On the road by 8am this morning and headed south around Lake Taupo. We left the lake behind at Turangi and continued south skirting around Tongariro National Park with views of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. There was patchy cloud cover but we got pretty good views. Ruapehu even had a little bit of snow on it.
We eventually came to the Rangipo Desert and here the landscape changes dramatically. No tall trees and no bright green grass. Just small brown, dull green and yellow vegetation and dark red earth. Not at all what you imagine NZ to be like.
We turned west at Waiouru which is an Army Camp town. Suddenly we were back in a lush green area and came to Ohakune, the carrot capital of New Zealand. Naturally we visited the big carrot before continuing on.
As we were driving along Dad spotted a huge flock of geese or something and we doubled back to check them out. There would have been hundreds of them all lined up in a paddock. Just as we were wondering if they were domestic or wild about two thirds of them took off flying in formation off into the distance, answering our question. On further investigation, we found that they were Canada Geese.
We then started heading north and stopped at the Makatote Viaduct which was constructed in 1905-1908, is 262m long and 79m high. It was the last piece of the railway line built to join Auckland to Christchurch.
Back on the road we turned east entering the national park. We stopped at Tawhai Falls which is an absolutely stunning waterfall. It's alpine fed waters are a nice dark greenish-blue.
After this we headed up to the ski fields at Mt Ruapehu. As we arrived I snapped a quick couple of photos before lunch and by the time we'd finished eating the mountain was completely covered in cloud! We walked over to Meads Wall, a huge wall of volcanic rocks about 5 minutes from the visitor’s centre (used in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). I had visited this before with Big Sis and when we were there last time it was freezing and very very windy! It was nice to be able to have a look around without thinking either my hands were about to fall off or I was about to be blown over a cliff. We discovered you can actually walk to the "top" of the wall and see around the back which was really cool. There was also a great view down the other side of a ridge that Big Sis and I were nearly blown over. The whole landscape on the side of the mountain is other-worldly with great big dark coloured rocks and tiny strange plants all over the place. We watched people climbing Meads Wall and a helicopter carrying sand up the mountain.
We returned to National Park (that's the name of the town back on the main road) and continued north where the landscape changed again to what can only be described as steep, wrinkly hills which are very typical of NZ scenery.
We turned east again at Manunui and came across Waituhi Lookout which would've had spectacular views of the two mountains but unfortunately the clouds had well and truly settled in.
We returned to Taupo via the lakeside again and had a quick look around town. After a quick rest at the motel we walked across the road to the lake and watched the sunset over the water, the cloud cover created a beautiful scene (knew it had to be good for something).
Pizza for tea and now we have to think about making our way back towards Auckland as we will be staying there tomorrow night.