NZ10+ : Day 10 : TAUPO

A day where I should have been hiking up to Mount Doom, but the previous night’s festivities meant I woke up late and had to find other plans.

Wednesday 26/03/08

I slept like a log through Niall and Laurence coming in, and through my alarm clock too. So, I actually missed doing the hike up Mount Doom, but hopefully can do it on the way back up.
With a hangover, and no planned activities, I am now at a loss to do anything. I went for a walk up to the park, but it was miles away from the centre, it was very hot and a boring walk. Then as I sat on the park grass trying to write my diary, I was eaten by bugs (well one cheeky bastard was sucking blood from me) so I skulked back to town. Found a cinema though, so I think I’ll grab a shower and watch a movie. Gonna have to watch the drinking and make sure I don’t miss getting the bus at any point. We are onto River Valley tomorrow, sounds very cool and hopefully I’ll get to ride a horse on the trekking experience. Hoorah!

SOUNDTRACK: “Revolution #9” by The Beatles

Because I was talking to Steve about it in the bar.

Just to add that the guys picked me up later on near Lake Taupo, as I was feeding the birds. We watched Laurence try to get a hole in one on the golf challenge, then met Jimmy further up the lake’s edge. So, we all sat down on this raft thingy in the sun for a bit. Then we just went to the hostel sun deck and had a few sneaky beers (not meant to drink on the premises) then onto the pub for a while. All good.

Met some lads from Manchester too. In with “the gang” now and I have dilemmas. Should really do my own thing, but would quite like to stay with the gang until the “Poo Pub” or Queenstown at least on the South Island. Maybe I can do Abel Tasman on the way back?


First thing’s first. I failed to wake up in time for the Mount Doom hike. I must have chosen to sleep through my alarms (I only had a digital watch with a tiny tinny beep of an alarm, which was nearly my undoing later on in the trip) and I did recall that someone had said that we would be coming back up through Taupo later in the trip, if you were signed up to the ‘loop’ tour, as I was. At 6am, I obviously made the drunken hungover decision to try the hike again in a fortnights time, in exchange for some more sleep. I do recall stirring in bed and hearing Niall and Laurence chatting as they were waking up.

“Did you not fancy the hike?”
“No way. Couldn’t be arsed getting up that early. Colin was doing it, though wasn’t he?”

They obviously hadn’t realised I was in the top bunk, and so I groggily replied:
“Oh yeah, you guys should be here. The view is great. You’re missing out.”

This was evidently one of the few ‘rest days’ that the Kiwi Express bus had, choosing to stop at a particular town or city for an additional day. I’m sure there is loads to do in Taupo, but in the days before smartphones, I only had my wits, a local paper map, and the presumption that wherever I wanted to go, or whatever I wanted to do, had to be within walking distance.

I must have left Laurence and Niall to go and get breakfast or lunch, before venturing out on my mini-adventure to the park that I had seen on a map. It took me a while to walk there in the heat, and it turned out to be… A massive, empty, park. No kiosks, shops, fountains or points of interest that I could see, which was fine, but I was hoping for something to kill the time. This was one of the first of a few days on this trip where I learned that a whole day with no internet, books or places of interest, is a very, very, very long piece of time to kill.

Anyway, I found a spot to start the diary and to attempt the epic info dump about my skydive. I was 20 minutes or so into writing when I discovered that I was being eaten by some small beetle thing (the only time in my life so far, that I recall being bitten by a bug) and so after that I thought I’d done my nature bit for the day, and that I would head back into town for a much-deserved brew.

I eventually settled with a tea at a picnic table on the shores of Lake Taupo. I say shore, as Lake Taupo is amongst the biggest lakes in the world, formed in the original crater that was made in one of the ancient world’s largest volcanic explosions. As I type this, I recall visiting a Taupo Volcanic Tourist Centre, which is where I got this information from, but I don’t think it ever got a mention in the diary. Perhaps we had been the previous morning, or maybe the next day?

The tourist centre had a massive steel structure in the shape of a cloud, that literally burst out of the side of the building, and that rose above the roof. We found out that this steel ‘circle’ was a to-scale comparison of volcanic explosions. Inside the building, a steel circle about the size of a football represented the 1980’s ‘recent’ explosion of Mount St Helen’s in the US. In comparison, the Taupo ‘ring’ was bigger than the museum building! So, this was a powerful representation of the sheer power of Taupo’s eruption. When it blew, it BLEW. So much so, that both the ancient Romans and Chinese recorded ‘darkened skies’ across the other side of the world, due to the amount of mass that Taupo had ejected into the atmosphere.

So there I was, tens of thousands of years later, with a brew, writing my diary, and feeding a duck.

My diary writing was interrupted for the second time that day by what I Iater thought of as ‘the gang.’ I hadn’t yet gotten used to the instant but rock-solid nature of the friendships you make when backpacking. What I thought were ‘just’ familiar faces from the previous night’s drinking in Curly’s, were people who had made the effort to learn my name, and who had come looking for me that afternoon to see what I was up to.

“I’m just feeding this duck.”
“Brilliant! We’ll feed him too!”

It was a small thing, but that tiny group of experienced travellers, simply finding and meeting up with one of their own (me) meant a lot, and cleared out the final cobwebs of nervousness and doubt that were lingering over me. Look at me, halfway across the planet, and now I’ve got some bonafide Mates.

Honestly don’t recall if I went to the cinema in between all of this (I don’t think so, maybe I did on the return trip through Taupo…) but I do have fond memories of the sundown over Taupo Lake, and of another night in the pub. This is the night where we latched onto a group of four lads from Manchester, and so our small crew gained a few extra members. It’s all very fluid when travelling, and nowhere near as formal as even these loose descriptions here make out.

But yes, that’s where we met the ‘Manc Lads’ – who were all actually from very posh parts of Greater Manchester and Cheshire, and who all knew how things like Rugby worked, which would come in handy later on in the trip.