The drive up from Napier to Lake Taupo was pretty straightforward. The wineries and serried ranks of vines stop pretty abruptly as you leave the Hawke’s Bay region and as the Thermal Highway climbs steadily back into sheep and cattle country. There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, but not, as we’ve been told, as many as in years gone by – it seems that the Chinese demand for dairy and beef products is growing at such a rate that New Zealand farmers can’t change quickly enough and the effect on the landscape is becoming obvious. More and more irrigation to produce the lush pastures, hay and silage that cattle need and with it a progressive taming of the landscape – still, they have a lot of it!
Lake Taupo is the result of an enormous volcanic eruption in 186 AD, which is practically in living memory in geological terms. The Taupo volcano spewed out 24 cubic kilometres of rock and ash (at least ten times more than Krakatoa and Mt St Helens combined) and covered much of the North Island in a layer of pumice. Ash from the eruption was carried around the world – the Chinese noted a blackening of the sky, the Romans recorded that the skies turned blood-red and I imagine that flights in and an out of Heathrow would have stopped for a few days ……… Anyway, the crater it left behind has filled to become New Zealand’s largest lake, which is roughly the same size as Singapore.
We stayed overnight near the wonderfully named Wakapapa Village which was comfortable but cold! If we’d thought about it we’d have realised that with the site at 1,200m it was bound to get a little nippy – but the ice on the windscreen in the morning was a bit of a rude awakening.
We spent this morning walking/climbing the 17km round trip from Wakapapa Village to the Tama lakes which sit in the southern face of Mt Ngaurahoe – no, we don’t know how to pronounce it, but with clear skies and bright sun, the views were spectacular, though we were completely knackered by the time we got back to the van.
A two hour drive this afternoon has brought us to Mangakino for a bit of well-earned rest and recuperation in preparation for ‘doing’ Rotorua tomorrow – pass me another glass of wine please Denise, I don’t think I can move!