Posts Tagged ‘Waikato’

December 9th – 11th: Island-hopping

December 16, 2008

We stayed in Nelson before and after the Abel Tasman, enjoying the fun arts scene and the fresh fish.

Our view of the Nelson harbor from an excellent seafood place.

Our view of the Nelson harbor from an excellent seafood place.

We visited our last couple of South Island wineries before taking the ferry back to Wellington. Even though we’d been gone less than a month, it was wonderful to see our recent home again, but bittersweet knowing that it was possibly the last time. We wandered the streets a bit, taking in some of the tourist sites we’d overlooked before, including a ride on the Wellington cable car and walk through the city gardens.

Our obligatory tourist shot of the Wellington cable car, which runs from downtown to the hillside botanical gardens.

Our obligatory tourist shot of the Wellington cable car, which runs from downtown to the hillside botanical gardens.

Jonathan = hardcore.

Jonathan = hardcore.

We headed on north, driving through the now-familiar areas of Tongariro, the Waikato, and Taupo.

The snow-capped ski destination Mount Ruapehu, the peak of which we'd missed on our previous trip this way due to cloud cover.

The snow-capped ski destination Mount Ruapehu, the peak of which we'd missed on our previous trip this way due to cloud cover.

Watch out, skiwis are everywhere.

Watch out, skiwis are everywhere.

We stayed a night in Rotorua, a geothermal tourist destination, but didn’t stay long due to the pervasive sulfurous smell and the hordes of picture-snapping travelers, opting instead to press on to beach relaxation further north.

October 31st – November 3rd: Taupo, part two

November 9, 2008

After bungee jumping (in the country where it was invented, no less), we needed to chill out a bit so we went on a sailing trip on Lake Taupo for a couple hours. It was great to spend the afternoon just relaxing on the water with some delicious local beer, chatting with the guide and fellow passengers and watching the sun set as we pulled back into harbor. The boat itself used to be owned by Errol Flynn, so it could almost be called a pirate ship, right?

Drink up, me hearties.

Drink up, me hearties.

We also saw some fantastic Maori carvings, a commissioned project for rock faces on the lake that are accessible only by boat.

the Maori carvings

the Maori carvings

The sun over Lake Taupo.

The sun over Lake Taupo.

On our last day, we drove home via the west coast, following the Whanganui River through the Taranaki region and some of the prettiest hills on the North Island, and stopping at the town of Wanganui for sightseeing and food.

Gorgeous hills surrounding the Whanganui river and tributaries.

Gorgeous hills surrounding the Whanganui river and tributaries.

Stopping roadside to see a small waterfall on the Whanganui.

Stopping roadside to see a small waterfall on the Whanganui.

Take note, San Francisco: Wanganui has had an elevator for pedestrians to skip the steep climb up the hill the city is built on. We rode up to the top, although the view was less interesting than the transport.

The elevator-access tunnel into the Wanganui hill.

The elevator-access tunnel into the Wanganui hill.

Now back in Wellington, we’re somewhat shocked to find ourselves with only a week left until we pack up and leave our adopted home to travel around the South Island. We’ll try to get some more pictures of this great city before we go – we’re going to miss it here.

October 31st – November 3rd: Terror in Taupo, part one

November 7, 2008

With a free few days beginning on Halloween, we headed north to the Lake Taupo area in the middle of the North Island. We arrived at our campsite around dusk, with just enough light to set up and get comfortable in our tent, where we proceeded to scare ourselves silly watching Psycho. (In the dark. In the woods. With the nearest human civilization being the prison a few kilometers down the road. Becky hadn’t seen it before and had trouble sleeping, equally disturbed by the plotline and by how much she actually liked Norman Bates.)

The next morning we explored more of the Lake Taupo area, a hotbed of geothermal activity. (The world’s first geothermal power plant is there, in fact.) The Waikato river flows out of the huge volcanic Lake Taupo through a narrow chute called Huka Falls. About 2 swimming pools of water go through a 10-foot channel every second – needless to say, it’s impressive. We decided against rafting it.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

We also visited the Craters of the Moon, an aptly-named area with steaming grounds and craters filled with bubbling, sulfurous mud.

Craters of the Moon

Here there be dragons?

We wrapped up the day in the best offering of any geothermal area: a natural hot springs water park complete with private pools and a waterslide. We were maybe the oldest people riding the waterslide, but why let kids have all the fun?

Straight from the dragon's mouth.

Straight from the dragon's mouth.

The next day, deciding we hadn’t gotten enough fright on Halloween, we went to check out Taupo Bungee on the Waikato River.

From this platform, fearless thrill-seekers/fools jump to the river below.

From this platform, fearless thrill-seekers/fools jump to the river below.

After watching a few jumps from a safe distance, we girded our loins and flung ourselves, screaming, off a cliff. Even the memory of it still terrifies us.

Becky plummets down 154 feet to the Waikato River.

Becky plummets down 154 feet to the Waikato River.

More soon to come from the rest of our trip to Taupo.