This past weekend me and three other friends that I met from the U.S. rented a car and headed north. We stayed at a janky little campground in Turangi. It looked like it used to be a cute little summer camp. The cabins were literally a garden shed with two twin bets in it, that's all we really needed, no complaints here. On our arrival, we went on a short walk up a river and across a cool suspension bridge.
Along the way I spotted a whole bunch of raspberry bushes. I got really excited because we pick them at home in the summer and make pies and jams. I started picking a couple of the ripe, purple berries, but before I could pop them in my mouth the other girls hollered at me because they were worried they were poisonous and that I was going to die. I am pretty sure they all though I was crazy and going to get them all into trouble this semester, but after a few minutes I finally convinced them that I was 100% positive that they were not only edible, but down right delicious! I popped one right into my mouth and the instant feeling of home and summer rushed over me. The three of them quickly started picking the berries and gobbling them down after they were sure I wasn't going to keel over on the spot. It was a great late afternoon snack for some hungry student travelers.
That night, while we were snuggled into two twin beds with only two sleeping bags to share, an obnoxiously loud siren went off early in the morning hours. Of course, we all jumped up and each assumed the worst scenario according to the region of the U.S. we come from. I immediately thought tornado, but quickly realized tornadoes don't happen in this part of the world as often. Then the vision of the volcanic landscape flashed into my head. I couldn't help but worry we should be evacuating at that very moment. Come to find out, after a short, groggy conversation with a lady outside, the sirens were just from the fire station located down the block.
That next day, after sleeping a couple of more hours, we drove up along Lake Taupo to the little lake front town of Taupo. It reminded me of Osage Beach in South Missouri a little, but a bit cleaner. We checked out the local farmer's market before heading to Huka Falls. The water was so incredibly blue! I still can't believe my own eyes. The aqua blue water was cascading over some rock and on down the river. It wasn't so much of a falls as we would think of it, but more of a stretch of rapids.
After getting our fill of the scenery we continued to the free honey tasting shop. Let me just say, they have some tasty honey! I even got to try some raw honey which was YUM! After that quick stop, we headed back to the Huka Falls parking lot, only this time we hiked up river for about half an hour until we found the natural hot spring pools that ran into the river.The water that was coming out of the hot springs was super hot. It flowed right into the river. You could feel and even see where the hot and cold waters were mixing. Super neat experience for sure. After basking in the sun and warm water, we decided it was about time to head back to the comforts of our little shack. The previous week, we had heard of a local cliff diving spot along the lake and thought we would give it a try. You would have never spotted the jumping spot if there had not been a couple people standing on the ledge. It was on the corner of a windy mountain road that skirts around the lake. There were a half dozen cars just pulled off on whatever shoulder of the road they could. We immediately pulled off the road and hopped out only the people we had seen were through a thick patch of trees. As we ventured off the road into the trees in only our shoes and bikinis, we ran across a young boy who showed us the way to where him and his two brothers were spending the afternoon jumping off a small ledge and trying to make the bigger splash. After watching the local family for a while, we finally got our chance to do some damage. The water was so amazingly clear! The bottom looked so close, but I never even got close to touching the sand or the big boulders that scattered the lake bottom. Amazing! After we were done frolicking in the water, on the ledge, and on the rope hanging from a tree, we ventured deeper to find the bigger cliff that we had spotted from the highway earlier. We found it alright! It had to of been at least twice the size of the one we were enjoying earlier. With all of us being too chicken, we managed to get one random local dude to wear our GoPro and jump off the ledge for us. Let me just say, super sweet footage! I can honestly say that was one of the coolest things I've done in a really long time.
We spent another night in the cabin and made our meals in the open community kitchen. The next day (last day of the weekend) we drove down to Tongariro National Park which is home to a number of volcanoes. We ended up taking a short day hike from Whakapapa Village. We got to see lots of forest, shrubbery, waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains, and more.
The hike lead to a large waterfall that you could walk behind and of course the water was very clear. All perched right at the base of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mt. Doom). They were all very volcano shaped volcanoes. I was just geography-geeking out the entire time. Really super neat to get to see all those low-key things. I hope to continue our adventuring in upcoming weeks!