Lake Taupo was the first reason which made want to visit New Zealand, I came across a random photo of it and it looked stunning. I didn’t know much about New Zealand then, but I knew if I were to ever make a trip to Middle Earth, this would definitely be on my list.
To be honest, I don’t even recall how the photo of the lake looked anymore. But it definitely made an impression. Lake Taupo is apparently the size of Singapore, though our city-state should be bigger now with recent years of land reclamation.
The weather in Taupo when we were there was mostly horrid, so when the sun made an appearance, we drove around looking for areas where we could access the lake.
Things to Do in Taupo
As the title of this post suggests, Taupo was definitely memorable with the adrenaline-filled adventures.
#1 Sky Dive
This has always been on my bucket list. And I was insanely jealous when D tried it before me during his New Zealand trip, it was never even on his bucket list!
We couldn’t decide which company to do our dive with, but with news that Taupo Tandem Skydiving just got themselves a brand new hummer days before, we decided to make our booking with a request for the hummer to pick us up.
I’ll confess that I didn’t know what a hummer was prior to this, so I have no basis of comparison whatsoever.. But was our ride the coolest or what?! Our skydiving experience was getting off to a fantastic start.
I was crazy excited when we reached, and was waiting for fear to take over as the impending jump neared. But it never did. All I felt was excitement when walking towards the plane all geared-up. As the plane took off and made its way up into the skies, I was simply in awe.
And when we made that final leap off the plane, my heart skipped a beat. I never felt more free in my life.
We chose a splendid day to do our jump, and the scenery was magnificent. When I showed my mum the video, she thought the outline of the lake was Earth. I got a chuckle out of it, but I could see how she got mistaken.
#2 Tongariro Alpine Crossing
We opted to drive to Ketetahi Car Park which was at the end of the route, and paid $30 each for a shuttle bus to ferry us to the starting point. This gave us flexibility in deciding how long our journey would take, and assurance that I would be able to walk the trek at my own pace.
We had the LOTR special edition of the trek.. Which basically translates into fog/ clouds/ mist throughout the entire journey. Not the best weather, but our hostel manager advised us that the weather would continue to worsen when we enquired. As it turns out, she was right, and we’re glad we did the trek the day we did.
Maybe we’re just trying to comfort ourselves, but the weather added a little thrill and excitement to the whole journey. Especially the descent, you’ll see why in a minute.
Everyone was geared up with walking sticks and windbreakers, but there we were – two Asian girls with their day packs (Kanken for me no less) and cotton jackets.
Our first check-point was Soda Springs, the walk took approximately 1 hour and there weren’t many steep slopes. This was the easy part of the trek, as my brochure read, but I could feel myself getting a teeny bit tired.
The next 2 hours of the trek was pure torture. We went through the Devil’s Staircase, an endless climb of steps. You know the feeling when you think you’re almost at the top, and mustered that final burst of energy.. Only to find out that you’re still 3/4 away from the final end point. The only consolation is that you’re not in it alone, you can hear the groans and curses around you.
We didn’t manage to see the craters with the poor visibility, so it was really a mindless climb with pretty much no views. J had to resort to bribing me with cookies for motivation.
Imagine walking down on loose gravel with visibility of 400-500m. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, mentally that is, and it took us both forever to get down.
This was where we saw countless people overtaking us, skipping down the loose gravel trail without a care, even when they slipped. But us Singaporeans were just too worried to fall, so we took a slow and steady walk down.
The usual time people took for the crossing was 6-8 hours, but we clocked a total of 9 hours. Partly due to the time we took to descent, but more so because the fog lifted – and we got a glimpse of the elusive Emerald Lake. So of course we needed to stop and take pictures. By that, I mean many pictures.
The worst part of the trek was over, but we still had 3 more hours to go. The journey back to the carpark wasn’t difficult henceforth, but there weren’t much views along the way.
Probably why we saw some people making their way back after the descent, that’s probably an option if you don’t want to pay for the shuttle bus and make your way back to the starting point where your vehicle is parked. But there’s just that pride in being able to say you walked the entire 19.4km trek.
I’ve never been happier to see a carpark… We made it! Just under 9 hours.
#3 Spa Thermal Park
The rain kept us from going outdoors, but this one was place where water was welcomed! We could adjust the temperature of the water to our liking by moving around to find that perfect mix of hot water from the hot spring, and cold water from the rest of the lake.
J & I made a promise that we would make our way to the mini waterfall, assuming that was where the water was the hottest, only to find out the temperature wasn’t too bad after all!
#4 Huka Falls
From the Spa Park there’s an easy one hour trail to get to the falls, but we made our way here on a separate day by car. There’s a bridge at the top of the falls where you can observe the constant strong rush of water.
There’s also meant to be some vantage points around the falls to enjoy their full splendour, but the one we stopped by wasn’t that impressive.
#5 Aratiatia Dam
Wanting to see more of these rapids in action, we took a short drive to the dam where it is due to release water at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm daily. We made it in good time for the first afternoon session, and did a quick recce for the best spot to settle down. And settle down we did, at one of the best vantage points to capture the process.
Dining in Taupo
It’s rare that I have left the food portion to the very last, usually that’s the first thing I’ll be the most excited about. But then again, we ate in most of the time, saving up for our skydiving which didn’t come cheap.
We did eat out at a couple of restaurants, and also checked out the coolest Maccers in the world.
#1 McDonald’s Taupo
I wasn’t kidding when I said it was the coolest – it made the list of top 10 coolest Macs in the world – with a decommissioned plane as part of the store. The first time we went there only to find out it was only open until 5pm, so we had to make our way back again for pictures and more reason to indulge in fast food. Verdict? I’m Lovin’ It!
#2 Lake House
There’s a whole stretch of restaurants by the lake front, and after walking and deliberating, we decided to order a plate of ribs served with baked potato skins to share. The ribs were good, but we weren’t a fan of the potato skins.
As mentioned, we were saving up for skydiving and didn’t want to indulge. The table next to us didn’t have that problem, and their steak served on a stone plate sure looked good.
#3 Pub N Grub
Again another restaurant along the lake front, where we ordered a pasta and seafood chowder to share. The portions were huge and even with an appetite, we still had leftovers. Value for money though.
It has been years since my first sight of that photo of Lake Taupo. Now that I’ve finally seen it with my own eyes, I’m glad it wasn’t just a memory that was overplayed in my own mind.
Taupo had so much more to offer other than its great lake, and it will be one of the most memorable town.