Right, so I'm back in Auckland and enjoying the super-cheap internet once again. From Wellington, I caught a bus up to Taupo. Taupo, pronounced Topau thanks to the Maori accents, is a little town on New Zealand's biggest lake, Lake Taupo. The town was pretty nice and the lake...well it was a lake, but these are not at all the reasons why anybody makes the trip there.
Taupo is famous for its extreme sporting possibilities as well as some amazing hikes. First and foremost, Taupo has some of the best, and cheapest, skydiving in the world. I didn't throw myself from a speeding plane at 15,000 feet, but at only NZ$ 150...it was really, really hard to pass up. Plus you get one of the best views in the world... New Zealand laid out underneath you with the lake and Tongariro National Park, which brings me to my next point. Tongariro National Park is home to the very popular and famous Tongariro Crossing hike. The picture above is just some of the scenery you get along this trek (the pic is not my own, however I did see these three massive mountains from the bus going by the park on the way to town as well as across the lake in the distance). And if that volcano in the middle looks familiar, it is because it was used as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Speaking of the Lord of the Rings, if that landscape looks at all familiar, it is because it was used for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings.
Now we all know I am a huge fan of LOTR, and this hike was the main reason why I made the journey to Taupo. Unfortunately, the weather decided not to play along with my travel plans, and the weather would not permit any hikers on the peaks in the park (winds exceeding 90 kph and extreme cold temperatures....). So I got to spend two days wandering town in the cloudy and rainy weather. Lovely. So I was pretty bummed out about this, but oh well, I can't change the weather.
Tomorrow I am off to Queenstown and the rest of the South Island, where hopefully the weather will be more agreeable (at least on the days I plan to do more hiking...pleeeease!). I also skipped doing a bungy in Taupo because I will be doing my bungy jumping in Queenstown (IF the weather allows that is). Other plans for the S. Island (weather permitting) are a day trip over to Milford Sound in Fjordland National Park, a night at the Franz Josef Glacier, a day hike along the beaches and through the forests of Abel Tasman National Park, and a day and a half in Kaikoura (and maybe a whale watching trip there as well) before returning to Christchurch and flying out to Australia. Those are the plans, but who knows how things will actually go! Wish me luck (or just good weather)!