600 square kilometers. It is actually a huge volcano crater filled with water. A few of the locals try scaring tourists by claiming its due to blow at some point in the future.
We eagerly swallowed a couple of burgers as we were starving following our trekking exhorts and found a campsite not far from Taupo centre. It was a huge, free DoC campsite which attracted mainly backpackers (due to it being free). It lay on the edge of the Whatuakite River which was a beautiful blue colour but had quite strong currents in parts which prohibited people swimming too far out. A few of the young daredevil local fellas were jumping in from a tall pertruding tree though. There were few families and as the weather was glorious, there was partying going on all over the shop. Unfortunately, we were pretty worn out so we fell asleep about 9pm – no partying for us!
Given our brief appearance the previous evening we decided to hang around Taupo for the next day to see what we had missed. First on the agenda was doing a bit of laundry but as the campsite we were on was a free one, there was no laundry facilities so we found a laundrette on one of the main roads into Taupo and dumped our dirties there whilst we headed onto the Lake front where there were some public showers. We finished in the showers and I nicked one of the towels we hired – its proved a very useful beach companion ever since.
We then went to a local tourist hot-spot, Huka Falls. Its a short part of the Whatuakite River which pushed gallons of water through a narrow threshold causing some forceful and impressive white water. The sound it makes is amazing and you get a refreshing wind and spittle from it across your face whilst you stand on the bridge which straddles it. If you’ve got the cash you can also pay to go on a motorised speedboat type thingy right through it. Or, if you don’t have any money or brain cells you can swim down it. I doubt your limbs would be attached at the end though.
After picking up the laundry we headed over to another local attraction – Craters of the Moon. It sounds far better than it looks. It’s a thermal reserve which is basically a boardwalk across a field which has a number of fissures, geysers, sulpher pits, mud pools, steam and other thermal attributes. It didn’t really look anything like what I expect the moon looks like, although the colour on some of the craters is eye catching.
Rather rudely a German fella in the group next to us split his hand open quite nastily and therefore interrupted our reading time as he lent him some our our first aid stocks (somehow we were the sensible ones on this occasion). Milly has very unhappy however when one of his German pals wouldn’t let her administer him with the help he needed – she wanted him all for herself.
The rest of the evening flew by and we chilled out and did a couple of calls home to the rents.
The next city on the list was about an hour or so north of Taupo, a place called Rotorua. We already knew from the small researched we’d done, that Rotorua was famous for its geothermal activity and the many natural hot-pools you can jump in to. There are tons of resorts there where you can pay to go in them but if you Google free places to explore theres a long list of places which are untouched and available for you to just ‘take a dip’.
We had an avocado laden breakfast near to one of the tourists resorts and checked out a remote thermal waterfall close by. We were the only ones there so we played about in the 38 degree water for a bit; I pretended to be golum and Milly pretended to be Mylene Klas again. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was idyllic. Yes, the seclusion is nice and the water temperature is ideal, but you can’t help but think the mirky, untreated water isn’t great for you, especially if you get it in an orafice.
Next to this there was a sort of seating area with a geyser slapped in front of it. A geyser if like a massive looking ant hill that spirts out hot water and steam. Apparently it does this at 10:15am everyday, which is a bit weird to understand.
We mooched a little further down the road to a ‘mud pool’, which was basically as you’d expect. A 30 by 30 metre pool of mud and water which in certain places boiled and bubbled. In other places you could see where piles of mud had formed into cone shapes, but for some reason had then cooled and became cracked, dormant fissures. There was something funnily satisfying about just watching the mud slowly boil to its ‘spitting point’. Its a similar feeling to that of popping a spot I would say. We stayed there for a good 20 minutes or so, wondering over the impressive act of nature.
After a bit of ‘thermal activity’ we headed into the centre of Rotorua to see what it was saying. The place literally stinks of sulpher. If you don’t recall what sulpher smells like; its eggs. This isn’t a criticism really as you get used to it quite soon.
This far up North and you start to notice an increase in the Mauri population and traditions, which is nice to see. For the past few weeks its felt like we’ve lived in an off-shoot of Germany (as there are so many German travellers out here) and we’re very keen to learn about local life and shit.
After a spot of lunch in the park and ice-cream in the town we headed over to a small inflateable park type thing which had a 28 meter obstacle course and 20 foot water slide. As soon as we saw it we simultaneously said “race you on that”, and race we did. It was such good fun and although we both had burns on our elbows and knees, it didn’t stop us from giving it a second go.
We did wonder why the town was so absent of people. Again, like many of the towns we’ve come across, its large enough. Probably similar in size to Altrincham, but with nobody it it. Then, on the way out of the town, we came across a reason for its desolation. There was an enormous field where all the local schools were playing small, 7 a side, tag rugby games. There were thousands of families there and it was evidently something that was being taken quite seriously by all involved. It’s like every kid who was playing had their entire family there supporting them. Its obvious now to see why a country with only 4.5 million people have become by far and away the most successful Rugby country in the world. They bloody love it! And we enjoyed watching it too. Seriously, 7 of the 12 year olds we saw playing would thrash 7 of me and my mates in a game of Touch Rugby. They’re so quick, fit and committed.