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  • Writer's pictureClaire

01/04/24 Ohakune to Napier via Lake Taupo

Our last breakfast with Morg and Liv, and after clearing away in the house and  sorting through the mountain of food we had left over, we started packing it into the cars. Unfortunately for a morg and Liv, they had the lions share to take because our fridge is small in the van, and we had little room to store it. We did pretty well out of it though! 

After Liv’s disappointment in not having a steak and blue cheese pie they were returning to the pie shop on their way to Taupo to pick one up. We arranged to meet them in Taupo as we were going the opposite way around the National Park to what we did yesterday, it’s good to see things from every angle, and take more photos. 

Lake Taupō is the largest in New Zealand and It has a total surface area of 606 square km, making it the same size as Singapore apparently, with a depth of about 160 metres. It covers the remains of several volcanic craters, and a dormant volcano. A series of catastrophic eruptions at Taupō and other nearby volcanoes some 1,800 years ago created the large caldera (collapsed volcano) that the lake now occupies. Its name comes from the Maori Taupō nui a Tia (“Great Cloak of Tia”).

Taupō, supports dairy and beef cattle farms, sheep farms, planted forests, tourism, and has numerous geothermal springs on the lake’s borders that are health resorts or are used for generating electricity. Taupō is also a reservoir for hydroelectric plants.There are some quite beautiful stop offs and photo opportunities the whole way up it, each providing something very different. As we got closer to the City, parking spaces appeared so we pulled over at the next one we came across. The lake was busy, people were swimming, kids splashing in the shallows all having a ball. Needless to say I didn’t go in, looked faaaaar too cold for me thankyou very much! Just after we arrived, a pretty blonde girl rocked up in a tiny bikini with an over shirt. She peeled off the shirt and went straight in the lake. I was seriously impressed, not so much as a hint of hesitation just straight in. My admiration didn’t last long, she was in long enough to wet her hair, and then she got out, took a selfie with her back to the water, popped her shirt back on before scuttling back into her car.  She fiddled around on her phone before leaving. Our conclusion…  she’d taken her photo, was loading it up to her instagram with the caption good cold water swim done for the day and adding some witty hash tag for her followers. Or maybe she was just texting her mum. 

A little girl was feeding a flock of seagulls crisps while her dad was creeping around trying to throw a hoodie over an injured one, not sure what they were going to do with it had they managed to catch it. I’m pretty sure nature would have taken care of it in an appropriate mannner, survival of the fittest and all that. Their attempts failed, and Bob and Kev grew tired of the bird antics in front of them and started to play up.  Getting back in Ismene we drove on a little further until we came to the centre of Taupo and, finding a parking space opposite our meeting point with Morg and Liv we ground to a halt. They weren’t too far behind us and had parked behind  McDonald’s, which was our destination. Not to satisfy any hankering for junk food but to take a photo of what makes it the coolest McDonald’s in New Zealand. A bloody great big airplane is parked outside i! The inside is a kids soft play area which was disappointing because I wanted to have a brew in there! With that option not available to us we soon located a waterfront cafe for a brew. 

In Australia and New Zealand, they add a 15% surcharge to the final bill on bank holidays, which being Easter Monday was classed as a bank holiday. Cheeky monkeys! Anyway we paid for it because there was no option!  Drinking up we didn’t hang around Morg and Liv had a long drive ahead of them and we also had another stop off we wanted to visit before parting ways.  

Just out of Taupo are the beautiful Huka Falls which have the most incredible turquoise blue waters. The massive volume of water tumbling over the falls is caused by the Waikato River being forced through a channel of solid rock just 15 m wide and 10 m deep. The river emerges with a rush, and lots of splashing at the northern end to form the falls.

River levels above the falls are determined by the Control Gates Bridge that was Installed in 1941. The gates allow water stored in Lake Taupo to be used for generating power through the Waikato River's nine hydro-electric powerstations.

Flow rates increase depending on power demands, which in turn can alter the height of the Huka Falls from 7 to 9.5 m.

There are the usual hikes available to people who so desire  them but there is also a lookout bridge that is easily accessible and you actually stand over the thundering water. The colour is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and we were all pleased we’d taken the time out to see them.  I had thought that the photos I’d seen online had to have been edited, but to my delight I managed to get some fabulous pics and they show the  colours and hues just beautifully. We said goodbye to Morg and Liv in the car park and we went our separate ways. Bit sad to see them go, it’s been such a fabulous weekend. 

We were headed to Napier for the night on the East coast and the plan was to drive up the coastal road over the next few days. Getting to Napier was by way of Highway 5 which is also known as the thermal highway. It took us through mountain gorges and narrow climbing roads that were sealed but with the usual long drops beneath us. The drive took a bit longer than anticipated due to the nature of the roads but we still arrived in Napier by 1600hrs. We checked in to our campsite, and got sites in quite possibly the best sea front pitch we’ve had to date.  Right on the beach, perfect for sunrise. Having already checked in we went to check out Napier and we found it to be very quiet, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given it’s a bank holiday. The supermarket was open so we popped in for some milk and returned to the campsite. Napier attracts visitors to its beaches, and it’s art deco buildings. Perhaps we didn’t see it at its very best, but we found it a bit underwhelming. The beach from what we had seen was strewn with washed up debris of driftwood and just wasn’t very appealing. 

As I said our site pitch is the best yet, no one around us, right on the beach and next to a tsunami warning sign. Which is helpful, we now know that should a tsunami hit we need to run not drive because there’s a great likelihood that the roads will be blocked. The chances of me running even if my life depended on it are zilch, nada, zero, not going to be possible! With that vital piece of information safely stored away just incase we should ever need it, we went and made up some supper, using up the left overs from the weekend and utilising the camp kitchen which was small but well equipped. The huge bag of prawns left over were cooked up with garlic, cashews and orange for Si, and the juices mopped up with croissants. Weird but wonderful! The showers were the paid variety which is a small irritation to me, I do like to use the shower to loosen up the old joints in the evening and the mornings, but the 5 minute limit isn’t long enough!  But I have a hot water bottle now and that is going to be utilised from now on as the temp is getting cooler overnight and I’m aching like a beatch!  

There was a weak attempt at a sunset from the Napier skies, but it was pretty poor attempt to be honest, we are hoping that the sunrise is significantly better given we have the perfect spot to view it! 

Much love


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