After leaving Wet and Windy Wellington, we headed north. We cut two single night stops from the West Coast and added the days to R&R time in the semi-tropical north. But we did make a one night stop in New Plymouth, on the West Coast – the highlight being several excellent coastal walks in the sunshine. After Wellington, New Plymouth was quite hot. Overnight, we stayed in a comfortable motel and in the evening went to a popular Italian restaurant for pizza. For public domain photos of New Plymouth, open this link.
Next we planned two nights in the Tongariro National Park (TNP), which is famous for skiing in winter and hiking at other times. We took a cross-country route and the scenery was stunning – the wilderness drive on route 43 from Stratford to Taumarunui must rank amongst the world’s most beautiful. There’s very limited accommodation in the TNP and we stayed at the only hotel in Whakapapa Village for two nights (this is the centre of the action with an excellent I-Centre). The night time temperature in the TNP drops to -4 degrees C and in the morning it reaches positive territory circa 11AM – the wild weather variables to watch are the wind and the rain – they change very quickly. The first afternoon we drove up to the cable car circa 4pm but it was too cold to take a ride. Instead we were recommended a short and rugged hike over rocks to a viewing point – we were in sandals but managed to reach the pinnacle for some photos – it was clear and austere rather than beautiful. With low-cloud and rain forecast, we rejected a full-day hike, exposed to the elements. Instead, we did a very beautiful two-hour circular hike in the morning – the highlight being a lovely waterfall. Late in the afternoon, we followed a popular forest route for about an hour and a half – it was raining hard but we had no wind – we were rewarded with the rich smells of the forest. Overnight and next morning, the cloud descended, there was constant heavy rain, with visibility circa 200 meters. We contented ourselves that we had dodged the worst of the elements and had three memorable walks in the TNP. For public domain photos of TNP, open this link.
Our next destination was Lake Taupo, a popular holiday destination, well-known for outdoor activities. The ninety minute planned journey north from TNP to Taupo took two hours in the heavy rain but as we descended from the plateau the weather improved – just fine rain in Taupo. We spent two nights in a motel with views over-looking the lake. The first afternoon we did our sight-seeing, leaving the next day for hiking activities. We visited the famous Huka Falls and Craters on the Moon Geothermal Walk. The highlight of our visit to Taupo was hiking part of the famous Great Lake Trail. It was raining but not too muddy, with well defined paths but they were popular with mountain-bikers, whom we always met on the blind bends coming towards us – they squelched to a stop with a skid as we jumped into the forest growth. Much of the track was in forest but it was soft and lush, breaking to share spectacular views of the lake. We started the hike in light rain that increased to very heavy rain after an hour, so we reluctantly turned and back-tracked – not surprisingly the return journey was much quicker. We rewarded ourselves with a hot chocolate at the finish in a friendly cafe – we gave our waterproofs a shake but we were fairly dry, no wetter than at the end of any other hike. For public domain photos of Taupo, open this link.
For a selection of our best photos, please open the following links by theme:
- Tongariro National Park
- Taupo – Great Lake Trail
- Taupo – Huka Falls
- Taupo – Craters on the Moon Geothermal Walkway