Friday morning, on the other hand, was not destined to be quiet, as it was the first day of a long weekend break in Taupo, home of New Zealand's largest lake. On the way to Taupo, we stopped at Bulls for morning tea. This has become a regular place to stop on the way north, but to be honest, Bulls is not really a place with a great deal of anything to offer except location.
We travelled successfully north over the Desert Road, arriving in Taupo at just after lunchtime. We had a quick lunch at Taupo Subway, the first Subway we had ever visited in New Zealand back in 1997. After that, we went up to Taupo Spa, Debretts as it used to be, but now somewhat renovated. As well as the main pools, there are also smaller, private pools, marked "warm", "not so hot", "hot" and "hottest", which are what might be expected. We all spent time in the pools as the afternoon progressed. It's a relaxing place to be. We then went back to our motel but some of us then played in the park as the sun went down. Around six o'clock, we went off to Taupo's Mr India curry house, which of course offered pretty much the same fare as the ones elsewhere in the country. It was a bonus that this place was just a couple of minutes walk from the motel.
An early night for all followed, with the big people watching some television, including our favourite, Blue Heelers.
Saturday morning: we went off to Huka Falls to see what time we could have a trip on the Huka Jet jet boat. Pretty much straight away, it seems - 10 o'clock saw us equipped with spray jackets and life jackets, and we were on our way just before a quarter past. The jet boat took us up to the Aratiatia dam before taking us back upstream to the Huka Falls themselves. Yes, they are a spectacular view. Yes, it's exhilarating to be taken on a jet boat to them. Yes, the jet boat does make far more 360 degree turns than is really necessary for the journey. But that's why people do stuff like that, isn't it? Pictures to follow. After that adventure, we dried out with drinks and cookies from the cafe nearby.
Yes, we bought the photographs of us doing it. We also bought some shot glasses, because they are just the thing for measuring out oats for my breakfast porridge.
Craters of the Moon was the next attraction, a thermal park just out of town, with a significant amount of steam coming out of the ground. The mud pools were pretty dry, I think because there hasn't too much rain there lately. However, the amount of thermal activity seems to have increased since our last visit there, although of course I couldn't be sure... Now that the boys are growing up, it's possible to take some of the longer paths around these parks, so we took the ridge path, adding about half an hour and several extra viewing points to our trip. That took us pretty much to lunchtime, which we had at the cafe just north of BP Wairakei. I didn't make the best choices for lunch, but the rest of the family seemed to fare well. After that, their little walk through a thermal area, where the Prince of Wales Feathers geyser (extinct) had been, and where Rudyard Kipling had written a short story, The Lady of Wairakei, which I may try to track down.
We then backtracked to the Volcanic Activity Centre, a modest museum run by the Government Department concerned with such things, which included a film show about the Ruapehu eruptions of 1995 and 1996 (which we remember) and an overview of New Zealand volcanoes in general.
The Honey Hive was our next to last stop of the day, a place to look at bees and buy their products. We bought some clover honey and some manuka honey, while David bought some little candles.
The last part was to walk to the top of the falls, and look down on the falls. They roar, they are interesting to watch, and they pretty much defy description. That's what waterfalls do.
Back to the motel, where we had a swim in their pool. This is a small and quiet pool, except when our three boisterous sons are there. Two ladies who came to swim while we were there didn't stay long, but I think they returned later.
A meal at Pizza Hut. It wouldn't be my choice, but the boys wanted to. There are no dine-in Pizza Hut restaurants left in Wellington: the closest is in Paraparaumu. We all ate our fill and took our leave, and another night followed.
Sunday morning, we drove over to Spa Road to see if the dinosaur park was still there. It seems to be alive, just, but we didn't go in this time. Instead, we drove along the road a bit until we came to the Spa to Huka Falls track. It was a 45 minute walk there, or so it said, and that didn't seem bad. We all took our time, enjoying the spectacular views over the mighty Waikato river, across to the holiday camps and farms, looking at the riverboats, admiring the trees and plants before arriving at the Huka Falls, where we had been the previous day. We stopped for a drink. I was surprised to see cans of coffee and hot chocolate on sale - this is the first time I have seen cans of coffee on sale since were in Japan. After we had finished those, it was time to walk back to the Spa Road.
We stopped on the Lake waterfront, but there wasn't any beach, so we tried a little further down, where there is. The sand is very much filled with pumice, a remnant of the major eruption, I presume. We stayed there for a while, but soon we set off to Turangi for lunch, followed by the trip back south to the capital, which was largely without event. We got back here just after the sun had set. Now to such things as washing and sorting out.