Wednesday, 11 January 2012

New Zealand Tour. Monday 10th to 13th October 2011. Great Lake Taupo.

We drove straight down the SH 1 today to Lake Taupo. The weather was poor and the forecast was for more rain. This was a pity as we did not see the lake in all its glory and many of the activities were closed due to the really dreadful weather. Lake Taupo is located on the North Shore of Australasia’s largest lake, the lake is surrounded by stunning volcanoes and bush clad mountains, for us, all of this was hidden by low clouds and mist!
With the help of the Internet we found that the Lake Waimahana Apartments had availability, and the very helpful manager met us at the apartments, we booked for the next 3 nights, and were glad we did. The accommodation was outstanding, a large and modern sitting room with underfloor heating and a gas fire, with wall to wall views of the lake. A large well equipped kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, washing machine in its own ‘laundry cupboard’. The complex has a heated pool and Jacuzzi pool. It was a top notch luxury apartment in which to chill out.
We did not let the rain hold us back and on our first day drove along the lakeside to Turangi, then drove up the SH 1 past the Pillars of Hercules and turned onto Tree Trunk Gorge Road. Here the River Tongariro forms a frothing torrent as is squeezes through black rocks, the river is described as ‘Emerald’, today it was due to the torrential rainfall it was dirty brown, and raging through the Gorge, quite spectacular and scary. We attempted to follow the trail down to the river, but due to the intense rain this was impossible, the ground underfoot was a quagmire. We drove downstream to another churning crevice of the Tongariro River to the Waikato Falls,
In the rain at Waikato Falls
 a sight made more dramatic by the recent rainfall swelling the river to a raging torrent. It is easy to see the falls as they are located next to a power plant. It is a rather industrial spot, but this did not detract from the awesome power of the river. We drove along the Desert Road, but did not get to see any of the scenery as it was all shrouded in mist. At Waiouru we drove along the SH 49 then right again onto the SH 4, and right again onto the SH 47...yes a great big circle! Seeing the sign post for a Chateau Tongariro Hotel, and seeing as it was Tea time we drove to the Chateau hoping for an afternoon tea. As we approached my hopes were high, it was a grand place, and very imposing despite the low cloud and torrential rain. We saw an entrance for The Pihanga Cafe & Bar and entered the side door into a dingy, rundown, grubby, underground type cellar Cafe. Two surly teenagers were behind the counter, chatting and chatting after about 5 minutes they looked up, when asked about Afternoon Tea they stated that we could get a cup of Tea. I asked if we could go up to the main Hotel, to get an outlook at least, evidently this is for guests only. So! We had A Cup of  (dull) Tea in the dull, gloomy cellar and quickly left. Talk about deceptive appearances. 
The next day we did The Craters of The Moon Geothermal Walk. This was a 45 minute walk through an area that appeared in the 1950s, when a nearby power station lowered underground water levels. As hot water was withdrawn from deep within the field, the water level in the deep reservoir dropped and the water that remained boiled more violently, producing more steam. This extra stem was able to escape at The Craters of The Moon. The walk guides you through bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. There were many interesting plants that have adapted themselves to the hot steamy conditions to see. Even though we had done the Rotorua Thermal ‘thing’ Craters of the moon was different again, In fact it was a absorbing walk all for $5.00.
Craters of The Moon
We then drove up the Wairakei Terrace road to the Borefeild Lookout. All that Natural power being harnessed by Man...fascinating!

Next was Huka Falls, The falls are really a crevice through rock, this forms the Waikato River into a Blue, Frothing Torrent. The falls are right next to the car park, but we walked on downstream to the Aratiatia Rapids. The Huka Falls end at a Dam, the rapid Jet Boat rides this stretch of water. At 10.00, 12.00, 14.00 and 16.00 bells and whistles sound as the sluice gates of this dam are raised, and the water follows its natural path through the gorge. We got there in time to see the 14.00 show, and we were glad we did. To end our day we went back into Taupo and followed the Spa road to the park, it was then a short stole to a free and natural hot spring that is located on the Huka Falls Walkway.  
Free Hot Springs.

Huka Falls

Aratiatia Rapids