Day 167: Volcanic Action

Sun. 27th January 2013

Train for the roadAs we head out of Napier I grab some last minute photos while Dave grabs a Starbucks. The drive today is going to be further than I hoped as the access road to the three active volcanoes south of Taupo is on the far side of them so we will have to drive almost 270o round them.

Posing before getting ready to raceWe do not have any hotel booked for tonight so we will see how the day goes. When we arrive in Taupo, the lakeside car park is full of speed boats which we understand will be racing in a few hours time at 1pm. However we decide we need to head on to Turangi if we are to get anywhere close to the three volcanoes.

Lake Taupo and Mt RuapehuOur route takes us along the shore of Lake Taupo, which is as big as Singapore. In the distance we can see the snow covered volcano, where we are heading. In order to check out times we stop at the iSite office in Tarangi and discover that we need to catch a chairlift up from the ski resort of Whakapapa and that the last chairlift back down is at 4pm. The walk we want to do to the top and back takes two hours, so as ever we are rushing to make it in time.

We also discover that one of the roads into the Tongariro National Park, where the volcanoes are, is closed due to volcanic activity. We had seen a whisp of white smoke in the air en route which was now confirmed to be the volcanic activity. No time to photograph now as we have a deadline (just like at work!!)

Chair lift station from aboveWe head on up to Wakapapa village and on to the ski resort area. There are very few cars for a Sunday afternoon and there is no queue at all when we arrive at the chair lift at 1pm. This should give us time to do the Skyline Walk and back before chair lift stops at 4pm. We remember that we have walking poles with us and also change into our walking boots. When wew get to the top and see the terrain, we are glad of both decisions.

Do you think I should get some skis?It actually takes two chairlifts to get as high as we can towards the top. The chairlifts pass over people walking up in the heat and are glad we forked out our $30 each for the chairlift. The chairlift reminds Dave of skiing but quite a different experience without the skis. The terrain of boulders looks quite unforgiving and would not be fun to ski without a good depth of snow, Dave tells me.

Classic volcano shapeIt is not easy walking on the deep gravel like surface and at times we seem to walk twice as far as necessary as we slide back down the slope. At least it should be easier on the way down. We are certainly glad that we brought our walking poles up the mountain with us, we have been carrying them for the last 5 months so we want to get good use out of them.

I can see for miles and milesIt is a lovely clear sunny day and we can see for miles giving incredible views. Finally we get as far as possible and can go no further, as the path is also shut due to volcanic activity. We are not sure why a few metres nearer the top would be less safe than where we are as if the volcano did erupt we would stand little chance of escaping from any advancing lava. Luckily we do not find out. As the walk is easier down than up (relatively speaking) we are in good time for the last chairlift down, which saves us a two hour walk back to our car.

Volcanic activityOn our return to Turangi we have more time to stop and stop to photograph the whisp of smoke/steam emanating from Mt Tongariro. We then decide to continue to drive back to Taupo where we saw loads of vacancy signs outside the many motels. Not only will this reduce the driving tomorrow, it is also a bigger town than Turangi and so we hope for a good selection of restaurants for supper.

After finding and settling in to a motel for the night, we walk into Taupo town for a lovely Italian meal washed down with a New Zealand chardonnay. We had hoped to try the Esk Valley chardonnay which was on the menu but they were out of stock so we settled for the local house one, which went down well (and was one third the price). We passed the Esk Valley winery on our way out of Napier this morning and had been told it was a good place to stop for a tasting. Perhaps it is just as well that we passed at  9:30am this morning and they didn’t open until 10!

As the sun goes downAs the town is on the lake we walk back along lake side to catch the sun going down. It was still pleasantly warm and the night was young and just beginning to come to life in the many local bars. However, we did not stay around as we knew we had another full day ahead tomorrow.



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