The next day we drove to Napier where we had decided to stay for a couple of days.
Napier is famous for its Art Deco architecture, a result of rebuilding following an earthquake in the 1930’s which destroyed much of the town. We drove up to the top of a hill in the middle of the town which had great views over Hawke’s Bay and the town.
We enjoyed a day relaxing in the town and van, making the most of the sunny weather. We also paid a visit to Opossum World which is a slightly disturbing shop stuffed with possum-related products, and an associated exhibition of the life and times of a possum in NZ.
After a couple of days in Napier we moved on towards Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. The journey was very scenic, passing fabulous waterfalls and landscapes formed following volcanic erruptions at Taupo.
As we travelled, the weather changed and it started to rain. And it rained and rained and didn’t look like stopping.
Arriving in Taupo we checked in at the campsite and then went for a meal in town. It continued to rain on and off for the rest of the day.
The Falls were in full flow after the rain, letting the water out of Lake Taupo into the Waikato River. It continued to rain while we were there, and hadn’t really stopped for a day or so.
The Craters of the Moon is a strange place. Formed when the nearby Geothermal Power Station was constructed in the 1950’s causing the water-table level to drop and causing the remaining water to boil up through the ground reating craters and steaming vents. The area is quite eerie, particularly in the gloomy rain-soaked weather we were experiencing. Clouds of steam rise from craters and vents, mud pools bubble and there’s a smell of sulpur. Strange but interesting place, and free to visit.
The next day we drove down to the Tongariro National Park, again in the rain. Having seen the area in the Lord of the Rings films, where it was used to depict the wastelands of Mordor, I had expected to drive through miles of volcanic rocky landscape. In contrast the area was actually very green and it’s only as you get higher up and closer to the various volcanoes and mountains that the area starts to take on the expected character.
As we drove up through Whakapapa, and past the Grand Chateau, the weather got worse and cloud came down. Reaching the end of the road at Iwikau Village and the Whakapapa Ski Field on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, the mountains had disappeared into the cloud and the rain poured down.
We popped into the shop and bought some bits and pieces, and by the time we emerged the rain had stopped and the cloud had lifted so we could walk around a little and take some photos, including one of the neighbouring cloud-cloaked mountains Mount Ngauruhoe, which was digitally enhanced in the LotR film trilogy to play the part of Mount Doom.
We then drove back down to the Tawahi Falls in the greener area of the park to take some photos and have a spot of lunch.
After that it was on to Rotorua for a few days.