Another day, another bus journey - destination Taupo. Taupo is one of the stops I have most been looking forwards to because it is here that you can hike the famous Tongariro Crossing, a 19 mile hike which takes you across the Tongariro National Park and to the top of an active volcano, best known as Mount Doom to the Lord of the Rings fans.
On the way out of Rotorua we made a stop at the Redwoods Whakarnewarewa Forest, for a 1 hour walk. The forest is absolutely stunning with opportunities to walk, cycle, horse ride or do a tree walk to admire the surrounding nature.
We arrived in the early afternoon and as the standard Hostel (Base) had been overbooked, a few of us had to volunteer to stay at Urban Retreat instead. Taupo is pretty small so it wasn’t a problem as the hostel was less than a 5 minute walk to all the shops, bars, restaurants and the lake front. Taupo is also a popular stop with the backpackers because it is here that you will pay the least amount of money to do a Skydive. Having done one in the Bay of Islands this wasn’t as exciting for me as for the others on the bus who nervously awaited the big jump out of a plane!
Unfortunately, within the first few hours of arriving I developed a stinking cold/cough/flu that would stay with me for the entire duration of my time in Taupo, ultimately resulting in me having to miss the Crossing - I have to admit I was gutted. I had really been looking forwards to the crossing, booking myself to stay an extra night in Taupo just in case bad weather conditions resulted in the the hike being cancelled (which apparently happens quite often)...Once I had finished moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I came to accept that when travelling you have to take the bad with the good. Things are not always going to work out the way you want them to, but such is life! So the best thing to do is to get your sh*t together, be flexible and make a new plan.
Having missed out on the great adventure, I made sure to interrogate those who unlike me had been able to tick it off their bucket list. All those who completed the walk were exhausted but proud of their personal achievement. The unanimous feedback was that it is a long day…With a pickup time from the hostel of 6am, you are taken to the Tongariro National Park by minibus which is approximately an hour away. The crossing itself is physically demanding, a long hike with steep ascents and descents that see you through varied terrains and landscapes. The average completion time is 8 hours with a few of my fellow Kiwi Ex buddies completing it in 4-6 hours. All of that taken into consideration, everyone agreed that it is DEFINITELY worth doing. The views are spectacular with amazing photo opportunities. Furthermore, the post-work out sense of achievement is worth the hours of gruelling physical exertion.
I hope to be able to re-arrange my itinerary to do the crossing later on in the month - in any case for further information or to see awesome pictures of the hike head over here where my friend describes his experience climbing Mount Doom!
During my time in Taupo, apart from sleeping, recovering, doing my laundry and catching up with the Blog I managed to venture out to the local hot pools and spend an afternoon sunbathing by the lake.
Paying the Hot Pools a visit is a pretty cool thing to do in Taupo and the best thing about them is that they are completely free! They are about a 25-30 minute walk from the centre of Taupo, really easy to get to, just ask for directions at your hostel. On the way there you can also stop off at a nice view point and at a Bunji Bridge to watch people jump - this will surely get you in the mood for all the crazy activities that await you in Queenstown! The Hot Springs are small pools of volcanically heated water which overflow like little waterfalls into a cold lake. The mixture of the two means that you have a nice variation of temperatures to choose from. The closer you are the hot springs the hotter the water, the further you are the colder the water....I am sure you get the idea.
Another free activity is to take a stroll, sunbathe or swim in the Lake which is less than a 5 minute walk from the heart of the town. Just take your bathing suit and a towel and you are sorted! For those interested in Golf, there is also a cool ‘Hole in one’ just off the promenade along the Lake front, where the hole is on a floating platform in the Lake!
Once again, as I was fighting for my life (and by that I mean I had the flu), I didn’t venture out to the bars in the evening but a few of the others did and they seemed to have had a good night so I would say that overall Taupo is a nice little stop in the North Island.