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NEW ZEALAND | Thursday, 16 August 2007 | Views [581]

We took a fairly long drive this morning, retracing our steps from Monday - to visit some of the things we saw outside our car windows as we sped past on our cross-country trek at the start of the week. First off was the Volcanic Activity Centre in Taupo. The good people of Taupo know all about their volcanoes. Mount Ruapehu - their local celebrity mountain - erupts every couple of years, mostly just a small gurgle, but occasionally a belter of an earth belch - spewing rock, ash and anything else in the vicinity high into the sky to land God knows where. The last major activity was 11 years ago. Unfortunately for the local economy this happened right in the middle of the skiing season, disrupting Ruapehu's nixer as a ski slope for mad men.

Taupo as a city is famous only for it's lake, itself the result of a volcanic eruption twenty-six millenia past. The lake sits happily in the centre of the caldera that resulted from the collapse of the ground above the hole emptied out by the eruption. The only escape route for the lake's water is the Waikato River which edges its way to the Tasman Sea as the longest river in New Zealand. Along this wandering path, the wide river encounters an eye of a needle through which it must force itself, causing the spectacle that is the Huka Falls. This stunning waterfall - above which Ruth is photographed - is most remarkable for the greenish blue colour of its water, apparently caused by the clarity of the water reflecting blue light and accented by the bubbles in the water.

On the opposite side of State Highway 1 is a park slightly inaccurately named Craters of the Moon. This small stretch of barren land looks something like the Burren, except for the multitude of puncture wounds in the earth - the various craters and fumeroles which carry the earth's steam to the surface. It's not exactly what we imagine the moon to look like - even if you ignore the signposts and siren. Interesting stuff though.

On our Monday journey we zipped past the New Zealand Army Museum at Waiouru - worthy of a visit, but time constraints on the day meant we fired on. Today, while in Taupo, at around 2:45, we resolved to make up for the missed opportunity on Monday and make our way to the museum. Maybe it was the heat exhaustion from the hot pools yesterday, or maybe we'd just forgotten, but as we raced down the highway we reached 4:00pm before we reached the museum. At this point, we checked the guidebook to find out that the museum closes at 4:30, some 15 minutes after we actually got there. This gave us enough time to get the type of superficial knowledge with which you can start a conversation which you have to quickly excuse yourself from. For example we know that over the years the Maori faught with, against and as part of the New Zealand army. We read about how the Kiwis involved themselves in both World Wars - most famously at Gallipoli in 1915, the Boer War and the wars in Vietnam and Korea. Then we were chased out of the museum by the New Zealand army. Well, one guy in combats.

We could have taken him.

Tags: Sightseeing


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