A quick note: Uploading pictures is terribly slow. So as not to get behind on my blog posting, I’ll probably just publish the words and add photos as they become available. You can check back on my old posts to see if I’ve added new photos to them.
Oct 6 – 8
Monday morning Shelley and I made breakfast for our hosts. We made pancakes and some sort of vegan breakfast goulash).
Afterwards, I said goodbye to everyone and hopped on a bus to Taupo. It was about a 4 ½ hr bus ride through giant mossy green hills speckled with cows, rabbits, sheep, and reindeer.
I got into Taupo around 6:30 and the entire town was pretty much dead. After reading so much about how Taupo is a lively town full of activities, it was was a little eerie to step off the bus and onto dark, empty streets.
It was also really rainy! Instead of being annoyed by the rain, I thought of it as a good opportunity to use my raincoat, backpack rain cover (basically like a giant shower cap), and my waterproof camera case. I put on all my gear, wandered around the lake, then headed off toward the hostel.
My hostel, the Bergenhoff Lodge, is a decent trek from the city center. All the other places offering backpacker accommodation are crowded together in the center of town and have loud bars attached to them. I chose the Bergenhoff Lodge because it was just as cheap, but didn’t seem to be a “party” hostel. This place is very quiet and comfortable. Aside from a small group of Germans, I don’t think there’s anyone else here. I’m staying in a room with 4 beds – all of which are empty. Kinda weird and lonely, but also kinda nice to have some time to myself.
The biggest tourist attractions in Taupo are the Tongariro Crossing and skydiving, neither of which are allowed when the weather is bad. I was actually considering doing both, so unfortunately I’m having to adjust my plans a little bit. I’ll just have to come back to New Zealand in the summer and do the Crossing then.
I’ve been sleeping really well every day and waking up really early. It’s great to wake up and know that I don’t have any plans other than to wander around town, walk along the lake, drink coffee while watching the rain, and go for a hike in the forest. I was on my way to the grocery store, but I ended up finding a bulk store called the Bin Inn instead. I was surprised to see that it had everything a vegan could ask for – dehydrated vegetables, nutritional yeast, Bragg’s, vegetable bouillon cubes, almond milk, and a bunch of interesting spice mixes. The woman working there was great and put me in a good mood. She also gave me a list of where I can find other Binn Inns in New Zealand.
After talking with her, I set off to run some errands. I went to the info center to buy some postcards and collect some free NZ travel guides, I bought a new plug converter (because I stupidly left mine in the wall at Jamie’s house in Auckland), and I found a portable coffee cup with a plunger, so I can make my own coffee. Coffee here is expensive! They don’t seem to have regular drip coffee in New Zealand. You can get either instant coffee or one of many fancy coffee drinks. The baristas take a lot of care in making their coffee and they make fancy designs in the foamy cream on top. The closest thing I can get to a cup of black coffee is something called a “long black” which is basically like a strong cup of espresso with some water in it. I’m not exactly sure how this is different from a “flat white” because it seems that I still need to specify that I don’t want cream or sugar. After ordering several of these expensive coffees from coffee shops, I decided I’d need to buy some sort of travel coffee apparatus if I don’t want to waste all my travel money on “long blacks”. I’m glad I found one – I’m sure it’ll pay for itself after about a week.
Yesterday, I was going to get a ride to Orakei Korako, but the bus wouldn’t make the trip for only one person (the weather is keeping everyone from wanting to go outside). I didn’t want a little rain to stop me from doing anything outdoors, so I decided to hike to Craters of the Moon. The woman running the hostel was nice enough to drive me there and she told me to call her if I get too soaked and am not up for walking home. Craters of the Moon is an amazing place with craters, steaming vents, fumaroles, and boiling mud pits. After walking around there for about an hour in the freezing rain, I was thoroughly drenched.
I didn’t really want to stop walking though, so I took the trail along the Waikato River, stopping by Huka Falls and some thermal hot springs.
It was about a 2 hr hike. By the time I made my way back to the hostel, I was soooo cold and my 5 layers of clothes were all completely soaked through. Luckily I was able to take a steaming hot shower and throw my clothes in the dryer, but unfortunately the dryer here is expensive and really sucks. I ran my clothes through 2 cycles and they’re still all damp! Anyway, I made some coffee, some dinner (the hostel has a really nice kitchen), and I sat by the fire while drying my socks and shoes. This place is pretty cozy.
I shared my room last night with a nice couple from Israel. We had breakfast together and then they took off to Turanga, a town at the base of Tongariro National Park. I thought about seeing if I could get a ride with them, but I wasn’t organized enough to just pick up and leave immediately. Instead, I went to Orakei Korako (luckily it’s been sunny outside with only little spurts of rain here and there). The bus picked me up from my hostel, as well as an English guy named John from the hostel down the street. It was about a 20 minute bus ride, then a short ferry ride to the park. The entry fee was a little pricey, but I think it was worth it.
If it weren’t for the sign, I don’t think this I’d look at this rock and think “man, that looks a lot like an elephant!” I wonder who came up with the naming of these things. It sounds like a fun job!
Some of the pools are so blue and look nice for a swim. Too bad they’re boiling hot!
After wandering around the park for a few hours, we got back on the bus and the guy driving gave us a mini tour as he drove us back to Taupo.
I learned that the rocky walls in this part of the country are made completely of pumice, a type of volcanic rock that is so light it initially floats on water. Apparently all the scenes in Lord of the Rings when they’re throwing giant rocks were made possible because they’re only throwing pumice stones.
I also learned that Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, was formed by a giant volcanic eruption so large that it’s red sparks are recorded in Chinese and Roman history. I also learned all about dairy and meat production and which animals are slaughtered for which purpose (some fun facts I could have done without). According to this guy, New Zealand exports a large amount of venison and dairy, as well as large percent of fast food hamburger meat. Once the dairy cows are too old to be productive, they are slaughtered and their fatty, second rate meat is sent to hamburger places like Burger King and McDonalds.
Anyway, I’m taking the night bus to Wellington tonight so I don’t have to pay for a hostel. It leaves at 1am and arrives at 7pm. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be doing in Wellington, but I think I’ll only spend one night there and then catch the ferry to the South Island. I’ll go hostel shopping once I arrive.
- New Zealand seems to have recycling bins and large public restrooms everywhere. It’s a really clean place. I don’t think I’ve seen a cigarette butt on the floor yet!