Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walking on the Moon in Taupo

Monday, May 16
North Island

We knew our time in New Zealand was waning, so we drove straight through to Taupo from Wellington Monday morning to see as much as we could there.

Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake, and a beautiful compliment to the region's high geothermic activity. Standing at its edge, it was hard not to feel like we were looking at the sea again, with its rushing ripples and frothing waves reaching up the sand toward our feet.

As the title of the post promises, we visited a geothermal park named for the terrain it claims to mirror. Excited to walk among such an alien landscape, we made sure to get to Craters of the Moon before it closed for the day.

The walk would take about an hour and a half if we followed the trail all around the park. And they really preferred we stick to the path, so we set off, the first major sight being this crater to the right, where steam continues to rise from its earthen walls. There was a wooden platform built on one side to give a closer view for visitors, while keeping us safe from falling into the hot spot.

To the right is a view of the same crater a bit farther back. Just looks like a steaming spot of earth until you get closer and realize a small house could fit in the area of this ancient crater. What I liked almost as much as the craters, themselves, was the surrounding landscape, still green and lush, a nice contrast to the terrain making up this park.

One aspect impossible to recreate here is the smell at Craters of the Moon. Think steaming rotten eggs. It was only terrible when we stood directly in a steam cloud as it rose and blew over the walkway, which of course, we did.

To the left, our marked path of travel to weave us through the amazing rising steam all around us.

To the right . . . the result of our shortened attention spans after looking at A LOT of steaming craters.

Above, Chris the filmmaker stalking me through the stinky steam.

To the right, us in front of another large crater with bubbling mud at its floor, gurgling for the camera.

Another moment where self-entertainment felt necessary. Our shadows often get into some crazy fights.

*** To the falls! ***

After we circled back to the start of the park, we drove down the forested road to visit Huka Falls, the largest falls on the Waikato River. This was our first view of the falls across from the closer viewing spots. It kind of made me want to go rafting.

The Waikato snaked through its cut path between trees and rock, growing wilder and louder as it neared the spot where 100 meters if width whittles down to 15. The drop that is Huka Falls is more than 20 meters, as well, and makes for beautiful spot to sit a while and watch as water gushes over a volcanic edge beneath the foaming, colliding waters. It all comes down into a beautiful blue-green swirling pool, and lucky for us, there was a bridge and viewing areas along this section of river to get a great view.

To the left, a shot of the surge rushing forward through the narrowed gorge.

Below is a wider shot from the falls' base, looking down the river at fury melting back into calm.

As it was a several hour drive from Wellington that morning, our time in Taupo was more limited than in other places, so that day would be all about craters and falls. As we made our way to the hotel in town, we couldn't help but stop and get a shot of the McDonald's airplane. We couldn't find anyone who knew the story behind this actual airplane parked in a McDonald's parking lot, but decided it was our duty to share this strange sight with the world.

You're welcome.

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