New Zealand: Lake Taupo

Because Mikey's parents are lovely people they were kind enough to give us their car for the duration of our holiday; a car means only one thing...road trip!!! We were headed for Taupo, but obviously had to strop off in Tirau first to see the amazing tourist information centre...
Why wouldn't you make it out of corrugated iron and in the shape of a dog? You also can't see but we're both totally doing a Miley tongue.

Not to be outdone, the wool gallery next door decided to get in on the action.

There were more sights to be seen on the drive, though mostly the nature kind. A lot of NZ seemed to be covered in huge pine trees. They're not indigeonus but once harvested can be a nice little money maker for farmers. Because they're planted in rows seeing them on a hillside is pretty weird.

The landscape seems to have heaps of little ups and downs, a result of all of the volcanic activity I imagine, so the drive was pleasantly distracting.
Huka Falls
It seemed like no time at all (and was becaue NZ is tiny) before we got to the outskirts of Taupo and stopped off to see the famous Huka falls. It's pretty impressive, with 220,000 litres of water passing through every SECOND. You definitely wouldn't want to go over the edge...

There is a walking track you can do but because we are lazy and wanted to get a pint of Speights (withdrawals) we were quite happy to see the falls from the usual viewing platform.

I loved how the river narrowed right down before the falls, creating an awesome natural version of the rapid rides theme parks seem to love.

Also got an obligatory couple picture.

Then it was time to see Taupo proper! Once we'd got over the excitement of seeing this dog hang so far out of the window the driver had to pull over.

The view down and across Taupo is gorgeous, you can see all the way to the Tongariro national park, housing some actual active volcanoes. Mt Tongariro has a vent on the side; you can see the difference between the clouds and smoke...

If you know where to look you can see the vent. Honest!

Inspired by my friend Becki I really wanted to do the Tongariro Alpine crossing, known as the best single day hike in NZ, but time constraints meant we couldn't. Alas, after checking in to our hostel, we went to the pub instead.

Mikey kept telling me that NZ has the best fish and chips, and once again I think it's because they do proper fish like in the UK. It was still insisted that we get some anyway, and when do I ever turn down food?

Our chips even came with an egg...which country am I in again???
A few pints in and Mikey announced that we had to go and book ourselves a flight on the floatplane that we kept seeing take off and land...but that's a story for later!
Oh, and I took the below picture to prove that the sun does sometime shine.

Sailing on Fearless
Tummies full of fish and beer we headed down to find our home for the evening, the lovely boat Fearless.

There were only six of us on board, and we settled in for a beautiful sail down to the Maori carvings as we watched the sun slowly setting.

Lake Taupo is huge, sometimes wider than parts of the English channel.

The scenery around the water's edge was just gorgeous too, and we were more than happy to sip beer (shocker) and let the wind carry us along.

As the sun went down it got a little Mikey 'helpfully' wrapped me up in one of the blankets provided.

Our destination was to be the famous Maori carvings in Mine Bay.

These were completed in the 1970's and took over four summers to complete.

We were reliably informed that the carvers spent most of thier time completely off their tits, which accounts for some of the stranger parts of the design...

Just as we got into a nice vantage point one of the bean bags flew from the boat...high drama!

Thankfully Mikey was on hand to rescue it...what a hero.

Crazy mermaids with flowing hair and a representation of the wind...yeah I'm sure they weren't on acid.

The carvings were lovely, and made as a monument to the Moari skill of carving. I was certainly impressed.

Sadly we then had to turn around and sail back, and Mikey was very happy to be allowed to take the helm. Doesn't he look stressed?
We didn't even hit anything too, I was very impressed.

The sail back was even more gorgeous with the sunset framing the landscape. Despite being freezing cold we were very sad to leave Fearless and get back on dry land.

I can't recommend sailing on Fearless enough! For $30 each we had a 3 hour sail with just 6 of us and two beers each. We had such a good time too!

Ooo guess who'll be flying on that tomorrow...?
Deciding that we needed dinner before we went back to the pub we treated ourselves to a proper Indian feast (for the warmth, you see) then promptly went to bed and fell asleep at 9pm with the lights on. Such crazy kids!!!
Float Plane
Decreeing that he was taking me for a flight (because "that's what boyfriends do for their girlfriends, they take them on float plane rides") the afternoon before we'd booked ourselves for an early morning adventure. Opting for the longer ride, we would be taking in the western part of the lake, along with Huka Falls and the Craters of the Moon.

Because Taupo is between seasons (too warm for skiing but too cold for swimming) it was pretty quiet, and so we got the plane to ourselves!

Not that we were excited or anything.
Taking off was weird, it's a good job neither of us is scared of flying!
But the scenery when we got up was insanely pretty.

Note: It was VERY difficult to take decent pictures as the stupid wings kept getting in the way.

It's not the most stable of flights too, so apologies for any fuzziness. You get the idea though.

The picture below is of a pretty little waterfall. I imagine that being on that boat during the warm summer months would be close to heaven.

Lots of Lake Taupo isn't accessible by road, so we were very happy to get such a good view of places most visitors can't glimpse.

It also made me definitely want to come back and sail it one day. ( day!)

After looping down the Western Bays it was time for us to head back to Taupo via land. These clean, green expanses are deer farms and look so neat because their inhabitants are far better at mowing lawns with their mouths than any machine.

New Zealand is a pretty green country and has turned to a lot of alternative power sources. So far they've eschewed any nuclear power plants - and why would you when you can harness the power of the earth itself....
Seeing a Geothermal power plant from the sky was certainly impressive. This picture is only a part of it; the size is staggering. Yet it doesn't seem to ruin the landscape in the slightest. I'd take this next to my house over awful wind turbines or cooling towers any day.

Another piece of evidence of what's lurking under the earth's crust is the famous Craters of the Moon walking track. I was very impressed, although I later realised that this has got nothing on Rotorua.

Our final 'sight' was Huka Falls. From above you really get a sense of the power of this thing, watching layers of air bursting through the water.

There are also some pretty crazy fault lines just casually running through the place. No biggie just a HUGE CRACK IN THE SURFACE OF OUR PLANET. Lets just leave it there with no fences.

I also had to take an obligatory picture of the plane's shadow.

Sadly our thirty minutes were coming to an end. The town of Taupo looks a lot bigger from above.

Landing was, obviously a LOT of fun.

Seeing Lake Taupo from the sky was incredible. Thank you so much Mikey!!! I now totally agree that all boyfriends should buy their girlfriends floatplane flights.
Very hungry after our adventure we needed some decent brekkie...and Taupo had decided that it wasn't an awesome enough place it's Macdonald's decided to install an actual Douglas DC3 plane as part of it's eating area.

Yep, not kidding.

The Taupo maccas has actually been voted the world's coolest Macdonalds. So it's not just me that thinks it.

After this our Taupo experience basically couldn't get any better, so we decided it was time to head off to Rotorua...

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