17 December 2011

Lake Taupo

Taupo, a small town on the edge of NZ's biggest lake, has been mostly cold and wet, which is apparently unusual for this time of year but is pretty typical of my luck. No matter where I go and how unlikely that area is to have rain, when I arrive it will rain. So my first day here was absolutely drenching, but despite that I walked up the beginning of the Waikato river to Huka falls, apparently our largest natural attraction. The walk is mostly through native bush, but it is only planted around the walk, directly behind was mostly pine plantations. Still, there were some native birds to see, none of which I got photos of in the rain.

After getting thoroughly wet and cold, there was a geothermally-heated stream to jump into; turns out that Taupo is full of hot-springs! It was really good in the rain, like getting into a bath. After such a thorough wetting however, there was not much else to do but stay inside the hostel, reading books and eating.

I attempted to go out and see the lake when it stopped raining, but of course as soon as I was outside and a fair distance from the hostel, the rain started again! It took a full two days for my shoes to dry out.

My next day in Taupo began with sunshine, so I jumped out of bet and got out of doors as quickly as possible, before it disappeared. The lake looked much nicer than it did the previous evening, and I headed off to walk a little way around it.

The shores of the lake were covered with pumice and every now and then there were hot streams leading into the lake, some with warning signs like the one you can see below.

I walked around to a bay called 3 mile bay, so I assume it is 3 miles from the township. I was getting hungry so it was time to turn back, but I still hadn't really seen the bulk of the lake, it is that big. The sky was still clear for the most part and you could just see the mountains on the other side, which I think are the volcanoes of Tongariro national park.

There were a lot of birds on the lake, swans, ducks, gulls, gannets and herons. This heron was shy and kept ducking away from the camera, but then a dog came and chased it, so I managed to get a picture of the bird lifting off.

When I got back to Taupo I continued around the lake until I came to the very beginning of the Waikato river, which makes for much nicer scenery with blue skies behind it. However, even on the overcast, rainy days the water was a really nice, clear turquoise colour.

I got back to the hostel and decided that I wanted a swim so I headed back to the thermal park area, where I fully intended to have a proper swim in the river. However, the river is really icy cold. So I stuck to the warm stream instead. Only, while in the rain the previous day the stream had been perfect bath temperature, on this nice, sunny day it was too hot to stand in! Luckily, where the stream opens out into the river the waters mix. They don't mix evenly though, you are left with pockets of very hot and pockets of very cold, and have to keep moving to find the best spot.

After a good long swim (I did eventually jump into the cold water, but only for the briefest minute, then right back into the warm bit) the sky had clouded over and it was time to go back, before I got drenched again. I returned to the hostel, only to find that once again I had got sunburnt, even though I had been wearing loads of sunscreen! Maybe it is for the better that the clouds and rain keep following me about? By the next day, it was cold and drizzling again.

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