The drive from the Wellington area up to Lake Taupo was a little too long for us to want to do it in one day, so we broke it up by stopping in Mangaweka for the night. They have made a wonderful job of the campsite there. I haven’t remarked upon most of the places we stayed, but I was seriously impressed with the facilities at Awastone.
The site is set right in a river gorge. The scenery was completely different from anything else we had seen up to that point. It wasn’t as magnificent or classically pretty as most of the places we had been, but there was something ruggedly appealing about it. They run rafting tours from this spot that I have to assume would be a ton of fun. There’s a waterfall on the right side of the image below. It was actually pretty cool, but it’s going to take a long time for Milford Sound to wear off enough that I don’t turn my nose up at the lesser waterfalls of the world. I attempted get the thick river mud off my boots before going back to the campervan by kicking some low scrubby bushes, and X-Man thought it was hysterically funny that Mama was kicking the plants. It was amazing to be somewhere that the moon is so clear and bright that it illuminates the dark side in pictures. Kris gets photo credit for this one!The next day, we made it to Lake Taupo and were immediately delighted to discover that this meant DUCKS! Xander was practically vibrating with excitement. Word got out quickly that some humans had been suckered into feeding them, and the whole bird neighborhood came over to get in on the action. In addition to the seagulls, black swans, and ducks, we were joined by Australian coots…A pair of Canada geese…And some pokahahas (pukeko)…Kris was determined to lose a finger.The black swans were so elegant! With their feathers blowing in the wind, they looked like some kind of elaborate high heel shoes.My men felt compelled to chase the sparrows (and the innocent bystander pokahaha).We arrived at our campsite in Taupo and were even more excited to find there was a mama duck and no fewer than ten ducklings following her around! Pardon me while I bombard your senses with the cuteness.I found it seriously impressive that she was able to get all ten ducklings under her. It was hilarious to watch them all squish in. It would seem like everything had settled and then one would get expelled by the others and come flying out. Then, that one would charge back under and knock one out from the other side. Mama duck put up with it for a few minutes before scolding them all and making them settle. While in Taupo, we hiked the Waihaha Link portion of the Great Lake Trail. It’s a 13km stretch that’s used for both walking and mountain biking, but we didn’t see anyone doing either while we were there. If you haven’t picked up on it, winter is an amazing time to visit New Zealand because nothing is busy! The trail follows the Waihaha River to Lake Taupo and has scenic views of the river valley, waterfalls, and the lake at the very end.
When we got to the trailhead, we had to hunker down in the campervan for a little while because it randomly started hailing. Kris caught some out the window and showed it to Xander. He was suitably impressed that ice was falling from the sky.
Since we lost a bit of time waiting for the weather to shift, we didn’t have time between naps to make it all the way to the lake, but thoroughly enjoyed the stretch of the hike that we were able to do. The image below is Kris assessing the river flow to determine what kind of stick he should select for our game of Pooh Sticks. We decided to wait and play on the way back because we were eager to stretch our legs and keep moving. I can’t make out what the bird is in the image below. Can anyone tell? It looks a bit like a New Zealand white-faced heron, but the coloring seemed wrong. Listen to me! New Zealand has turned me into a bird person!The image below is to document my Pooh Sticks victory on the Waihaha Link Trail Bridge! I’m excited for the day Xander is old enough to play too. If you aren’t familiar with Pooh Sticks, it’s a game devised by Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. Each person (or bear) selects a stick and holds it over the edge of the bridge. The competitors drop their sticks at the same time. The competitor’s stick that reappears on the other side of the bridge first wins! Pooh Sticks should be played at every opportunity.From Lake Taupo, we were continuing on to Waitomo, home of the world-famous glowworm caves!
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