A 1.5 hour drive south from Rotorua brought us to Taupo, another city built next to a giant lake. Fishing is very big here, the lakes are stocked with lots of trout. It's illegal to sell trout in NZ restaurants, but most will cook your fish for you. In Taupo we couch-surfed with a great guy; Terence is friendly, generous and has a very positive attitude. I am also impressed by his physical ability; Terence is an Ultra-runner.
Many Taupo visitors come to take on the Tongariro Crossing, a 20 km alpine hike across rocky and snowy terrain. Shuttles are usually necessary to return you to your car (or town) and guide services are available for those wanting a bit more information or assistance. Terence needs neither. One day he took two young Danish couch-surfers up to do the Crossing. They all started at the same point, but instead of hiking with them, Terence ran. He ran the 20 km to the other end (where he had stashed a snack and some water). He then turned around and ran back to his car, passing the young Danes along the way. Upon reaching his car, he hops in and drives to the other end to pick them up. An alpine off-road marathon in six hours fifty minutes is just another training day for him, and he dismisses any compliments. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Terence is a proud grandpa.
While we did nothing as rigorous as the Tongariro Crossing, we had some good fun in Taupo. One day, Loren Yvette, Stephanie and I explored some trials near Huka Falls on our mountain bikes.
Stephanie and Yvette then went to a local café while Loren and I checked out the Craters of the Moon bike trails. Unlike the Craters of the Moon walking trails, the bike only trails go through a very nice forest. The trail surface is covered in pine needles and reminded me of trails in Oakridge or Bend.
After the ride we all stopped by Huka Falls to see the power of nature. The Waikato River is the only outlet for Lake Taupo, and releases 220 thousand liters of water every second. Its water passes through 8 hydroelectric plants on the way to the ocean, producing 15%of NZ' total power.
Our next day in Taupo was spent ON the river; a different river. The Tongariro River feeds INTO the lake from the opposite end of Huka Falls.
Our Kiwi River Safaris guide "M.P", picked us up in the company van and raced us along the lakeside to their base in Turangi.
At 13 km, this was one of the longer commercial raft trips available in NZ, and while none of the rapids were very large, they were plentiful. Every other minute we were splashing our way through another batch of white water, 55 rapids in total. To compensate for the smaller size of some of these rapids, I believe M.P. would sometimes increase our fun by intentionally bumping into boulders or bouncing off cliff walls. Or maybe he was just not very good (kidding - he was good). A short drive back to their base for warm showers and lunch completed our experience.
Our easiest day in Taupo was not actually in Taupo. We drove 45 minutes to Orekai Kuroko, a
well run privately-owned geothermal park. Nestled in a beautiful valley, we took the short boat ride over to the park.
The smells were like Rotorua, but the sights were much more amazing. The colors of the rocks and pools must be seen to be believed. The wooden walkways were well maintained, and my legs burned from the many steps we climbed (I thought this was supposed to be our easy day). Silica terraces and evidence of major volcanic activity were everywhere. One set of stairs descended into one of only two geothermal pools INSIDE a cave, in the world. The cave was a nice break from the heat outside.
After returning to shore, we enjoyed their patio while sipping our complimentary cappuccinos.