Saturday, October 27, 2007

Taupo and the Central Plateau

Day 32


We’ve landed in Turangi for a few days. We have a nice condo (thanks to my parents) and a chance to spread out, relax and re-organize our gear.
We’ve also seen a dramatic change in the landscape. Instead of mile upon mile of rolling hills, we can now see the largest lake in New Zealand back dropped by snow-capped volcanoes. The views are definitely vast and the setting is appropriate for the most active volcanic region in New Zealand.
The three volcanoes and surrounding area that make up Tongariro National Park were a gift from the Maoris. Rather than risk their sacred lands to forestry and development, chief Te Heuheu, a paramount chief, gifted the area “to the Crown and the people of New Zealand” in 1887. The original gift of 2,360 hectares is now 79,598 hectares. In recent times, the mountains have played important roles as Mt Doom and Mordor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Lake Taupo is the heart of the area and was created during a volcanic eruption that occurred over 26,000 years ago. The 606 sq kilometer lake now plays host to a variety of activities, including world-class trout fishing.
Our day was pretty mellow. After breakfast we made the short drive back to Taupo and spent a few hours checking out Huka Falls and the Honey Hive. Huka Falls is part of the Waikato River, the longest in New Zealand. The river is as useful as it is scenic and provides 25% of New Zealand’s hydro power and 15% of the country’s total power. The river originates from Lake Taupo and water levels are controlled above Huka Falls. We observed the falls from several different viewpoints. The river transitions from 100 meters wide and 4 meters deep to 15 meters wide and 10 meters deep. It’s hard to describe the power and energy that we witnessed. I thought it looked like a waterpark ride on steroids that would result in certain death. We’re still trying to figure out if anyone has ever run this section in a kayak.
The Honey Hive was definitely a more mellow sight. It was basically a gift shop and café with a working bee hive. Using glass boxes and clear tubing, the hive was staged both outside and inside the building. It was mesmerizing to watch the bees going about their daily business.
The calm weather is supposed to settle in and we’re looking forward to some exciting outdoor activities in the next few days; hiking in Tongariro National Park and backcountry fly-fishing for wild trout.
Until then…

Ps – I’m still jazzed about the bungy we did yesterday. Hopefully we can put up a short video soon.

No comments: