Sept 16th- 22nd
After a gorgeous scenic 2 hour drive from Napier we arrived in Taupō (pronounced Toe-pour). As with a few other places- we have been to Taupō in 2012. So we only planned to stay 2 days this time but the weather was forecast to be pretty miserable-so we didn't want to risk our next port of call the Tongariro Crossingin the bad weather. We stayed for 6 nights in the end at 'Taupō DeBretts Spa' which was kind of recommended in the Loney Planet book. The site also contained the Hilton which is mentioned and the spa. If you stay one night its $24pp but any longer then only $15 pp with free unlimited wifi and hot showers, and a large indoor seating/cooking area. The camping grounds are set quiet off the road and have bushes and blossomed tress separating each camping plot, with views of Tongariro on the good days. During our stay we lazed a lot, reading books, watching tv, sightseeing and drinking our favourite blue fanta slush only $1 at Burger King.
As we have been here before we ended up doing a lot of it again, it was fun reliving it all. We visited one of NZ's top tourist attractions the Huka Falls, which boasts that 200,000 litres of water plunge 9 metres over the great rock face of the falls every second- that's enough to fill 5 olympic sized swimming pools every minute. They were indeed very impressive.
We went back to the Thermal Park, which is just a few minutes drive out of town. It is free and the natural hot spring water pours down the rock face into the pool, it is so hot and relaxing. The main pool was rather crowded so we sneaked up hill 20 metres to a quiet hot pool where it was just us. We also had seen people patrolling the area looking out for thieves and were warned by them not to leave our stuff unattended as we bathed. The bungy jumping is nearby and we went to watch some of the crazy people take their leap of faith.
Shannon also wanted to have a another go at winning $10,000 by playing 'hole in one' which is a golf where you hit balls from the edge of the lake into a floating platoon. If you manage to get it in the hole then you win. 924 people have won so far- Shan wasn't one of them unfortunately. There is even a diver that is in the lake collecting the balls.
New on our Taupō list was visiting Aratiatia Dam (for the Aratiatia Power Station a hydroelectric power station) located 10km out of town, which opens its spill gates at 10am, 12pm, 2pm (and 4pm summer), now it might seem lame but it was rather interesting watching the water come through and fill the stream until it was gushing with turbulent water surging past at up to 90,000 litres per second filling up the gorge.
On the Saturday we stopped off at the market, Shannon normally avoids these, but was happy to gorge on local brewed coffee and home made pies. We also went to see another thermal park out of town but weren't willing to pay $10pp so we just admired the wildlife around the park.
Then it was time for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, we had booked with Peterpans for $175 pp, we were picked up at the campsite by mini bus who had a few more stops before heading an hour and half to the Tongariro National Park, where we went into a shop and got kitted out with boots, gaitors, crampons, ice axe and helmet. Shan forgot his sunglasses and they provided them, along with anything else people needed like waterproofs. We had layered up and had a little backpack for water, snacks and our lunch, as the tour would last around 8 hours and there would be no shops of course.
We made our way to the start of the hike at the township of Whakapapa (Fak-a-papa), turns out as the weather had been bad, we were the first tour in days. That became apart as we started our hike as the snow was still pristine, we scaled the devils' staircase, and already could feel the burn on our legs. The visibility was poor and we had to keep a good pace as the guides couldn't wait on slow coaches, a family with 2 small kids actually turned around as it was too much for them. At the saddle we got in a big circle and were shown how to correctly use our crampons and ice axe then we put on our crampons to scale the hardest part to the summit of Mt Tongariro.
We stopped for lunch at the top and much to everyones relief the clouds started to break up and we got some snippets of the land below us, although still to cloudy to see the famous blue lake. We'd done it though- scaled another volcano!!
On the way back down it cleared more then we were asked if we wanted to slide down from the mountain on our bums, everyone including Shannon jumped at the chance, I was the only one who didn't want to but was goaded into it as the guides didn't want to walk down with me. Everyone flew down, I dug my heels in so I went painfully slow down, thus not turning into a big snowball. Mt Doom was now out in all its glory, we'd passed it without realising on the way up. The snow was still pristine and glistening in the light, it was a magical moment. On the way down the devils' staircase was now slushy snow and not fun, it was slippy and everyone kept falling over.
The trek was hard and tiring but we completed the 19.4 km in 8 hours but so rewarding!!