12th to 13th May 2017
Piopio to Oakura (New Plymouth) 151kms
Still raining! More than 24hrs now, and we still look like we are in the clouds. Well, we probably are. So Michael is off somewhere in the South Island, on a hunting trip, Jess has been into town to take little Hunter to daycare (can’t work with mum in this weather), and we force ourselves up just before she gets back to start work. Yes, I feel guilty, poor Jess has to get outside and move mobs of cows, and drop feed, and all this in the freezing cold rain. But, she loves the farm work, and has no lack of discipline, so just gets into her gear, and farewells us weaklings by the fire. Tuff, very tuff!
We got going just before 10:30, with it not looking like easing, anytime soon. Lucky we’ve got a spaceship. Engage warp factor, slow and steady, and head south. Hills, hills and more hills. Windy roads, with natural bush on some of them, and little waterfalls cascading onto the roadside. In the safety of KezBro, it was pretty nice. You can really imagine dragons and medieval battles, going on around here. No wonder they use this country for lots of movies.
KezBro wasn’t fazed, and happily transported us south.
There were a few little stops on our way to New Plymouth, the first being the Three Sisters, a limestone formation on the coast, at Tongaporutu. Very similar to the 12 Apostles, in every way. It too is almost gone, from the rugged weather eroding it away. Still, we got out and enjoyed the view of the Tongaporutu river busting out into the ocean, and the volcanic black beach sand. We couldn’t walk around to the best viewing places, as it was high tide, and they are only accessible on the low tide. Still nice.
The dark volcanic sand was very different, amazing to see for ourselves.
Not much further along, we came across a brewery. Just after we’d had the conversation about not visiting any Kiwi pubs, so far this trip. The Pap House, where we had dinner with Aaron and Cindy, we didn’t class as a pub, more like a Bar and Grill. Mike’s place, seemed appropriate, and had a cafe too, so we pulled in and tasted a couple of beers and their Beerfest snags. Very nice, served with pickled radish, which was great, and new. With a few roadies, we carried on to New Plymouth, to take at look at where our Kiwi family first arrived in EnZid!
The sky was clearing, and we had the beginnings of a view, of Mt Taranaki, which is an active volcano, and something we’d like to check out. But it is pretty cold, we’ve done enough, and tomorrow is supposed to be fining up, so hopefully we’ll get a better look at it. So we got fuel, some groceries, and located somewhere to camp. This place is supposed to be the best beach in the Taranaki region…..well, maybe it is.
What caravan park has it’s own waterfalls? Well, this one. Very cool!
We had a nice night, chatting (we do this a bit, hey?) to a couple of young Canadian girls, having a break before University. They’d been in EnZid for a couple of months, exploring and working (only a little fruit picking) and learning amazing things. They were really great to talk to, and a couple of gutsy girls. They had some funny and interesting stories. Another nice night.
It had black sand, rolling surf, horses trotting along, and a billion people walking dogs. It was pretty nice.
Oakura to Motuoapa 310kms
The day started with sunshine and clear skies, but don’t be fooled guys, it was chilly. It is getting harder to get up and moving, we really are more reptile than mammal. So we made some toasted “Boccodillo’s” (stale rolls with ham cheese and tomato , toasted) filled our thermos’ with coffee, and got going to check out Mt Taranaki. Yesterday it was covered with a dense mushroom of clouds, but it was totally visible today. We are heading for Turangi, at the bottom of Lake Taupo, and there are two possible routes. Both look similar, and go around the volcano, from different sides. We chose the one around the north of the Mount, which meant a bit of back tracking, but was shorter. We zig zagged through the farming back roads, and finally turned into the national park, on the track taking us up to the visitors centre. Man did it feel cold now! As we rose up and up, the temp dropped down and down.
The Mount has popped out and is quite amazing. The drive up was cool, really cool. Cold even.
Bugger me, I have not felt this cold in such a long time! Not surprising as we are now at an altitude of 1000mtrs. The volcano is classed as a stratovolcano, which means that when it erupts, it forms a new layer on top. But this one is unusual in that it has experienced 5 cone collapses. 1 is the norm. It is freezing, and my stupid dick leg only allows us to walk to the viewing area, which shows us the cloud covered top. It started to drizzle, and my god it was cold, but what an amazing place to visit. I wish we could do one of the shorter walks, and it is something to drive me to find an answer to my stupid dick leg issues, Will could easily have done a couple of The walks, and would have liked to.
From the viewing platform, we can see right across towards New Plymouth.
From Taranaki, we took the “Hard way Jones” route, which, oh surprise, turned into a gravel track. So we back tracked almost to Tongaporutu, turning onto Okau rd, which straight away had us twisting and turning through some lovely hills. Still lots of farming, but also lots of natural forest. Some of the scenes had me imagining a giant, who had ripped out the trees, laid some grass, and sprinkled a few sheep on his grassy dinner. A giant with a “sheep tooth”. Okay I need a break hey?
So, we wound our way through the hills, and took it easy on the gravel, narrow roads, and got onto the Forgotten World Highway. Wow, it really could be the forgotten world. We didn’t realise how high we were actually getting, until we came around a bend and Wow, Bam, we could see right across the top of the hills, and the tops of two more volcanoes. Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu, are another two stratovolcanoes, which are active, but quite young, only 2500 years old. Bloody snow on the tops, yep we are officially allowed to feel cold.
Down, down, down we went, to the level of the largest lake in the North Island, Lake Taupo! It sits at about 356mtrs, and is actually a culdera formed from a volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. As we drive down, we spot several pockets of steam rising above the trees, which show us there are many hot springs around this amazing area. We drove into Turangi, to get some groceries, and decide where to stay. It is very touristy, not surprising, but also a bit expensive, so we drove another 8kms to Motuoapa, which had a camping ground on the lakes edge, and a bit cheaper. Easy to find, and a quirky little place, we happily parked the spaceship next to a group of Kombi caravans. Very funny, and cute.
Wow, wow, wow, was all we could say. A truly awesome sight, and place.
It’s an older park, and the facilities are a bit tired, but it had a kitchen, and hot showers. The temp was dropping fast, and felt like zero was not out of the question, so we bunkered down in the kitchen. There was no heater, so we improvised and just turned on all the hot plates, and the oven (which didn’t work). Only downside, was being the OH&S supervisor, and warning anyone who came into the kitchen that everything was hot. But it definitely warmed the small room well enough. An older couple, from the UK, came in, and we enjoyed a great chat, listening to Kim (who looked well into his 70’s) tell us stories of growing up in Africa, and other travels. Lovely couple, and a great, animated story teller. Then we raced off to KezBro, broke out both sleeping bags and snuggled down. Brrrrrrr!