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    Friday, 29 January 2010

    Making our way to Taupo and Wellington

    Giant Sheep, Tirau [Enlarge & More]

    We were off for a few weeks on another road trip. Our destination was the South Island of New Zealand but first we had to get to Wellington where we would catch a ferry south. As soon as we left Waihi it started drizzling. It drizzled most of the time we were on the road, which wasn’t a great start. On the road south we passed a few towns along the main highways. Each town seems to have a gimmick to lure the passer by to stop. The one that caught my eye was Tirau where they had a giant sheep and dog! It’s a great way to lure you in to spend some of your cash!

    Lake Taupo at Sunset [Enlarge & More]

    A three hour drive from Waihi we arrived in Taupo where we were going to spend a night before heading to Wellington. The town of Taupo is built around a crater lake which was created by a huge volcanic eruption, which apparently was seen in China. I felt like I was looking at the sea the first time I saw it. It’s huge, the clouds were hiding whatever was on the other side and waves lapped the beach that had formed at its rim.

    Huka Falls, Taupo [Enlarge & More]

    The lake itself feeds the River Waikato which starts life with a pretty impressive set of falls, known as the Huka Falls. They are amazingly blue with really fast running water shooting down them. While I was stood there watching the water rush past a mad canoeist ventured down the falls. He must have been pretty competent as he made it look really easy. I remember my kayak experience in Laos where I could not even keep the kayak upright on a pretty calm river. I was spellbound as he made his way down.

    Craters of the Moon, Taupo [Enlarge & More]

    Just opposite the falls is a geothermic site called The Craters of the Moon. It’s where the water near the surface is heated to above 140c turning it into steam that escapes out of the ground. We chose a good time to go as it was quiet with a handful of people visiting. As you walk round the site on walkways you pass varying steam plumes. Some make the ground look like a fire has just been extinguished and it is still smouldering. Others are in full flow and surround you in a rotten egg smell which is caused by the sulphur. For the Lord of the Rings fans, I could imagine Gollum skulking around in the steam.

    Craters of the Moon, Taupo [Enlarge & More]

    It was a pretty cool day but while we walked around both of us noticed the heat coming off the ground. It was like having one of those outdoor heaters following us around and keeping us nice and toasty. As we were leaving it started to rain pretty heavily and we made our way to our motel for the night.

    Train Station, Wellington [Enlarge & More]

    The rain did stop for about half an hour for me to go out and have a look at the sun setting over the lake. It was beautiful and filled me with hope that the next day the weather would turn and we’d have the sun and blue skies back.

    The next day turned out to be worse and the five hour drive to Wellington was accompanied by rain. Part of the journey takes in the Desert Road which is at 2000m and goes through some beautiful landscapes. What we saw was rain and cloud and not much else. We will do the same journey on the way back so fingers crossed it’s sunny next time.

    Stepping out into Wellington it was quiet, even deserted. I think it was due to it being anniversary weekend for Wellington. The locals had taken the opportunity to take a long weekend away as they had the Monday off.

    Dismayed statue, Wellington [Enlarge & More]

    The capitol Wellington was one of the places I had been looking forward to seeing in New Zealand. I don’t know why but it was a little landmark in my head when we’d planned the trip over seven months ago. I’m going to have to reserve judgement on Wellington as it was cold and wet. In our travels I have noticed that the weather plays a big part in how I feel about a place. In South East Asia we were in monsoon season pretty much all the time we were there. It rained but it was predictable and it soon stopped. While it rained it was still hot and sometimes it bought a welcome relief from the heat. Where we stayed in high altitude in Asia, and in Australia and now in New Zealand if it rains, it’s not predictable and it’s cold. In fact it’s just like home and makes the nicest places look pretty miserable. I don’t think I saw Wellington at its best.

    An anchor, Wellington [Enlarge & More]

    The second day the weather brightened up a little for us to take a stroll around. Along the harbour front an old anchor was being lifted out of the water. It was interesting to watch what they were up to. Apparently it was being lifted to check before being sunk again until they had enough money to restore it.

    Te Papa Museum, Wellington [Enlarge & More]

    As the weather still on the dull side we headed to the Te Papa museum. As museums go it was on of the better ones we have visited, a modern well laid out building. It was brilliant to pick up the history of New Zealand, both Maori and Pakeha (the Maori word for white person).

    Reality, Wellington [Enlarge & More]

    It was a shame the weather was not great for our visit to Wellington. I’m hoping when we return from the South Island it is better, so I get to see a different side to it. As for the South Island, we had the crossing the next day and I was keeping my fingers crossed for good weather. Otherwise the 3 hour crossing was not going to be much fun.

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