If there’s one thing about New Zealand that never ceases to amaze me, it’s how quickly the weather and landscape can change. One moment we’re standing on a beach in t-shirts, and the other bundled up on a mountain throwing snowballs.
We’ve driven past beaches, over bridges, through gorges and even across what looked like lunar landscapes.
During our last roadtrip we saw all of the above within a timeframe of 72 hours.
Our first stop was Taupo, home to the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, ‘Great Lake Taupo’. Before actually getting to Taupo, we stopped at Wairakei Park, to check out one of the most visited natural attractions in New Zealand – Huka Falls. Huka Falls is the largest waterfall on the Waikato River, which also happens to be the longest river in New Zealand. This river is 100-meter wide, except at Huka Falls, where water is forced through a 15-meter gorge and an 11-meter drop. Every second, 222,000 litres of water forcefully pours through the gorge, creating a pool of icy blue water. After making our way through an intimidatingly large group of Chinese tourists (their cackling really takes away the magic of any experience) we got to witness the incredible force of the water. We’re not big fans of these crowded tourist-y spots, but it’s quite an impressive sight, and I’m glad I get to scratch this off my NZ bucket list.
Up next were the ‘Craters of the Moon’, which is a walkway trough a geothermal field. It’s hot, it’s smelly, but it’s also really cool to witness. The boardwalks and pathways led us past bubbling thermal mud pools and hissing steam vents.
The thing we (Justin especially) were really excited about was driving through ‘Desert Road’, which gives amazing views of the Tongariro National Park. It was a bit of detour, but because of the views you’re supposed to get there, that wasn’t an issue for us. Sadly, when we woke up that morning the fog had gotten so thick that we could barely see the car driving in front of us. I have to admit, that was a very frustrating drive for the both of us. Having waited for about two weeks to go exploring again (due to the rain), and then ending up driving on Desert Road knowing this insane view is right in front of us, but not being able to see any of it.
As we got closer to the National Park, most of the fog stayed behind on Desert Road, so luckily we got to enjoy the rest of our day. Tongariro National Park is home to three active volcanoes, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe (or to LOTR fans; Mount Doom). The top of Mount Ngauruhoe stayed foggy the entire day, so we didn’t get to take any Mount Doom photos.
One of our favourite things is to check out waterfalls, so of course we had to check out the two waterfalls used for the LOTR scenes where Gollum is fishing.
Both waterfalls (Mangawhero Falls and Tawhai Falls) were used for a scene in The Two Towers, where Gollum is catching a fish while Faramir threatens to set his archers on him.
Later that day we also went for a drive/walk around the Whakapapa side of Mount Ruapehu, which is where several Mordor locations were filmed.
The last stop of our short trip was Waitomo, famous for the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The tour we took of the glowworm caves was quite lengthy which mainly had to do with our tourguide who talked to us as if we were five year olds – just so that all the foreigners could follow what he was saying. It was a great experience though, to witness thousands of little blue lights in a pitch-black cave. Sadly our overpriced tour didn’t allow us to take any pictures (we could’ve if we’d paid more), so you’ll have to Google the Glowworm Caves if you’re interested ;).
To end our trip, we thought it would be fitting to make one last stop at yet another waterfall. The Marokopa falls are 35 meters high and are often described as the most beautiful of the country.