chilling feet

chilling feet

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Taupo and Tongariro Times

(Waiting to watch the flood gates of the Aratiatia Rapids set loose!)
As Sarah and I traversed the Northern Island of New Zealand, we were interested to see what Taupo would hold for us as it was one of the places we looked at when moving to New Zealand.  While the position there did not work out, we always wondered, "Would we have liked living in Taupo?"  Questions like this are so difficult because they divorce us from so many of the regularities of life we have become accustomed to living with in the reality we have chosen for ourselves.  The friends we have made and now love, the house we have lived in, the activities we have been able to do because we have been close to them, and a whole string of such things would have drastically changed.  At any rate, Taupo was not to be for us, at least in the working sense.

(Comparing the first photo to this one shows how much the river changed)
The first two photos come from the Aratiatia Rapids, where there is a system in place to gain energy by releasing a large amount of water and creating a rapids momentarily.  Each day they release the water at certain times to provide enough energy for the city, which is pretty cool.  An eerie siren warns of the oncoming blast of water, which is helpful for onlookers or people who have decided to play below the floodgates in the peaceful stream.  It was really neat watching the waters move from no movement to rapids within a few minutes time.  Admittedly I was hoping for a rush of water even greater with an overall more massive release of water, but this was a genuinely cool experience.  
(Only the toughest of the males will develop the intensely awesome blue
claw and this is only after winning a number of battles with other males.
Pretty sweet way of letting everyone know who is boss)
(Sarah showing off the spoils of her skilled prawn fishing abilities. I think
she might have been using a different bait she was keeping hidden from
me and was sneaking onto her line)
There were all sorts of outdoor wonders to visit in the Taupo area (more pictures down below to prove it), but sometimes a person has to give in and try some strange experience that exists locally which otherwise might be missed.  This was the deal when Sarah and I went prawn fishing at the +Huka Prawn Park.  Not only can a eager adventurer fish for their own prawns (which are then cooked up for you in the kitchen free of charge), but there is a tour that teaches a person pretty much all you need to know about this particular type of prawn.  A learning experience for both of us, we found ourselves taking in all sorts of interesting information.  Most notably for me, I discovered I am not good at catching prawns while Sarah excels at bringing in these bad boys.  And while it is not as easy as the park might make it seem, Sarah clobbered me (yes I was competing as always) a stiff 0-3.  Needless to say this was a little disappointing.  I thought I was going to be strolling back into the kitchen with a bucket spilling out live prawns, cocky grin on my face as I stared down all those who had failed to bring in more than a few, and yet there I was with a big fat zero.  With enough time (no I would not give it to her) I am fairly certain Sarah would have had that bucket full and I am convinced my numbers would have stayed the same.  
(The ole sampler - what a great place - really!! Check it out)
Before we left Taupo we managed to get lucky and find just enough time to swing by the +Crafty TROUT Brewing Co. and taste just a few of their products.  With names like "Hook," "Line," "Sinker," and "Lure," I was reminded all to well of my previous prawn adventure but thankfully a wonderful atmosphere and fantastic staff put all of those connections at ease.  There were plenty of good experiences in the Taupo area but the Crafty Trout had to be one of my favorites even though we were only there for a short amount of time.  Sometimes there is just not enough time in life.

(Beginning the Crossing - Sarah is in good spirits and ready!)
One of our greatest goals for our North Island trip was to get into the +Tongariro National Park and do the Northern Circuit (one of the great walks).  Not only have we enjoyed making a habit of hiking any Great Walk we come across, but Miriam and Gordon recommended it highly for our trip.  The problem we were facing was the weather.  Every report I kept reading by the DOC (Department of Conservation) kept stressing how dangerous the conditions were on the track, especially on the alpine pass, which was really the main part of the trek I wanted to make sure we did.  A number of people have mentioned to me this year the crossing is the best thing they have ever done in their entire life - that cannot be dismissed lightly even if only one person says it.

(There were some pretty steep parts of the hike - crampons came in quite
handy, although Sarah will still persist in saying we did not need them)
But I also have another goal, which stated simply is I do not want Sarah or myself to become a statistic. Since living here we have heard stories of folks who have died on a few of the Great Walks, including this one.  Even though they are relatively safe, there are elements that make each of them dangerous in their own way.  Just this one hike takes trekkers past three volcanoes and over an alpine pass where the weather can shift quickly and violently.  With all of this knowledge and the current reports I kept pressing Sarah to take a guided tour.  Sarah, being well Sarah, was sure we could just do it ourselves without crampons or ice axes.  In the end I won out and we took a guided tour over the Tongariro Crossing with +Adrift Outdoor Adventures Ltd.   With the peace of mind we would almost definitely be making it through the day, we started off with three guides, a few new friends, and some of their tools.

(Yes I feel like some sort of strange action hero and yes
I am expecting some film producer to see this shot and
recruit me for his/her next big action mountain film)
The crossing truly was amazing.  Not only did we have some beautiful weather for most of the day, but we also were taught how to use crampons and an ice axe for the first time (which I thought was pretty fun).  When we stopped to put on our crampons for the first time our guides first made us climb a small hill where we could practice the proper use of our ice axes to stop ourselves from sliding down a slope if we happened to take a spill or tumble in the next few miles of the hike.  Most of it was not all that treacherous but there were a few moments when I was glad I knew how to use my axe.  It was also clear conditions could have easily been worse and this would have made using this tool more necessary. As it was we were hiking past and in some of the areas where filming was done for the Lord of the Rings movies.  The shots of Frodo and Sam working their way through the desolate Mordor, or fields of volcanic rock, were taken behind me in this next photo, although naturally they shot the movie when there was no snow on the ground.  And we hiked right up past, though not directly onto, Mount Doom itself, or Mt. Ngauruhoe in real life.  It was beautiful seeing the devastated lands of volcanic ruin held in the grips of a white winter.  We were unfortunately unable to see Emerald Lakes, which is a true loss, but along with our wintery landscape we also enjoyed a more solitary hike than summer offers where the track is apparently ridiculously crowded.

(The view at the top was not clear as a cloud came right in on top of us,
but we did take the opportunity to pose with our sweet get up)
We had a blast hiking the pass and discovering the joys of Taupo.  This part of New Zealand is quite fantastic really.  Yet one more must on the very long list of things Sarah and I recommend for everyone to do.  Seriously, stop doing whatever it is you are currently doing and start planning your trip to New Zealand (+New Zealand 100% Pure - good start in planning).  We will be going home soon but there is so much here to enjoy!  We would love to hear about your trip down just as soon as you get back.  As always there are more photos to look at below.
(The River leading into the Huka Falls - so much water moving through here.  Pretty cool spot)
(Huka Falls - I loved how cool the water looked.  It just does not look natural)
(Two) 
(Three!!) 
(So we did not have a bucketful but she did share them with me, which was quite nice of her)
(Celebrating her prawn success and how much she liked learning about the prawns)
(Getting ready to ride to the trail head for the Alpine Crossing - oh ya!)
(A shot of the crew with us that day - a lot of great views on this hike) 
(The hill where we practiced our ice axe maneuvers.  It was actually pretty fun) 
(It unfortunately did not come out in focus but I really like the photo still.  Just a girl showing off her crampons)
(Helmets on with axes in hand - ready for anything)
(Once we got down back off the top the view cleared and we could see for - ev - er) 
(This little trouble maker constantly lets off steam.  A few years ago it erupted and some of the rocks it shot off hit a nearby hut.  Fortunately there were no people inside or hurt.  The hut is no longer habitable and is now left there as a memorial to the day.  It was strange being so close to the visible signs of a possible eruption)
(wooo hoooo)
(Just such a neat looking trail)
(Near the end it dropped back down into the trees and felt completely different than the rest of the entire trek) 
(Post trek celebratory fizzy compliments of Adrift Outdoors)