Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park
Lake Taupo is located in the center of the North Island in New Zealand. Our whole Georgia Tech study abroad program spent four days here (and got to have a day off from classes!). We stayed in a resort in the town of Taupo and made our way to Tongariro National Park one day to hike. Tongariro is located about an hour south of Taupo.
I woke up and had lots of toast for breakfast (are you sensing a pattern here?) and we made the long bus trip to Taupo. Since ice cream was always on my mind while in New Zealand, I obviously seeked out an ice cream shop on one of our stops on the way. We stopped a few times on the bus at the lookouts and finally arrived where we were staying, at Lakeland Resort Taupo. With two hours to spare before dinner, we lounged around our rooms and hung out. Dinner was prepared by the resort and it was fantastic! Later, Kaitlyn, Leonid and I walked into town and watched the sunset over the lake. We ended up getting a cab back since it was dark and a couple miles away. That evening ended with a hot tub party at the resort!
We woke up early and had a slightly better than Weir House (where we had been staying in Wellington) breakfast. We boarded the coach bus and set off to Tongariro National Park. The plan for the day was to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This trail is said to be New Zealand’s best day hike. Between the beautifully blue lakes and expansive views, it’s easy to see why. The hike is 19.6 km (12 mi) and takes about 7 hours.
The hike starts through relatively flat grasslands. Mt Ngauruhoe (Lord of the Ring’s Mt Doom) comes into view along the way. The trail gradually gains elevation and becomes rockier. You pass several craters and bright blue lakes as you go.
The last stretch is fairly difficult. It is straight up and gravelly. Every time I took a step, I would slide back some, making the trek up close to impossible. A few of us hooked arms and helped each other up. The weather at the top had changed dramatically. It was freezing and windy and we were actually afraid we would get blown away in the wind. On the way back down, we hiked through lots of rain and hail. I’d say it was worth it though. We made it down in 1.5 hours, when the estimated time was 3, because we were so cold and hungry. There was a Chateau at the end where we stopped to get hot chocolate and food.
We took the bus back to Taupo and a cab into town. Dinner this night was at The Shed, a nice restaurant that turned into a bar at night. I had been craving lamb all day and they had it! It was seriously the best meal I’d ever had, and possibly still is. We all split some pitchers of beer and then migrated over to a dancing club after dinner. We made it back to the resort around 11:30 and headed straight to bed after a long day.
Today we didn’t really have plans, so we spent the day in Taupo. We left our resort around 10 and headed to the natural hot springs near town. The springs were so relaxing and there were a few hot tub-sized natural pools– perfect for sitting in. There was even a waterfall of hot water that you can stand under!
Several of us hung out at the park right by the springs afterwards and did yoga, ate our packed lunches, and played on the playground. We were all planning on going bungy jumping at Taupo Bungy, but I ended up chickening out last minute. Colin, Leonid, and I were not jumping so we took pictures of the others.
After the bungy jumping experience, we walked into town and did some souvenir shopping and then ate at Burger Fuel, a cute burger joint right on the lakefront with a great view. We had perfect weather so we sat outside. Next door was a biker bar, where they had karaoke going on. At one point, no one was going up to sing so they picked the Americans out and made Rachel, Alex, and me go up to sing. Alex refused and one of the bikers literally picked him up out of his chair and carried him over to the microphone!! Funniest part of the day. We chose Sweet Home Alabama to sing. We ended the night with a hot tub party again where we were staying.
All we did this day was drive back to Wellington. It was about a 4.5 hour drive plus we made a stop for lunch and a few scenic stops. It was an amazing weekend and I would highly recommend Lake Taupo!