North Island – Taupo

Our Airbnb in Taupo (pronounced as tow-po) was situated at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac; a mere 20minutes walk along Waikato River to town.

This little cosy unit came with our own garage and was sparkling clean! Needless to say, we enjoyed our short stay for its fully equipped kitchen, the warmth and comfort it had offered us.

We were looking forward to the challenging Tongariro Alpine Crossing (8hrs 19.4km); mind you, our only successful attempt was a 14km, 3.5 hrs hike at best. This trek is heralded as the best 1-day trek available in New Zealand, however, the climate of Tongariro National Park is highly unpredictable and changes quickly. Unfortunately for us, according to tour operators, it was winter conditions and unless we were properly equipped, very fit and willing to pay NZ$200 each for a guided hike, she would not suggest we attempt it at all. Ah well… 🙁

She did however suggest we try the Tama Lakes track, which was 6 hrs, 17km return hike instead, and an extension of the Taranaki Falls Loop Track.

As weather can deteriorate very quickly, especially in the mountainous area, we checked our backpacks and made sure we were equipped with enough food, water and extra clothing for this “long” walk.

The temperature was about 10degC as we entered the hike from the lower track 100m below the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre. An easy 1hr walk led us to Taranaki Falls (20m) lookout. The spectacular view of Mount Ruapehu was clearly visible as we advanced further. Roughly about 30mins beyond the turn off to Tama lakes, we decided to make a U-turn as temperature began to drop and gusty wind threatened to push us off our track.

We then retreated back to the turn off and continued to Chateau Tongariro Hotel on the upper track path. So, the planned 17km hike was cut short to just a 6km (plus a bit) loop hike of Taranaki Falls. Not that we were complaining much as the warm embrace of Chateau Tongariro Hotel fireplace was definitely more enticing at that moment.

Although the hike was disrupted, we were quite pleased to slump onto the antique velvet lounge chairs in this classic 1930s hotel, savouring clotted cream scones and mulled wines in front of the crackling fireplace.

**Not serious hikers at all! 😛

We couldn’t leave Taupo for Hawkes Bay without first visiting Huka Falls, which was a mere 3minutes drive from our AirBnb. Standing at the observation point of the Huka Falls, we couldn’t help but wonder the amount of energy this impressive natural hydropower can generate.

The highlight of the day ought to be the walk from Huka Falls to Spa Park (6km return), a winding scenic path along the banks of the Waikato River, which was utterly delightful. The stunning beauty of the clear turquoise-blue river water literally blew us away.

Thank you, Taupo!

Next – North Island Hawke’s Bay

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