Napier, Rotorua, Lake Taupo and National Park. March 31 – April 4, 2016.
For my last week in New Zealand I visited an area I hadn’t been to before…. Napier, Rotorua and Lake Taupo. I barely did it justice because I had so little time.
I took a bus from Wellington to Napier. Napier was destroyed in a 1931 earthquake. It was rebuilt in Art Deco style. That and wine is what it is famous for now. I really enjoyed this city. The ocean was right across the street from my hostel. I hired a bike and rode all over the place. Biking is so much easier than walking!
Another bus took me to Rotorua, famous for it’s geothermal activity.
I walked out to the Maori owned fumarole sites. There were way too many tour busses in front to make me willing to pay $60 to walk around inside. Instead I walked over to the redwoods.
In the early 1900s many different types of trees were planted for potential lumber. The redwoods grew way too fast to be good for building. Instead there are now walking and mountain bike paths beneath the big trees.
On the way back to town I took the trail near the lake and walked by many steaming mud pots. I had it all to myself.
I should have hired a bike. The places I walked to were pretty spread out. I did manage to get back to the YHA just before it started pouring rain. I made it by 5 minutes.
Since Lake Taupo wasn’t that far away and I didn’t like the timing of the bus, I hitched. Hitching is always an adventure… unpredictable but usually interesting. The first ride took me more than half way to a roadside bar with a pool tournament going on. I bought my driver and myself a beer. But I really didn’t need to be buzzed while I hitched and I didn’t even finish it. The next ride was with a hunter with 2 deer carcasses. The last ride was with a father and son who dropped me off right at my backpackers hostel.
I walked around Lake Taupo a little before dinner but I didn’t get much of a feeling for the town. In the morning I walked back down to the lake.
I wasn’t quite ready to hitch yet but I was carrying a cardboard sign I had made. 78 year old John called out to me from a parked car. He said as soon as he finished eating he was driving to National Park. He lived there and would give me a ride. That was easy. He turned into my tour guide and stopped at every vista and point of interest along the way.
He also drove me to the visitor center for Tongariro National Park in Whakapapa where I got some additional information for my hike the next day. National Park (the town) only exists as a jumping off place for Tongariro National Park.
The Tongariro Crossing is the most popular one day hike in all of New Zealand. Some days there are over 1000 people walking the 19 kilometers! There is also a 3 day Great Walk, the Tongariro Circuit, and a longer Round the Mountain trek which circles Mt Ruapehu. I did a combination of the Crossing and Round the Mountain with my brother in 2011. When I was hiking the TA, I skipped the Tongariro Crossing and instead paddled the Whanganui River all the way from Taumaranui to Whanganui. That was great but I regretted skipping one of the highlights of the whole trail. I hoped the weather would allow me to walk it now before I left the country.
At the hostel I met a bunch of interesting people. Most of them will be on the same bus with me to the start of the Tongariro Crossing.