Having left Wellington after noon, the long drive up to Taupo would certainly mean arriving in the dark. However, I was hoping to reach the Desert Road before the sun set. I really wanted to see those famous peaks of Tongariro National Park in daylight. With all the road construction zones and safe speed reduction areas, it was looking like it would be tight.
Thankfully, I made it just as the sun was setting behind them.
I would have stayed longer to enjoy the full sunset, however, I still had at least an hour of driving ahead of me and I was already tired today. So, I hit the road again. Arriving in Taupo at 6:30pm may as well have been midnight. The streets were empty and most buildings were dark. That meant the view of the stars were amazing, though!
Arriving in Taupo at 6:30pm may as well have been midnight. The streets were empty and most buildings were dark. That meant the view of the stars were amazing, though!
My hotel for the night was up near Huka Falls, so that meant a very short trip in the morning to check them out. They are definitely worth checking out if you’re in the neighbourhood; the volume and power of these small falls are pretty impressive.
Just across the highway, I went to check out the Craters of the Moon. The chilly morning air was dense with the steam coming from the geothermal craters. It really did feel other-worldly at times.
On the road to Rotorua, the landscapes struck me as being so different than the South Island. The smaller rounded hills, lush with greenery were quite a contrast to the snow-capped peaks I had become accustomed to. And sometimes, the man-made objects had their own beauty too.
In Rotorua, I was really dying to see something of the Maori culture. Although I had seen a Haka competition on tv while in Nelson – and it was quite impressive, I really wanted to see something in person. Especially since the art in Wellington whet my appetite and had me curious for more traditional pieces.
I had quickly read about Ohinemutu before driving up to Rotorua. So, when I arrived, I wandered over there first thing. It was a striking sight right at the first glance of the church from up the road. The houses along the road leading up to the site had incredible pouwhenua (carvings like totems).
Normally I like being alone. However, there was something eerie about how quiet it was in the area. Almost like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I figured if that was true, someone would let me know. So, I kept walking and taking pictures. There was almost too much to take in. The intricate details and striking colours were mesmerizing.
Transfixed by everything I was seeing, I got lost in time down there. Which meant I wasn’t able to explore other areas of Rotorua more, as I had intended. Again, the road was calling. I still had a long part of the drive ahead to make it to Auckland – my very last stop. Truly hard to believe this road trip – and whole trip! – is coming to an end. (Insert deep sigh here…)