Heading north to Taupo

Just a few weeks after getting back to Wellington, and debating my next move, I made it and decided to go home.

Since then, I’ve been going at it full pelt, making plans for a short but awesome adventure around some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s North Island. Once again, I’m using the InterCity coaches but, unlike my last trip, I discovered the FlexiPass, which will save me a little bit of money.

This means a bit more forward planning, but I can make changes closer to the time if needed. That said, my first journey will be the longest. It’s a six-and-a-half-hour journey from Wellington to Taupo, and that means an early start.

The journey itself was pretty uneventful, but that first view of Lake Taupo was stunning, and each night I stayed I took a walk along the lakefront. I even got this amazing sunset on my last night, with Mt Ngauruhoe in the background on the left.

A gorgeous sunset of LAke Taupo, with Mt Doom in the distance
A gorgeous sunset of Lake Taupo, with Mt Doom in the distance

For those, like me, who are big nerds, Mt Ngauruhoe was the mountain used in a specific trilogy of films known around the world.

That’s right; it’s Mt Doom!

Walking to Huka Falls

Taupo has a lot to do, both in and around the town. I had three days, and a lot to get done. The first thing was a walk from the town to the Spa Thermal Park and take the Huka Falls Walkway to the Huka Falls.

The trail is easy, with a few gradients and viewpoints along the way. It’s a nice, easy walk (remember, I have bad knees and I had no trouble at all) to Huka Falls, which are impressive beyond words.

You’ll follow the Waikato River along and see how fast the current moves, but this is nothing in comparison to the falls. When you see it, you’ll wonder why it’s a called a waterfall, as it resembles more of a canyon with tumultuous rapids flowing through. As fun as it might be, kayaking down this can earn you a $10,000 fine – and that’s if you survive.

That raging waters will mostly likely crush you against the wall before you know it and there’s quite a drop at the end before the river widens again. There’s a bridge over the canyon so you can see and hear the rush of water and other viewing areas around.

The Craters of the Moon

From Huka Falls, I continued walking north and down a quiet road to a place called Craters of the Moon. This is a geothermal geyser area. The walk takes 45-minutes to an hour, depending on if you take the path to the ridge (which you should definitely do) for views of the entire area.

Looking over Craters of the Moon from the ridge
Looking over Craters of the Moon from the ridge

You’ll walk along a set path, coming close to craters and watching steam escape from vents across the area. It’s a marvellous sight, and I felt like I was almost transported to some fantasy world.

On a clear day, you’ll see far into the distance and get stunning views of the mountains while the steam rises. The downside is, on a clear day, the steam will be less visible. That’s a conundrum and a half – but it makes me glad my visit was on a grey day. It made the steam much more prominent and the atmosphere was something else.

Just take a look at how impressive it is.

Geothermal hot pools

On the way back through Spa Thermal Park, there was time to take a dip in one of the natural geothermal hot springs. It was the perfect way to relax after walking so much on a grey – and at times damp – day. This little pool even had a waterfall, and this water was also warm!

A geothermal hot spring at Otumuheke Spring
A geothermal hot spring at Otumuheke Spring

The temperature can change, but it was a perfectly nice temperature on my visit, and I could have stayed in the water for hours, but there was more to do.

Out onto the lake

One of the must-do things in Taupo, for me, was heading out to the lake to see the Māori carvings. I chose to do this with Sail Barbary, although you’ll find plenty of options. I wanted a smooth journey with a knowledgeable guide, and that’s what we got. We got the full story of how the carvings came to be and what they meant, which was really interesting.

Another reason for choosing Sail Barbary was the chance to go for a swim in the lake. Jumping from the boat is always fun, and while I expected freezing cold water, I was pleasantly surprised! It was quite warm and refreshing. Is this from the geothermal activity, or the time or year – or both? Probably both. It was a great day out.

Swimming in Lake Taupo
Swimming in Lake Taupo

With all that done, and so quickly, it was time to move on. Rotorua is my next destination.

Until next time.

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