A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - Rotorua to Wellington

via Huka Falls and River Rapids Ride, Lake Taupo, Tongariro Park (Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe/Doom, Mt Ruapehu), Desert Highway, Mangameka (plane cafe), Hunterville, Bulls, Otaki (Kapiti Island), Wellington, Thai meal, seafront, Te Papa museum

Saturday 30th January 2016 Lake Taupo jet boat ride, Tongariro Mountain Park, Rangipo Desert, Mangaweka and Wellington

A sensible time get up with breakfast delivered the night before, then off down the Thermal Explorers Highway to Taupo (pronounced Tor-por). Arriving with a bit of time to spare, we went to see Huka Falls. Waikato River is one of New Zealand’s longest rivers. It is normally around 100m wide but at Huka Falls the river squeezes to 20m wide and drops 20m. Huka Falls has 220,000 litres of water pass through every second. This creates an amazing spectacle of water and foam (Huka is Foam in Maori) that never ceases to enthral visitors to Lake Taupo. There is a viewing bridge directly above Huka Falls providing the perfect vantage point to experience Huka Falls and get plenty of pictures or video. Huka falls is a short drive from central Lake Taupo with plenty of parking. There is a nice scenic walk along the banks of the river. Turning off the highway it was easy to find the car park, and the falls were indeed impressive. A short walk over the gorge bridge with the water thundering below to where they open out was our time gone, so we drove back to Rapids Jet for our jet boat ride (10.30-11.15). http://rapidsjet.com
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Rapids Jet
An exhilarating jet boating experience through blockbuster film locations, Rapids Jet has been in operation for over 20 years. Our Taupo jetboat drivers have thousands of hours experience providing an exciting safe unique boat experience. Rapids jet boat is unique to Lake Taupo because we jet boat White Water Rapids! Waikato River and Huka Falls provide the water, Rapids Jet the fun. Shoot through the narrow canyon on crystal clear waters, surf the pressure waves of Nga Awa Purua Rapids and hold on for the spins! These are Waikato’s biggest rapids. The tool of trade is the trusty jet boat. Powered by the Hamilton Jet this is one of the safest adrenalin activities in New Zealand. Rapids Jet jet boats are specially designed and custom built to navigate the ever changing Waikato River and winding contours of our scenic landscape. Each jet boat is powered by a 500 horsepower V8 Chevy engine, highly manoeuvrable, reliable and extremely safe. Taupo Rapids Jet is situated 15km from central Lake Taupo near Aratiatia Dam. Local kiwi owner/ drivers Rusty, Jimmy, Gazza will take you on the most thrilling 35 min jet boat ride of your life. Share our love of jet boating. Kia Ora. Welcome to our world. You will be on the water for 35 minutes.
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When we got there we realised they'd been trying to phone as a group had cancelled leaving only us and could we move to the afternoon. When we explained that we had to get to Wellington by 5 they were very chilled and offered us a private ride, yay. Brill fun- up to the dam, loads of 360 turns, shooting over rapids... We saw where Bilbo came down the Anduin in a barrel, where Yogi (the part-animated movie) shot over the river losing his car and even where Pooh stopped (wasn't clear on this reference). Driver clearly enjoying himself as we flew further with only 3 people! Sadly he didn't let us take the controls.
After our great ride on the jet boat it was back to the car and on down the highway. We stopped in the pretty town of Taupo along the lakefront to fill up with petrol and Steve discovered what would become his favourite NZ chocolate bar- Whittakers (who did a range of nutty choc bars in golden wrappers- Steve heaven!). http://www.whittakers.co.nz/html/home/ http://www.sanza.co.uk/Whittakers_Peanut_Slab.asp
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Then it was back up to drive along a side of the Lake with its beautiful blue waters (with a brief pit stop to feel the lake temperature) to Turangi. You can tell how big the lake is when you realise it took 3⁄4 hour to drive 1 side (as comparison Lac Leman = 580km2 73x14km max depth 310m; Lake Taupo = 616km2 46x33km max depth 186m). Obviously there the comparison ends, as Geneva is a flooded valley, whilst Taupo is a collapsed caldera.
Lake Taupo lies in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption that occurred approximately 26,500 years ago, probably one of the biggest ever. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years. It has ejected mostly rhyolitic lava, although Mount Tauhara is formed from dacitic lava. The initial event 26,500 years ago is known as the Oruanui eruption. It was the world's largest known eruption in the past 70,000 years, ejecting 1170 cubic km of material and causing several hundred square kilometres of land to collapse and form the caldera. The caldera later filled with water. It is possible that the Lake Taupo event contributed to starting the Last Glacial Maximum. Several later eruptions before the most recent major eruption, c232-180 AD. Known as the Hatepe eruption, it ejected 100 cubic km of material, of which 30 cubic km was ejected in a few minutes. This was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5000 years (alongside the Minoan eruption 2nd millennium BC, Tianchi eruption of Baekdu 1000 AD and 1815 eruption of Tambora), with a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 7; and there appears to be a correlation to a year in which the sky was red over Rome and China. The eruption devastated much of North Island and expanded the lake. The area was uninhabited by humans at the time of the eruption, since New Zealand was not settled by the Māori until about 1280. Taupo's last known (smaller) eruption occurred c1310, with a lava dome extrusion forming the Horomatangi Reefs. Underwater hydrothermal activity continues near the Horomatangi vent, and nearby geothermal fields with associated hot springs are found at Rotokawa and Turangi. These springs are the homes of extremophile micro-organisms, capable of surviving extremely hot environments. The volcano is considered to be dormant rather than extinct as there is moderate Fumarole activity along the shores of the lake.
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We followed the shore south, past Turangi, ascending the central plateau into high country, Rangipo Desert. Skirt Tongariro National Park and the peaks of volcanically active Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom).

Turangi Tongariro
Welcome to the Turangi Tongariro region, the centre of North Island, and covering an area of 2273 sq. kms. Built on the banks of Tongariro River, Turangi is the ideal base for excursions into Tongariro National Park, Kaimanawa Forest Park, Pureroa Forest Park as well as being only a 40 min drive to Whakapapa ski area on Mt Ruapehu. Several small picturesque settlements are close by. Kuratau, Omori, Pukawa and Whareroa are lakeside settlements a short drive off Western Bays Highway, while other delightful villages Motuoapa and Hatepe are passed on State Highway 1. From Turangi we left the lake behind at Tongariro Crossing (above) and began to ascend into Tongariro National Park, famous for Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom). Everything on our map seemed to reference LoTR / Hobbit (often with its real name plus it's Tolkien ref or sometimes just the Tolkien name). Ngauruhoe is the largest and youngest of the Tongariro cones being about 7,000 years old. It is the most continuously active volcano in New Zealand, with the Māori recording many eruptions prior to European colonisation. The first European description was an eruption in 1839. Many recent eruptions have produced lava flows down the side of the cone. The most recent eruption was 1973-5 when eruptions of ash, and blocks of lava were thrown as far as 3 km away with gases streaming from the crater for several hours, producing a churning plume of ash that towered 13 km above the crater. This column then collapsed and formed ash and scoria avalanches that swept down the sides of Ngauruhoe, leaving trails of rubble in their wake. Although it's seen as a mountain in its own right, technically it is secondary cone of Mt Tongariro. The volcano was named by Ngātoro-i-rangi, an ancestor of the local Māori iwi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Local traditions say that Ngātoro-i-rangi called volcanic fire from his homeland Hawaiki which eventually emerged at Ngauruhoe. The name either commemorates his slave, who had died from the cold before the fire arrived, or refers to the insertions (ngā uru) of his hoe into the ground.
Surprisingly quickly we left the trees and bushes behind for a more bleak terrain with low vegetation.
The Lord of the Rings
In autumn 2000, Tongariro National Park was home to Lord of the Rings location, Mordor, the stronghold of the dark Lord Sauron. Mordor, is the great volcanic plateau filled with geological boulders, known as Gorgoroth. Much of Frodo and Sam's journey was filmed around Tongariro Park. The area has jagged volcanic rock formations and eerie barren landscapes, ideally suited to Mordor's hissing wasteland. The following features of Tongariro National Park were used in scenes from the Lord of the Rings.
● Mt Ngauruhoe- Mt Ngauruhoe was digitally altered to appear as Mt Doom.
● Iwikau Village, Whakapapa Ski Area- The maze of razor-sharp rocks, cliffs and ravines of Emyn Muil is located behind Aorangi Lodge.
● Mangawhero Falls- Ithilien Camp was filmed near Mangawhero Falls.
● Tukino Ski Area- Mordor/Door of Sammath Naur
● slopes of Mt Doom- Barren Waste Lands, Sea of Boulders.
● Rangipo Desert- Mordor/Blackgate, orc army scenes.

Mt. Tongariro The Tongariro Alpine Crossing tracks over the volcanic massif of Mt Tongariro, a compound volcano in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, and the northernmost of the three active volcanoes that dominate central North Island. The massif, often simply called Tongariro, has a height of 1978 m. It first erupted 275,000 years ago and consists of at least 12 cones. Ngauruhoe, often regarded as a separate mountain, is geologically a cone of Tongariro. It is also the most active vent. Activity has been recorded at other vents. Te Māri Craters erupted in 2012. Red Crater erupted in 1926 and contains active fumaroles. Water has filled some of the many explosion craters to form Blue Lake and Emerald Lake. The high altitude and severe alpine climate means snow in winter and rain can freeze, causing verglas; in summer, the mountains are bare apart from remnants of snow in south-facing gullies.
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Mt Ngauruhoe, located in Tongariro volcanic complex is New Zealand's newest and historically most active volcano. At 2291m it is the highest point of the complex and like Ruapehu is a stratovolcano (ie composite cone) consisting of alternate layers of ash, scoria and andesite lava (although most eruptions have been ash rather than lava). There are fumaroles in the inner crater and rim, which occasional reach beyond the rim. The cone is at least 2,500 years old and maybe up to 7,000 years. There have been 60 eruptions since 1839, roughly every 9 years until 1975, since when it has been quiet. Ngauruhoe is Mt Doom in LotR (film).
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Mt. Ruapehu (‘pit of exploding/ noise) has two of the largest ski fields in New Zealand, with Whakapapa the larger. The older eroded volcano Hauhungatahi is visible behind it. Ruapehu is an active stratovolcano at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The North Island's major skifields and only glaciers are on its slopes. Ruapehu is the largest active volcano in New Zealand. It is the highest point in the North Island and includes three major peaks: Tahurangi (2,797 m), Te Heuheu (2,755 m) and Paretetaitonga (2,751 m). A deep, active crater is currently a lake between peaks.
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Heading along SH1 aka The Desert Highway, we passed Mt Doom all on its lonesome first, then the rest of the mountains, including the tallest in North Island, permanent snow-capped Mt Ruapehu. As we travelled along the vegetation became sparser until we were in the Rangipo Desert.
Rangipo Desert is a barren desert-like environment in the North Island Volcanic Plateau; east are the active peaks of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapehu, and west the Kaimanawa Range. Rangipo Desert receives 1,500–2,500 mm of rainfall pa, but resembles a desert because of a poor soil, drying winds and mass sterilisation of seeds during eruptions. The vegetation is low and sparse, mainly tussock and snow grasses. Heavy snowfalls are a common occurrence in winter. Much of the desert lies at an altitude of over 600 m, and a considerable proportion is over 1,000 m. Due to the unproductive nature of the land and extreme climate, the region is largely uninhabited. Many of the North Island's large rivers have their headwaters in the area, particularly around the slopes of Mount Ruapehu. These include Waikato, Whangaehu, Rangitikei and Whanganui Rivers. The desert is bisected by one sealed road, State Highway 1 known as the Desert Road. Turangi emergency services monitor the northern part and the NZ army at Waiouru is responsible for the southern end. The Lord of the Rings Black Gate of Mordor scenes were shot in the Rangipo Desert in 2000.
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Rangipo Desert and 3 active peaks of Ruapehu (l), Ngauruhoe (c), Tongariro (r)

A little further on is the military town of Waiouru. Descend the mountain region through farmland and the rural towns of Taihape, Mangaweka and Bulls before arriving on the Kapiti Coast. We passed through the desert and arrived at the obviously military town of Waiouru. Waiouru is a small town on the North Island Volcanic Plateau, 25 km south-east of Mt Ruapehu. The township consists of a small cluster of police station, 2 garages, petrol station, motel, pub, half a dozen cafe/restaurants spread along the highway and Army housing/ camp. We felt no requirement to stop here even though it was late lunch. From here the terrain became less bleak and more valleys/rivers/rolling hills. Through Taihape (it's sign proudly claiming it as gum boot= wellie capital of the world). Taihape is a rural supply town of 1,500 and was at its peak during the 1960s when it was a railway and transport hub for the surrounding farming community. Its location on North Island Main Trunk Railway and State Highway 1 has ensured its economic survival. Taihape's main claim to fame is as “Gumboot Capital of the World", and attracts large numbers to the annual gumboot-throwing contest. Taihape is near the confluence of Hautapu and Rangitikei rivers 500 m above sea level in a sheltered valley, close to Rangitikei River and Ruahine Ranges. Few towns in New Zealand have a steeper street profile, with spectacular views of the Ruahine Ranges.

Then to the tiny township of Mangaweka. Time to stop for coffee and cake in the cafe next to an old DC10. Apparently it used to be a tearoom, but now we could just look inside via the steps. The town was pretty too- preserved 1950s. Mangaweka is a township on State Highway One (SH1), with a population of just under 200. The Rangitikei River runs adjacent to the township, which is popular for rafting, kayaking and swimming. The town is interesting for the historic main street, and growing artists' community. The main street is preserved in its original state due to SH1 being re- located in the early 1980s. This tore the heart out of the town as the main street became redundant, but makes it such a tourist attraction today, with many people stopping to take photographs and visit the flourishing art galleries. The main feature in Mangaweka is an elevated DC-3 aircraft, originally set above SH1 as a tearoom.
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After our stop and chat at the cafe it was out of the park and on down the highway, SH1 still, past Huntersville and Bulls. Bulls- As we drove through Bulls we tried to see the humorous bull signs (look for 'Relieve-a-bull' for the toilet). Bulls marks the junction of State Highways 1 & 3. It’s named after James Bull, an English settler who established the first general store in 1862. All through the town, signage capitalises on Bulls’ unique name. Look out for Consta-bull (Police Station), Forgive-a-bull (Anglican Church), Cure-a-bull (Medical Centre). From Bulls we headed towards the Kapiti coast and its seaside towns of Paraparaumu, Paekakariki and Plimmerton are worth a short detour before arriving in Wellington.
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After Bulls it was a head towards the coast, past a variety of seaside towns until SH1 became, briefly, a motorway, the dual carriageway descending into the capital, Wellington. Paraparaumu is a town in the Kapiti Coast, 55 kms north of Wellington. It has a partner settlement at the coast called Paraparaumu Beach, directly opposite Kapiti Island. It is a major dormitory town to Wellington. Paraparaumu means "scraps from an earth oven" in Māori. It is abbreviated to "Para-Param", or simply "Pram". Paekakariki (Paikakariki) is a town on the Kapiti Coast 45 km NE of Wellington. The town's name means "perching place of the kakariki (green parrot)". It lies on a narrow thin coastal plain between the Tasman Sea and Akatarawa Ranges (part of Tararua Ranges). Plimmerton lies adjacent to pleasant beaches and was set up as a late 19th Century seaside resort. Having got lost twice (rubbishy GPS {what is the “middle left” of two lanes?} and total lack of signposting) we found our hotel (Distinction Wellington Century City Hotel 70 Tory
St), conveniently situated by Courtenay Place, the social centre of Wellington. We went for a walk along the harbour but what with all the drunk teenagers dressed in Pixar costumes, nearly naked men jumping off diving boards and a cold wind, we decided a hot meal made way more sense. Luckily there was a great Vietnamese right by our hotel- Restaurant 88 (after the house number). http://www.restaurant88.co.nz/

Wellington is New Zealand's capital. It sits on a deep natural harbour surrounded by bush clad hills. The city centre is compact so exploring is easy. Once the centre of Wellington's bustling port, Wellington Waterfront is one of the city's most distinctive and attractive precincts. Separating central city from sea, the waterfront is home to a vibrant atmosphere with unique features and attractions. We spotted the beehive shape Parliament Building and passed Te Papa national museum (sadly too late to make it worth going in).

Some Maori legends
Maui is the gifted, clever, tricky demigod of Polynesian mythology responsible for fishing up North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand. After a miraculous birth and upbringing Maui won the affection of his supernatural parents, taught useful arts to mankind, snared the sun and tamed fire. But his most famous feat was fishing up the North Island.
Fishing up an island . Maui’s four brothers conspired to leave him behind when they went fishing. Overhearing their plans, Maui secretly made a fishhook from an ancestor’s magical jawbone. Then he crept into his brothers' canoe and hid under the floorboards. It wasn't until the brothers were far out of sight of land and had filled the canoe floor with fish that Maui revealed himself. He took out his magic fishhook and threw it over the side of the canoe, chanting powerful incantations. The hook went deeper and deeper into the sea until Maui felt it touch something. He tugged and far below the hook had caught a huge fish! Maui brought the fish to the surface and cautioned his brothers to wait until he had appeased Tangaroa the god of the sea before they cut the fish. They grew tired of waiting and began to carve out pieces for themselves. These are now the valleys, mountains, lakes and rocky coastlines of North Island.
Te Ika a Maui To this day North Island is known as Te Ika a Maui or Maui’s fish. Look at a map of New Zealand to see the fish head in the south and its tail in the north. South Island is known as Te Waka a Maui or Maui’s canoe, and Stewart Island/ Rakiura as Te Punga a Maui or Mau’s anchor stone.

Posted by PetersF 01:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tongariro desert boat rotorua lake river island north falls highway te turangi taupo wellington doom bulls papa jet rapids ruapehu ngauruhoe huka otaki kapiti mangameka

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