Probably the strangest thing about visiting Lake Taupo and its surrounds was that every time we asked someone how to pronounce “Taupo”, we got a different answer. The best we could work out was that the modern interpretation was “TOO-poh”, but the traditional Mauri pronunciation was more like “TOE-paw”. Kristy and I decided on our own interpretation; “too-PAY”.
There’s plenty to do around the Taupo area, and we consequently booked ourselves in for three night’s accommodation in a traditional New Zealand holiday house, known as a “bach”. This was yet another AirBnB booking, and for the third time in a row, it was wonderful. It was a three bedroom house, with a well stocked kitchen, and Oscar’s favourite feature – bunk beds. It was clear that the owner of the bach had set the place up as a long-stay holiday house for her own needs, as there were lots of features that made it stand out from the usual run-of-the-mill motel room – such as decent quality cookware, unlimited internet, and even a couple of hard drives full of media connected to the TV. Not to mention the hammock, of course.Here’s a few of the local attractions that we managed to visit while we were there:
Huka Falls are reputedly the “most visited natural attraction” in New Zealand. We did a bit of research and found a walking route which promised to be “a flat, 5.5 KM round trip”, and although we knew it would be a bit of a push for Oscar, we decided it would be worth a shot. Once again, he did a fantastic job, walking almost the whole way himself with only a few segments that we carried him on. It was an especially good achievement given that the walk turned out to actually be quite hilly, and the hot, hot day didn’t make things any easier. But, our efforts were rewarded with some beautiful fresh air, and some spectacular scenery.
Kristy and I were both awed by the falls. 220,000 litres of water flow over the falls every second – enough to fill five Olympic sized swimming pools in under a minute. The roar of the falls is incredible!
I especially liked watching the water being forced into the (relatively) narrow bottleneck before the falls themselves, creating a short section of rapids. It reminded me of one of those “Whitewater Adventure” type of tire rides that you go on at a theme park.
Oscar, however, was not so impressed. Though we did our best to highlight the magnitude of water flowing through, his reaction was, “but it’s so small!”. We tried to point out that a “waterfall” has two components, the “water” – which Huka Falls had in abundance – and the “fall” – which is only about 15 metres. But to Oscar, it’s all about the “fall”. As such, the most impressive part of Huka Falls for Oscar was not Huka Falls themselves, but instead, the playground next to the car park at the beginning/end of the walk. To be fair; I guess that means there was something for everyone!
I couldn’t come up with a way of describing the Craters of the Moon better than they do on their website, so I’m just going to cheat by quoting them:
A geothermal walkway (that) wanders through a weird, other-worldy, landscape featuring bubbling craters and steaming vents”. The walkway was a circuit which took about an hour to walk around, and as promised, we saw loads of steam vents, and even some boiling, bubbling mud.
It certainly was a unique place to visit, but in retrospect, taking the stroller on the walk was a poor decision. We had figured it would be ok since their website advertised it as an “accessible” attraction, but it turns out that a large proportion of the circuit is gravel, and the hard plastic wheels on the stroller were really no match for it. Otherwise though, it was well worth the minimal entry fee!
I’m not sure why this is called a “park” when its really more of a “farm”, but none-the-less, this turned out to be quite a novel place to visit. Once you’ve paid the rather hefty admission fee, you then have full access to the fishing ponds, where you can basically fish for prawns until your heart’s content (or at least, until the park closes). With absolutely no prior experience, I had pre-rated myself as a pretty awesome prawn fisherman, and was confident that we’d be hauling in more prawns than we’d know what to do with!
Oh my, how wrong and deluded I was. I spent between two and three hours trying to catch us some dinner, and for my efforts I was rewarded with two prawns. Two, measly – but delicious! – prawns. Yes, I realise that sounds like I was a total failure, but of the 50 or so people that were also fishing around the lake, I only saw two others have any success – so by my reckoning, I was still the best prawn fisherman out there. Given that our NZD$69 admission fee netted us only two prawns, by my calculations, that made the price of each single prawn nearly $35, which would have to make the Huka Prawn Park one of the most expensive places to get fresh prawns in the world.
It’s not all bad though; for the admission fee, you also have access to the other attractions on their grounds, the highlight of which was a behind the scenes tour of the facilities. We even got to hand feed some infant prawns, which involved holding tiny little pellets in your hand, then submerging your arm under the water so the prawns could walk up and grab them. Feeling their spiky little feet crawling over your hand and up your arm was a little… disconcerting.
We had no idea what to expect from the Huka Honey Hive – we hadn’t really researched it, and paying it a visit was a bit of a last minute decision. As it turns out, its basically a giant shop – but it was still a worthy visit! They had a perspex cover over over an active hive, so we got to watch the little worker bees doing their thing. Also, they have a huge honey tasting station – I was particularly impressed by the lavendar honey!
As you can see, it was a very busy three days in Taupo, and in retrospect, we probably should have stayed longer than three nights. But we were thankful for the time we had, and there was so much more to see! So, we regretfully said “farewell” to our little bach and its bunk beds, and continued on to our next destination!