Travel notes, Monday September 19

To my great delight and amusement, my favorite placebo, melatonin, was effective once again, allowing me to sleep right through ‘til morning. No jet lag for this kid! Awoke at about 6:30, and was on the road by 7:30 or so. Walked down to the dunes to check out the beach, stopped at the local bakery and got a fresh bacon-and-egg pie for breakfast, and away I went.

I decided to drive up towards Lake Taupo, in the center of the North Island, up near the volcanoes. There is lots of stuff to do in that area, including jet boats. At some point or another I had decided that my New Zealand trip would not be complete without a jet boat ride, so I thought perhaps this would be my chance.

Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative today. Clouds built all during the morning, and by the time I was nearing Lake Taupo it was starting to drizzle on and off. I had known before I left California that the weather was not going to be ideal, however, and had consciously decided that I would try not to let this deter me.

Keeping this in mind, when I reached the Aratiatia rapids, I donned my raincoat and went on the short hike out to see the rapids. They were quite a spectacle, worth enduring the dampness. These rapids are directly downstream from the spillway of a dam, and this spillway is opened at scheduled intervals throughout the day. When they open, the river changes from a gentle gurgling stream to a raging, emerald-blue torrent. And then goes back again in 45 minutes or so. Peculiar, but spectacular!

Just up the road was Huka Falls, another spectacular cascade, and the site of a jet boat attraction. I started to get cold feet, but when I saw families with little kids signing up, I gathered my wits and bought a ticket. It was a huge kick in the pants, tons of fun! Only thing that could have made it better was a sunny day. Oh well…

Stopped in Taupo for a late lunch. Had an awesome hamburger, juicy hand-made burger on homemade roll, with cheese, bacon, egg, and all the fixings. Never had a fried egg on a burger before, I’ll have to say it was actually pretty good! Decided to continue to the south end of the lake, then up towards Tongariro, one of New Zealand’s most famous national parks.

On the way I stopped in Tokaanu, which has a bunch of hot springs. I decided to try the mineral baths, kinda fun, soak in a tub of hot minerally water for 20 minutes or so. Definitely relaxing, more so than I thought it would be. Afterwards, there was a short walk around all the springs, mudpots, vents, etc. It was dusk, and the mood of the place was very primeval – tropical woods, dark, moisture dripping from the branches, bubbling mud pots and clear springs, with steam everywhere. Very jurassic-feeling.

Drove up the mountains in the foggy dusk, not much to see. Hoping that the weather has cleared enough in the morning to catch a glimpse!

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