Wasn't exactly sure what we were going to do in Taupo when we woke up. The only thing definite was we wanted to see Huka Falls. First thing after checking out was to find breakfast, though. The front desk at the motel recommended Burbury's, a couple of blocks away. So that's where we headed. It turned out to be a style of restaurant that seems to be very prevalent in New Zealand. Most of the food is stuff in a display case that customers just grab, with a couple of menu items that are fixed in the kitchen. For once though, a place had
filter coffee, or regular drip coffee that Erin likes. I ordered eggs benedict and grabbed a newspaper. While getting more coffee, Erin chatted with the busser, an older gentleman, who recommended we see Craters of the Moon at Wairakei Tourist Park. He figured it would look even better with the clouds, rain and drizzle. Both were close by just outside of town.
Second stop then, Huka Falls. Quite impressive, but not a lot to see. The only outlet from Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, is the Waikato River. 22,000 liters per second flow out of the lake into the river, which is the largest river in New Zealand. Except that a few kilometers away, the river narrows to 15 meters across, where it cut a chasm through the limestone. There's a lot of rushing water there, and I immediately thought of sarmonster.
Third stop, Craters of the Moon which was just a hop skip and a jump across SH1. As we pulled into the parking lot, the rain started to get worse. It didn't bother us to get wet, but too much rain tends to get in camera lens making for crappy pictures. Unfortunately, no umbrellas for sale or rent. Craters of the Moon only formed a few decades ago as the water table changed and directed more water into the geothermal crevices of the area. Much of the vegetation has died off as huge steam vents and craters have formed across a few acres of what was once forest land. The government built a boardwalk and walking trail through the middle. Some parts of the ground were quite hot; one of the German tourist boys walking near us decided to step off and feel a rock with his hand. He recoiled as if he had touched a hot burner. Other areas just had a gravel covered trail, and I assume the ground was not as hot there. I never tested the ground temperature though.
Next was the drive to Wellington Well, except we wanted to get some food for the road, petrol for the car, and drop our accumulated stack of post cards at a PostShop. For food, we stopped at a grocery. Woolworth's lives on, at least in name, in New Zealand. They had a bulk candy section, where we purchased entirely too much nutrition-less calories. I did grab a couple of healthy items like freeze-fried apply chips. Finding the PostShop took a bit more effort though. I think we circled around the downtown area for a good half hour before finding it. The front desk person at the model had given me directions, but I'm pretty thick-headed. The nice gentlemen at the petrol station seemed to make it work for us though.
I had hoped to be able to see Ruapehu with smoke and ash on the drive down SH1, but the continuing rain made seeing even the mountain itself impossible. Also, before long I started getting a bit drowsy. We pulled off to use the facilities, and Erin assumed driving duties afterward. I dozed intermittently for a bit. Our drive was not interrupted by much to see or do (that we could tell) until we got to Paekakariki where the highway followed the shoreline of the Tasman Sea. Absolutely gorgeous view of incredible waves crashing into the rocky shore. Unfortunately, for travelers heading south, there were no viewpoints to stop and take photographs. Kilometers of this before we headed inland at Pukerua for the last bit before Wellington.
Near Pukerua, SH1 turns into a motorway. Entering Wellington, we followed along the city harbor (much like Alaskan Way Viaduct does in Seattle) before dropping into a long tunnel that emerged at the edge of downtown Wellington. We couldn't see any hotels though, so we followed the signs toward the airport, thinking there must be hotels near the airport. We found a motel near there, but the airport was so far away from the city center that we turned around and headed back. Took a nice drive around Mt. Victoria that was labeled as the scenic route to avoid the Mt. Victoria tunnel. There we started seeing hotels. Sign on the first insisted
no vacancies. The second turned out to be a shuttered hotel. Then we ran into a couple, and pulled into the Bay Plaza Hotel. They had rooms, so we unloaded our bags and headed to our room on the 10th (?) floor. Very nice view, but the room was cramped and we had no French press.
Dinner was next on the agenda, and we decided to walk because the hotel was on the edge of downtown. We wandered by many restaurants, but Erin put me in charge of picking one this time and nothing really struck my fancy. Eventually, I settled on Tulsi, an Indian restaurant on the pedestrian arcade. Food was quite good. We sat by the window where we viewed the antics of the locals, including a very high young woman who flitted around doing cartwheels and peering in windows. On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at an Internet café, where we spent over an hour catching up on the drama back home. We thought to hit the town later in the evening (including the Mercury Lounge), but neither of us seemed all that inclined to venture out where we didn't know anyone. And it was a Thursday night too. Or so our excuse was. So we slept.
The Bay Plaza had to be the worst place we stayed on the entire trip. Cramped room. No French press. Absolutely no water pressure in the shower, and the shower head came to Erin's chest (she ain't that tall folks) and about my belly. The temperature constantly changed. There was also only one light above the headboard in the center, so my reading and/or her needlepoint would keep the other awake. The walls shielded little noise from other rooms. Luckily, we had the bathroom between us and other rooms so that distraction was kept to a minimum, though it was still noticeable. Stay somewhere else.