My parents and Dave (family friend) arrived in early January, not long after Louise’s Mum left. We entertained them a little around Auckland before they headed north briefly and then headed south. I’d booked a 4 day weekend off, with the plan to explore the Taupo area, see lots of the Tongariro National Park and meet up with my parents and Dave.
I’d heard great things about Tongariro, famed for its one-day great walk – The Tongariro Crossing. Unfortunately, part of that route is closed due to some volcanic activity they had a little while ago – part of the mountain is still steaming. We did have a plan to walk the first half anyway, but Louise’s chest infection (and my hay fever) made us change our minds. So instead we explored some of the shorter routes around the park, which were also very spectacular – lots of views of the mountains, waterfalls, forests, rivers, etc.
First day we walked to the Taranaki Falls, did the very short Ridge walk and walked to Rotopounamu Lake. The sky was fantastically clear, without a cloud to be seen all day, it meant we got great views across the park as we did the different walks. We’d pop out of a short section of forest and there would be Mount Ruapehu or Mount Ngauruhoe clearly in the distance, sprinkled with a light dusting of snow.
Second day we stayed around Taupo and walked to the Huka Falls. It was a very hot day and we didn’t have too much shade as we walked along the Huka River to reach the falls. The river is very fast flowing and then goes into a very narrow gorge before coming out as a short, but very powerful, waterfall. The only downside of the falls was there were loads of tourists. In the afternoon we popped into the Honey Hive and after tasting some of their mead wine we ended buying their last bottle of Excalibur Mead Wine, with plans to return in the car and pick up a few more bottles of different drinks on the last day. Louise wasn’t feeling 100%, so for fun I ran back to pick up the car, unfortunately that really kick-started my hay fever and I spent the rest of the evening sneezing and blowing my nose.
We met up with my parents and Dave for dinner (Waterside Cafe), it was very good food, and made all the more amusing since we seemed to have picked the night the staff chose to drop things. Our waiter dropped a small plate, one of the other waiters dropped a glass of water and soaked the girl she was about to serve and there was another breakage we heard shortly after we sat down. Maybe it was us?
The third day it was back to Tongariro NP and this time we went round to the south of the park, via the eastern side. The drive was awesome, it was another clear day and we got to see the side of Mount Ruapehu that is in the rain shadow, so in places it looks as bleak as bits of Arizona. It’s so striking just how much the mountains rise up out of the plains and no surprise that Ruapehu was used for some of the Mount Doom scenes in the Lord of the Rings. We did a walk up to Waitonga falls and on the way we spotted a Morpork (a type of Owl), with the help of some other walkers. It was great to see one in the wild but we learnt later that if they are awake during the day then they are probably ill, so that was disappointing. Some of the views of Ruapehu on the way to the falls were just breathtaking and we stopped at the falls for lunch before heading back to the car.
After that we went back to Taupo to the DeBretts Spa, where we relaxed in the hot and cold pools and took turns on the water slide. We met my parents there and even managed to convince Dave to have a few goes on the water slide (he was more eager than we were!). Then it was back to their motel for a BBQ. Afterwards we all said goodbye – they were heading to South Island and we were going back to Auckland the next day. I get to see them all again briefly in February before they return to the UK.
In the morning we stopped off to pick up a few more bottles of mead-related products before going to see the opening of the Aratiatia Dam. They open the dam four times a day and flood the lower valley to generate power. It was very interesting to watch the almost dry valley fill up slowly and then be a raging torrent of water before they closed the dam again 15 minutes later.
All in all we had a great trip, but I have a slightly biased view of the typical kind of weather (clear skies) around the National Park. Hopefully, when we go back to do the Crossing, the weather will be just as good 🙂