Taupo, what a sight as we entered the town and drove down the main street, a huge beautiful and calm lake in front of us, New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, and apparently the world's trout fishing capital! We decided to explore the lake in more depth in a few days, so whilst the weather was still good we all agreed that we would like to get some walking in and all decided we wanted to have a go at walking part of the infamous Tongariro Crossing. This walk has often been called the finest one day walk in NZ and apparently covers many spectacular sights in the National Park. The whole walk from one end to the other takes 7 - 8 hrs and is described as challenging which I will certainly agree on, but as for the amazing views, I'm afraid we all disagreed there and failed to see what all the fuss is about!
We had decided not to attempt to walk the whole crossing as it meant starting out at 5.30am and we felt that 7-8hrs of walking was a bit more than we wanted to do, and none of us were probably fit enough either! So we agreed to start the walk and to aim for 'Red Crater' which is just under half way and supposedly where the spectacular views start (apparently all the good sights are in the middle of the walk)! So off we set, taking in the surrounding landscapes thinking that we could be in the highlands of Scotland with all the heather around us. After about 1 1/2 hours the walk started to get tougher, and then tougher and then tougher! The path then began to fade as we reached the edge of the volcanic part of the park and we now had to start climbing over boulders of hardened lava, from the last eruption I guess. The next part of the walk took us up over a very steep mountain face that was really just a sea of lava rocks and boulders!! We passed a few people who were on their way down and kept asking them how much further we had to climb until we reached the summit, and adamant that we weren't going to give up having come this far, the grey clouds that had recently appeared, now getting closer, and the landscape getting darker and more eery with every step. It's no wonder this part of the park was used for'Mordor' (where the bad guy lived) in Lord of the Rings. I kept expecting Gollum or Frodo to appear round the next corner with the ring!!! But we gritted our teeth and carried on until we reached the summit, desperate to even catch just a glimpse of these so called stunning sights and views! And what did we find when we finally reached the summit, just flatter ground and more lava rocks and boulders, but nothing worth the torture of that climb! I don't know, maybe we hadn't climbed up far enough, but all I can say is that whatever these amazing views are I would be very surprised that that walk or should I say clamber, would be worth all the effort!!! But I'm willing to be proved wrong!
Our last day in Taupo was filled with another slightly more energetic activity than we had planned, this time it was cycling. We hired bikes and decided to cycle up to Huka Falls which was a lovely ride along the banks of the Waikato River. We then decided to carry on along the path and head for Arieta Dam which opens up its gates every 2hrs and is supposed to be quite an impressive sight. Lets just say this part of the ride wasn't such a pleasant cyle ride, up and down windy narrow paths where you really needed some off road biking experience to navigate along in one piece. Poor Mum came off the worst and had quite a few battle scars at the end of the day! By the time we made it to the dam we had missed the 2 hourly gate opening and weren't eager to hang around for the next one, so decided that we had all had enough of off road cycling and voted to take what we thought would be the easier option back to Taupo, by road, but this wasn't to be the case! 5 mins into the ride we were already struggling with the hills, then Peter got a puncture! We pushed on, desperate to get back to Taupo and have a well deserved rest, but soon admitted defeat with Peter's flat tyre and called the bike company to come and pick the bike up. All in all we clocked up about 20km on the bikes which wasn't a bad day's work at all! (Graham aren't you impressed!!)
With the afternoon/evening left and all of us exhausted from the morning's cycle, we decided to chill out for a bit and then took a lovely boat cruise out on the lake to see some maori rock carvings, very relaxing and just what we needed after another exhausting day!