Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Life below Auckland

Lake Taupo

We headed south on the highway with Lake Taupo as our goal. After our initial stay in the city, we were still keen to see life in the country, so rather than making another stop, we continued through Auckland and Hamilton before finally arriving in Taupo. Here we were greeted by the looming image of a vast lake with mountains in the background, exactly the kind of sights I had imagined when I thought of New Zealand back home.

Lake Taupo

On the way down we had gone about buying a tent, some role mats and some food ready to hit some camp sites. Our plan was to save money in the less busy towns by camping, and then to go to hostels in the larger towns and cities where there was a more active night life. This was all well and good until I realised on the first night that I had packed the wrong sleeping bag in my hasty exit from the UK. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't feel my legs, so in desperation I put on another two layers and saw out the night. Luckily, Jon, who had no problems with sleeping, had bought an extra sleeping bag liner which, accompanied with some newly purchased thermal socks, made each following night much more comfortable.

At the camp site we were surprised to see Olympian Jonny Brownlee fresh from the triathlon in Auckland where he had come second in the men’s main event. Luckily Jon recognised him and had a chat, congratulating him on his performance, which was had been in torrential rain. I didn't really know what to say so I just sat in the background wearing my hat and drinking some tea.

In Taupo we did our first mountain biking, with a variety of well made, different skill level tracks in the surrounding forests which I would highly recommend for all abilities. After several crashes on my part, and nearly falling over a small cliff, I decided to stick to the beginner level tracks as the inevitable injuries would probably stopped me from enjoying the trip as much. 

Jon Davies enjoying some river rapids - with bike

The following day we hit Tongariro the national park for some hiking, which even though we didn't do a multiple day trip was really enjoyable with great views and a much more involved feeling than driving through the park. While I didn't pay much attention to the lava zone warning signs at the time, a few weeks after we left the volcano erupted so our timing worked out pretty well!

Tongariro National Park



Napier

After several days in Taupo we headed east towards Napier. Upon our arrival it was not as lively as I had expected. We met quite a strange character in the hostel, a local forty something courier driver who, after arguing that we were stupid to go travelling during the recession for about an hour, asked if he could use our car to tear it up round the town. He wasn't best pleased when we said no so we bailed out and had an early night. The next morning, Jon competed in a Triathlon that he’d been invited to with the local club, where I met some of his previous club members from Norwich, Ian, Kate and her family. After an enjoyable pub lunch with them at the awards ceremony, we bid them farewell and hit the road again. We headed south towards Wellington.

On our way, we had our first experience of one of the free basic camp sites in a national park. When I say basic, I mean clearing in a forest with a long drop, but as far as the price is concerned, free, I can’t complain at all. If anything, it was warmer than our previous camp site as the trees provided good shelter from the wind.

We had hit the edge of the north island, and after being out of towns for some time we were ready to re-join society, so we headed into Wellington to have showers and see what the capital had to offer.

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