We had two reasons for visiting Taupo - my parents' place and I have a cousin living there. Otherwise, it had usually been a drive-through kind of place on my itineraries through the North Island. Which is kind of crazy when you look at it, because although the town itself isn't the prettiest, it's on the edge of a huge and beautiful lake, fringed with impressive mountains.
|There's even a bit where you can try to get a hole in one on a floating green!|
The photos just show a tiny slice of the lake. I think you have to drive around Lake Taupo to fully appreciate just how big it is - 616 square kilometres. More impressive than its size is the fact that it occupies a volcanic caldera formed by the eruption of a supervolcano about 26,500 years ago. This was the largest known volcanic eruption in the last 70,000 years. It's truly impressive to sit on the edge of the lake and think that here was once a massive volcano, and to imagine the forces required to create a huge crater where it once sat. And there on the horizon are the volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, as a reminder that New Zealand is still very much prey to volcanic and seismic activity.
In fact, I and my family were there during one of the most recent major eruptions of Mount Ruapehu, during the night of 25 September 1995 (celebrating my parents' Silver Wedding anniversary). We were staying at a hotel at the foot of the volcano, so had to be evacuated off the mountain. It wasn't a spectacular firey eruption, rather ash clouds, gases and mud flows (lahars), but still a pretty good story!
Driving on towards Wellington the next day, we got to get a better view of the mountains from the Desert Road. I teased Jules a little bit with this one, implying we were going through a real desert. In fact, it's just an area where little vegetation grows, due to the impact of volcanic eruptions through the centuries (I actually thought it was because of lack of rainfall, but apparently that's not true, it's because of the poor quality of soils and seeds and dry winds). Whatever the reason, it makes for a very different and impressive landscape. The variety of landscapes in a relatively small country is one thing that makes New Zealand so special.
|With Mt Ruapehu, the erupty one|
|Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe (and Tongariro??)|
|The Desert Road|
|A van with a view!|
|Heather on the Desert Road|
|Mmm, Peach Teats. Calves love 'em!|
|The hills densely covered with NZ's signature sheep|