We drive down to Taupo which is siutuated on the shores of a large lake and very scenic. From here we visit the Huka falls, which is more like a giant rapid. After wards we visit the Thermal valley, to bathe in the 40 degree water and have a wash. Very strange to sit outside in a river that almost scalds you when you put your feet in at first! Felt great though.
Hiking the Tongariro Crossing
We moved on south from Taupo to the Tongariro National Park, where parts of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was filmed. This was Mordor! The one day trek leading from Mangatepopo to Keteahi is said to be one of NZ's classic walks, so that's what we came here to do. The scenery is spectacular and ranges from alpine scrub over volcanic rock to an almost lunar landscape at the Red crater and down to the Emerald lakes. The wind is very strong and the clouds are low, but clear a few times to reveal fantastic views. It really is a classic hike and well worth the 7 hours. The only drawback was the volcanic gasses as the sulpur diffused off the mountain, which smelt like rotten eggs.
Climbing Mt Taranaki
After driving from Tongariro down to New Plymouth and spending another night in the van, we awake to glorious sunshine. Due to the unpredictable weather, we decide to ignore the pain from the previous days' hike and make our way to Mt Taranaki/Egmont. This is a huge dormant volcano rising up to 2518m. An incredibly steep and sustained climb which takes about 4 hours to the crater and the summit. The descent is slightly quicker sliding down the scree. We arrive back to the car park and are completely exhausted. Another night in New Plymouth and a relaxing morning before driving 5 hours to Wellington.
We arrive in NZ's capital city just as the sun is dropping into the ocean for a beautiful sunset. The city is small and manageable so we park and head out to explore Courtenay Place, where the nightlife is. We have a few beers to say goodbye to Paul who is heading back to Auckland. Johnny and myself will continue in the van to the South Island.
Crossing over to the South Island
The next day (Wednesday) we go to the harbour to get a ticket for the 3 hour ferry ride to Picton on the south island. To our astonishment we are told there are no free spaces for a camper van until Sunday! It was the easter holiday weekend and we had forgotten this and had not booked in advance. Well, everyday is a holiday when you are travelling... We are desperate to get to the south island and avoid spending another 4 unnecessary days in Wellington. We check with the only other company that crosses the Cook Strait...no tickets until Saturday!! Damn! We convince them to put us on standby and wait around the terminal. Within half an hour we get the great news that we have a space and have 15mins until the ship leaves. We hurry down and drive the van onto the ferry, hardly believing our luck. From despair to elation in 1 minute....It's amazing how things change. That's why it's better not to make too many plans on the road.