February 12 and 13, 2014
My stay at Gisborne was relatively pleasant. Since Omapere, all my days have been about the journey and not the destination. Gisborne had nothing for me except that it was a stop for me after completing the East Cape Road. From what I saw of it on my way out, it is another city overlooking lovely Bay. And I’m sure there is a lot going for it, but now I was off to Taupo. And this time, the destination was the destination. There was nothing along the route that I wanted to really see or do. The only thing was, I wanted to complete the Pacific Coast Highway route, which pretty much started in Whitianga. For the most part, other than my side trip to the Karangahake Gorge, I have driven the entire route, I only had this remaining section to go, from Gisborne to Napier. Because I was headed off to Taupo, I would miss the remaining section from Eskdale to Napier, but it’s just a tiny section so I’m not too concerned. However my GPS had a totally different idea on how I should get to Taupo. SHE wanted me to head up SH 2 to get to Opotiki and I’m guessing it wanted me to head through Rotorua to get to Taupo. Is SHE nuts? Okay. I know it’s a machine and you have to program it but other than entering in all the towns along the highway, I don’t really know how else to go about it. So I turned her off until I got to Wairoa. Oh, but before that, as I just got out of Gisborne, I made a petrol stop at Makaraka and the guy filling up my tank was chatting with me and was able to ID me from Canada and specifically Vancouver. He said I had a Vancouver accent. Ha!! That is so funny! But I guess as the visitor, I am the one with an accent. But a Vancouver accent?? Okay. I’ll take it. It was the highlight of the day so far, before SHE when nuts on me. Anyway this guy represented a wine company that exported to BC. He said Vancouver was a lot like Auckland, but not so spread out. He also told me his thoughts on hockey and watching it live. He said he didn’t realize it was such a brutal game. I just laughed. It was a nice start to my day. And after turning IT off, it only got better. Again, always good to look at the map the night before, should your GPS go insane.
Once in Wairoa, I stopped for lunch at this nice little bakery and cafe, Oslers. It’s not much to look at from the outside but the food was fresh and it smelled really good and the service was prompt and friendly. Again I had my flat white and then I tried their toasted sandwich on Maori Bread, with ham and cheese. Has anyone tried Maori Bread? My choice of bread was Maori, white or brown. Since I had never tried Maori, I picked that one. It was good. I don’t know how to describe it. I would pick it again if given a choice. Though I might pick different fillings next time, like skip the cheese. After wandering the streets a bit, I got back into the car and decided to give my GPS a second chance. Okay. It looks like she’s back on track with me. So off we went in the direction of Napier.
Here is the final photo of the East Coast, Hawke Bay to be exact, before I turned in land. The green sign said I was in Whirinaki. But I can’t actually find it on the map. But it would’ve been about 30 minutes north of Napier.After saying goodbye to the Pacific Coast Highway, I had now turned on to SH 5, the Thermal Explorer Highway. I love how their Tourist highways have names. I love that there are Tourist Highways. So far I have driven the Twin Coast Explorer, in the Northland on my way to Omapere and up to Cape Reinga. Then the Pacific Coast Highway to get to the East Cape Lighthouse. Now I get to drive a portion of the Thermal Explorer Highway and soon I’ll be driving the Volcanic Loop Highway. So the Thermal Explorer Highway would take me to Taupo and if I kept going north, it would take me to Rotorua. But my destination was Taupo. But about halfway along the highway, I made a little stop at a scenic lookout. A lot of their signs just say “Scenic Lookout”. They don’t tell you what you’re looking at or the sign is so small that you miss out on what it is you’re looking at till you drive away and then notice it in your rearview mirror. Let’s just say I saw it in yellow and blue just below the “Scenic Lookout” sign as I was waiting to make a turn back onto the highway. This is the Waipunga Waterfall. So pretty. I think pretty enough to be in Rivendell. And I’m going to put it there, in my imagination, only because the movies never really explored Rivendell’s water scenery in too much detail.
Anyway, I made it in to Taupo in good time too. I had enough time to go and do a little shopping. Not only is my lovely Hobbit backpack ripping at the seams…(sniff, sigh, wipe away a tear), but my small duffel bag that I had brought along with me was also ripping at the seams. It was already bad back in Christchurch and I had to search for duct tape to try to keep it together. No duct tape to keep a boat from sinking (Mythbusters reference) but I did find extra strength packing tape. Good thing I didn’t have a boat that was ripping at the seams. So I did like our regular clients at work do and taped my duffel bag like crazy. It did the job. Now I know why they tape the boxes up like that. The bag survived the flight over to the North Island. And I even checked it in to the hold of the plane. But I was afraid for its continued survival. So I went in search of a replacement bag. And I lucked out! The girls at the hostel was able to steer me to two different locations in town that sold bargain priced luggage. I just ended up getting a decent duffel bag. With wheels and larger than my torn up little duffel bag. So afterwards, I decided to do some more shopping, perhaps a new pair of shorts. So after getting verbal directions, I got lost and had to resort to my GPS, who was actually very good to me this time, however the store was closed by the time I got there. So instead I headed out to a nearby scenic lookout and Huka Falls. At this particular lookout, you could see out over the city and over Lake Taupo and in the far distance, you can see the mountains. On a beautiful clear day, you can see the three volcanos in the Tongariro National Park, however it was not a beautiful clear day, but a cold, cloudy and slight possibility of rain in the evening day. So I could gues-timate where Mt. Doom and Mordor were, but I couldn’t really make it out too well.
I then continued on my way to Huka Falls. Holy Crow. Wow. Oh my god! It was amazing to see. Huka Falls is the only outlet for Lake Taupo. It is also the start of the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand. It flows 425 km to the sea south of Auckland. Wow! And the nice thing about visiting this waterfall, it’s only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot. So there is no excuse not to go. And you must go. Even though the waterfall is about 9 metres high, 200 000 litres of water are flowing down the the waterfall per second. That is an amazing amount of water. And it is an amazing site to see.
After my visit to Huka Falls, it was time to head back to town and get some dinner. Take my advice. Do not go to a fast food Chinese food place called the Noodle Canteen only to order their “New Dish” Butter chicken on steamed rice. I suggest going to the nearby Indian restaurant, and there are several nearby, to try their Butter chicken. I should have done so, but the problem with that was, it would not have been single serving size. And it wasn’t bad to taste, just different. So after trying the Chinese version of Indian food, I had to walk it off so I headed for the lake front and watch the sail boats for awhile. Did you know that Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand? As I walked back to my car, I had to stop and take a picture of this airplane. I didn’t know McDonalds had their one airline.
The next day would be a leisurely day. It was only an hour and a half to get to National Park Village in the Tongariro National Park. So I actually spent a lovely tourist day around Taupo. My first stop, Aratiatia Rapids. I had a deadline though. I wanted to see the rapids at 10 am. The floodgates are only open at 10, 12, 2 and in the summers at 4pm. And they are only open 15 minutes before it would close. Well as luck would have it, there was maintenance on the dam so the floodgates were open for an indefinite amount of time. Hurray. So I took my time. My first stop to see the rapids was actually a nice secluded location right by the Aratiatia powerhouse. I was the only one there to see the rapids flowing down the river where it calmed for a bit before flowing down the rapids on the other side of the bridge that I was standing on. It was so cool. Then I drove back to where the dam was located and saw the calm of the lake behind the dam and then saw the rapids as the water flowed from the gate. Again, So Cool!
Sadly this is the only photo I have of the rapids. Due to some strange technical issue, all of my photos of the Aratiatia Rapids are gone from my electronic devices. I am perplexed and kind of really upset by it since they were really impressive, the rapids, not the photos. Well, if you ever make it out this way, please do go to see the rapids. It is well worth your time.
After admiring the rapids for an in exorbitant amount of time, I decided to go to the Craters of the Moon. But I got side tracked by the place called Lava Glass, Glassblowing Gallery & Cafe. I stopped on a whim. I have never seen glass blowing live and again, I had time. So why not? While there, I also visited their Sculpture Garden. Chris Jones was working that day, making…large decorative solid glass paperweights. I don’t know what else to call them. Sculptures? They were shaped like round rocks but had different colours and metallic glass strips inside. It was really cool to see the process. But it wasn’t actually blowing glass, but still to see how he makes his work was a nice way to spend my time. They have two furnaces. The main furnace is the one that holds the molten glass, up to 120 litres. It runs 24/7 and is almost always at 1060 degrees Celsius. The second furnace, called the glory hole is set at 1200 degrees Celsius. It is used to reheat the glass as the sculpture is being made. The pieces that Chris was making that day would take 2 days to cool down. Did you know that molten glass is orange as 1060 degrees C? The studio was set up on 2002 for Lynden Over, so the majority of the work in the Gallery is by Lynden. But Chris Jones has his stuff there as well as few other glass artists. So after perusing all the stuff and touching the things very carefully, Glass breaks! I decided to have lunch here as well before heading off to the Craters of the Moon. I tried their venison pie. Interesting. I don’t think I’ll eat venison again. It’s not for me. The flaky crust was tasty!
Now it was time for me to find the Craters of the Moon. I found the Huka Honey Hive instead. I tried all different kinds of honey from all over New Zealand. The one that I liked the best was the honey from Rangitoto Island. The lady behind the counter said that they have to ship the hives to the island when they need more honey and then the hives are shipped off the island. That’s a lot of effort for honey from the island. But I can see why they do it. It is a very tasty honey. They also had honey in the comb. Sadly I did not buy any to bring home, since you never know when the agriculture import rules will change and I don’t want to waste it by tossing it. But after the Rangitoto Island honey, my favourite was the comb honey. You can eat the comb as well. It’s kind of like chewing on honey gum and swallowing it.NOW it was time for me to find the Craters of the Moon. I got lost. And it wasn’t the GPS’s fault this time. I had to circle back and was almost going to miss the turn off again when I saw the sad signage. My NZ Frenzy book did warn me about the poor signage. Shame I forgot and didn’t keep my eyes peeled even more. But I found it eventually. Now if you missed the Rotorua region, then this is a must. It cost $8 NZD to get in and it’s about 45 minutes to an hour to walk the entire area. It is very impressive to see the steam coming up from these craters and vents in the earth. The entire time you will be walking on boardwalks and it makes one wonder if the ground beneath the boardwalks are hot as well. I didn’t feel like testing it out that day. There was one section on the path where you had to walk through the plume of stinky steam. There was no going around it. And don’t miss the mud craters. It was neat to see the bubbling mud, except that you’re so far up that you really had to look closely. But you definitely could hear it bubbling. If you had a nice zoom lens you’d be able to see it quite clearly. My zoom is not spectacular, up to 85 mm so I could see it, but it was still kind of small. There is an add on to the loop walk, you could go up the ridge to lookout over the entire area, but I chose to skip it.
My time in the Taupo region was coming to an end too soon. Taupo, I will return and stay longer next time but now it was time for me to head to the Tongariro National Park. I made one more stop at a scenic lookout. I think this is over looking the town of Turangi. Not sure. But it sure is pretty.
Wish you were all here! Luv, Aunty!