12&13/1/16. Lake Taupo is NZ’s biggest lake and (we think we read somewhere) the biggest body of freshwater in Australasia. It is certainly big! (622 sq km.) And deep! (180+ metres (so 600 feet) at its deepest.) It is the caldera of an ancient volcano which formed 26,500 years ago. It last erupted in 180 AD so hopefully it won’t “go off” while we’re around.
Tuesday was spent in the library catching up on the free wifi (along with 15 million others!) and then walking along the lakefront which was rather pretty. Oh, and dealing with the major catastrophe of the screen of Stephen’s kindle having broken. An online “chat” with 3 different people on Amazon’s Indian call centre (disconnected conversations courtesy of all the other freeloaders on the library wifi!) elicited the offer of a replacement that they can only send to the UK. So that is going to Alaric in Didcot to be forwarded to Dan in Sydney, son of friend Jim from Walton, for when we get there in February. (See below for an update on our travel plans.)
Impressions of Taupo? Not as favourable as of Rotorua, to be honest. The guidebook says the population is just over a third of its bigger neighbour and I suppose it didn’t feel as big – certainly fewer motels! However, the capitalisim was more rampant with a big emphasis on “experiences” and extreme sports. Stephen was unable to persuade Christine that she should go for a bungy jump (and his fear of heights rules him out) or any of the other whacky ideas!! So it didn’t really appeal to these two old stick-in-the-muds.
Wednesday saw us heading south again along the shore of the lake along a lovely shared cycle track/path for about 10 miles. However, once this ran out we were forced onto SH1 (the one road that we were avoiding like the plague when north of Auckland). We had been told (by another lady in the tourist information office – again helpful but not with quite such good news as the one in Rotorua) that it was OK for cycling which it was – sort of. The traffic did race along but was quite quiet (so there were large gaps) and generally there was a generous shoulder (so a magic white line kept lorries and cars a few inches from our panniers).
After a lunch stop by the lakeside things deteriorated however. Gradually the traffic increased so there were fewer gaps and tbe shoulder narrowed and increasingly disappeared for stretches. In addition the headwind increased in strength slowing us further.
There was a stretch where workmen were resurfacing the road meaning that one lane was closed so there were Stop/Go boards allowing traffic to go in one direction only alternately. This meant that there was not room for a car to pass a slower moving bike. As a result Christine “claimed the lane” moving towards the centre. The car behind her didn’t like this and muscled his way past regardless, eliciting a loud, most un-Christine-like expletive!
One thing that struck us about the road today was how few places there were to spend money and what a contrast to the UK that is. This is the main road from north to south in the country and, in about 30 miles between Taupo and Turangi, we passed a couple of motels, a couple of campsites and a cafe (which was closed at 4.15 pm). That was it. No filling stations, no shops. Granted we did only pass through 3 or 4 villages (more collections of a few houses in truth) but it was still surprising to us.
Eventually we arrived at Turangi (trout fishing capital of the world?) at the southern end of the lake and also (mercifully) where we leave SH1 behind when we head towards Wanganui tomorrow.
Update on our plans. After a wonderful time in Auckland over Christmas with Jay, Tim and Eleri we just sort of “drifted” southwards for a while which was nice – up to a point. However, we (Stephen especially) started to question what we were doing with ourselves. We had flights booked from Christchurch to Sydney on 21 January but it looked to be impossible/ expensive to get there in time. Then we discovered that we could change the flights (we had thought there were non-changeable) and that there were flights to Sydney from Wellington.
So for a while the plan was to head for there so that we could say we had “done” the North Island and leave the South for the next time. (There WILL be a next time in NZ!)
This was kiboshed when Christine found that the cheap flights from Wellington only started in 4 weeks time which would have meant wafting around for a couple of weeks while we waited for our flight. The alternative was to take another 2 weeks and head for Christchurch leaving towards the end of February. Towards the end of January the cost and availability of the ferries between the two islands is much more reasonable (as the school holidays come to an end) removing one of the obstacles.
So that’s the plan! Christchurch here we come!