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oct 02, 2000
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sept 30, 2000
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sept 28, 2000
Coromandel Town... (more)

sept 27, 2000
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sept 25, 2000
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sept 21, 2000
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sept 20, 2000
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october 04, 2000
The town of Taupo sits at the north edge of New Zealand's largest body of water, Lake location map Created in the most recent blink of an eye, photo herethe Lake occupies the large area created during a massive volcanic eruption 2000 years ago. Ash from the eruption is all over the country. To the south lie the taller volcanic landforms of the Tongariro region, including Mt Ruapeho, which erupted last in 1995.

North of town, the Waikato River flows tremendously through narrow gorges, such as photo here Huka Falls. A series of hydroelectric plants and dams along the river control its flow and generate a significant portion of energy for the entire North Island. The water is an amazing pale blue color and is crystal clear (where it is not foaming through a rapid!). From the Huka Falls lookout you can hike both upstream and downstream through a very well maintained set of trails.

today's photos
- all photos   o o o o

o o Taupo

photo here But more than just harnessing energy from the flowing water, the Kiwis also generate electricity from the volcanic natural heat sources just below the surface. The Wairakei Geothermal Plant (where I got an excellent view from the Borefield Lookout) is a complex network of pipes, pumps, and other sorts of mechanical devices.

photo hereThere was an interesting consequence of this plant, it altered the underground hot water flow system, creating the neighboring Craters of the Moon park, a round valley of steaming pits and billowing steam hissing from deep craters. The views look more like a forest fire!

photo hereThe power plant people must have been gracious with their actions as this is all a free park to explore, and the one hour walk is well worth it. The views of MT Tauhara are great from the upper ridge line trail.

For the next two nights, I treat myself to a nice room at the Baycrest Lodge, a room with a photo here view right across the street to Lake Taupo (and a spa!). In the evening clouds move in and out, scraping thin trails of rain here and there, and the wind whips up the water fairly choppy. The big mountains to the south are still obscured, and will just have to wait until I drive around them.

The next morning brings the nicest morning sky in more than a week. This is a good day to cram in some outdoor activities. First on tap is doing some mountain biking. With help from Emma at the tourist information center (this is a great system they have here- every town has a well marked center for information and reservations), I met the guys from Rapid Sensations who provided me a mountain bike and head lid (helmet) for 3 hours of romping around Wairakei park (the Huka Falls area I saw yesterday).

photo here While I could have hit some forest track up near Craters of the Moon, I opted for the Waikato River trail, the opposite direction that I hiked yesterday. My stead, a well used Scott, was in fair condition- one cannot expect too much of a rental bike-- with a front elastomer shock that did not do much and some non-responsive downshifting gears (bike talk). But it did the job.

photo here Just past the falls overlook (this is as far as 95% of the visitors here ever get to see), the trail climbed very high and steep to a fantastic overlook with a better view of the falls. From here, it was a long downhill high speed scream, followed by an even bigger and sharper climb up another ridge. The trails are very smooth and void of major obstacles.

photo here In about 45 minutes, I had reached Aratiatia Dam and power station, another place where energy is drawn out of the water surging towards the Aratiatia rapids. Numerous black swans glide easily in the calm waters behind the dam.

This was my turn around point, so it was time to hit the return trail. I must have been well-warmed up, because I cruised like an Olympic medalist (okay, that was very exaggerated-- but it felt good to ride). photo here The trail had some more good climbs and I rode them all (Hey Ruvi, there is no camera tilt in that photo!).

After returning the bike to the rental folks, enjoying a coffee, I returned to town and had lunch at a "kebob" place. Not like the kebobs I have had back at home, these were meat and veggies with sauce wrapped in a large toasted hot tortilla, more like a gyro or burrito. Whatever you want to call it, I enjoyed the food. I next went back to the tourist information center where I had made reservations to be picked up for an afternoon kayak trip.

But I was told the river for the trip had been subject to a dam release and was not suitable for the trip. Plus, some heavy weather was moving in, and the trip was nixed. So I had some time to browse the shops, enjoy the outdoor hot pool at the hotel, and just relax.

Tomorrow I am on the road to Wanganui, passing by a few volcanoes...

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