Day 6 - Taupo/Lake Taupo/Mt Tongariro
After an afternoon in Taupo we decided that we liked the place enough to take a well earned rest and spend two nights in the town. So the next morning we allowed ourselves a short sleep in before boarding the Ernest Kemp, a small replica vintage boat that would take us for a cruise on the huge Lake Taupo.
The weather was a little miserable as we breakfasted and got moving but by the time we had had a coffee by the lake and arrived at the harbour it had already begun to clear up. By the time we were on the lake patches of blue sky were reflecting off the classy water. The captain remarked that it was a relatively rare occurrence that the weather was so still.
We were lucky enough to view these carvings, although only constructed recently they were pretty cool.
After the cruise we decided we'd head out into the country side and find one of the popular road side cafes for lunch. New Zealand is great for its quality roadside cafes, no franchises or road houses, just plain old home cooked meals in the most unexpected places. The captain of the boat had recommended the cafe his son worked at, about 30km South on the shores of Lake Taupo. We weren't disappointed.
We then took a gamble and headed toward the snow on Mt Tongariro. I wasn't sure how close we'd be able to get without chains and in the beast, so we just drove until we hit the snow. It was great to discover that you could actually drive all the way to the snow fields without chains and, if you wanted to, practically step out of your car in your skis and head of into the white yonder.
The snow fields were so easily accessible and by the looks of it not over crowded.
We eventually headed back North to Taupo for dinner and drinks before retiring to bed..
Day 7 - Taupo to Auckland
What was supposed to be a relatively short drive to Auckland, of a few hundred kilometres, turned into five ours of frustration. Highway 1 was abysmal in its 'highwayness', with the last hundred or so kilometres zig-zaging through outskirts of major towns and barely reaching 80km/h. We then hit the expressway which should have shot us through Auckland to the other side of town where out accommodation was; this didn't occur as we spent almost ninety minutes stuck in traffic caused by a disintegrating truck.
All was good once we'd parked the van and caught a bus to the CBD. A healthy Japanese lunch was on the cards before we went on a bit of a shopping spree in the hilly city. We were both pretty knackered after walking up and down hills for a few hours and retired to Vulcan Lane to enjoy the awesome little pubs and restaurants.
I've never been huge on mussels, but this trip to NZ has really given me a hunger for these huge and tasty shells of delight.
At Cassette#9 we divilged in some of their Long Island Iced Tea, served in tea pots......logical I suppose.
Day 8 - Auckland to Canberra
Our flight wasn't scheduled till four in the afternoon so we dropped into the Auckland Museum, reputed to be well worth the visit. The museum covered everything and even included a war memorial and museum on the top floor.
Once we were done there we headed for the airport, returning the van and spending our last few hours roaming the airport and devouring the remaining smoked fish we had brought from Coromandel.
Once in Sydney we caught a bus for Canberra. I was more than comfortable and about to nod off when we were advised that we'd be swapping buses. Our worst fears were confirmed when we boarded a dilapidated, smelly and overheating bus that delivered us to Canberra over an hour late, just after midnight.
All in all we had a fantastic holiday and honestly can't wait to go back some time. The people were extra-ordinarily friendly, the beer was tasty, food was quality and sights were unforgettable. Now for the South Island, and this time with my own bike!!!