Stratford to Turangi via Tongariro National Park

24 Feb

19th February 2013

Camped in a small campsite in Stratford last night and then travelled along the Forgotten World highway to Taumaranui and then on to Tongariro National Park. It is a beautiful drive and would be really good fun on a motorbike.

Just before Taumaranui you pass the Whanganui River, which looked a great place for a kayak trip … but no time! We drove down along the river on a side road to find a lunch spot, and Graham got distracted while letting someone past on the road and dropped one wheel into a soft, grass covered gully … during the drought, it must have been the only mud for miles. It was so deep that the car sunk until it stopped on the chassis …. very embarrassing …. !!

How embarrassing - stuck in the mud!

Pulled out by a mule

All the way from the UK to Malaysia through Russia and Mongolia without ever needing a tow, and we get stuck in a major drought on a dusty back road! Oh well …

You can see the volcanoes of Tongariro from quite a distance as you drive towards them.

Tongariro National Park

You may recognise the volcano on the right as it featured as Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings. Its real name is Mt Ngauruhoe. One of the standard post cards of the mountain includes a Kiwi sign just in case there is any doubt which country you are in.

Mt Doom with Kiwi sign

One of the classic walks in the area is the Tongariro crossing, however it is another one or two day walk and we could not face it so soon after Mt Taranaki … lazy!! That meant that we had to drive around taking as many volcano views as possible …. mostly with Kiwi signs … here is another one!

Tongariro view and another Kiwi sign

Another reason for not doing the walk was that Marjool had already done it during her very first backpacking trip …. in winter, equipped with only a woolly jumper, trainers and supplies in a carrier bag (water and chocolate) with her friend Shirl. Lucky they survived!

Volcano warning

A quick stop in the visitors centre at Tongariro and a look at the ‘what to do in an eruption’ confirmed that it was better not to do the walk.

I quote ” Shelter from any flying rocks behind boulders etc. If there is no shelter, watch the flying rocks and move to avoid being hit”. Scary!

We drove on towards the south side of Taupo lake and found a really nice Scenic Reserve outside Turangi that allowed free camping and pitched up for the night. Graham played in the water with the black swans while Marjool cooked the dinner.

Jumping out of Taupo

Taupo nice place to cook!

Free camping at Taupo scenic reserve

Late tomorrow we are picking up Tom in Taupo as he is coming to pick up the car.

20th February 2013

In the morning we gave an Austrian girl a lift who had been camping at the same spot. She was heading for work at Rotorua and Taupo was a good place to pick up a lift for the last leg of the journey. We dropped her off at what we thought would be a good spot to get a lift.

Dropping off after a lift

We then went and found a cabin on a campsite so that we could unpack the car completely and re pack everything in our backpacks. Graham also went to Repco (the big car spares place) to buy some engine coolant, oil filter and some spare belts for the car. The coolant had been replaced with water at some point and it was starting to show signs of corrosion in the header tank …. boring!

The campsite lent us a hose and we washed the car …… looked as new as a 17 year old car can!

Tom arrived from his long bus ride from Kaitaia at 1.00 am.

21st February 2013

After a slow start we packed everything and checked out of the campsite. A short drive from there was Huka Falls which we had heard was worth a visit.

Tom picking up the car Huka falls

We then drove to Napier on route five to visit some friends in the nearby town of Hastings, Steve and Denise. We had met them through the Troopytracks website as they are planning a trip through Mongolia and were interested in our vehicle and the route. We met them in England when they were visiting for the Olympics. Lovely people!

They were busy working when we arrived and so we relaxed in their back porch. The house is a much renovated old colonial house and is beautiful!

Steve and Denise's great house

Relaxing on the back porch

A beer with Eddie

We then took a drive up Mt Mata, a peak near their house with great views over the farmland and wineries.

The next morning Steve and Denise were taking us on a drive along the beach on motorbikes and a quad to see the gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers. Timing was important as you can only get there at low tide. You need to be back before it rises or you are cut off by the cliffs. Only downside was that we had to set the alarm at 5.30am to be all prepared and loaded up for 6.45am to catch the tide. It would be worth it though!

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