Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 14 - Taupo

July 14 - Taupo

We woke up early this morning with the intent of driving to Taupo. According to the map it was about 4 ½ hours north of Wellington. We wanted to leave around 8:30 AM so we could be there in the afternoon and still have time to do things.

We got up around 7:15 AM to have the free breakfast. I had corn flakes, two pieces of jelly toast, and hot chocolate. I went back for seconds and made two more pieces of jelly toast. I was going to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the road, but I felt like I had my share of food for the week.

We had to find our way to the Ace Car Rental place to pick up our second car. We knew the general area where it was on the map, but didn’t know how to get there. We wanted to take a bus, but the bus system in Wellington is horrible. Rather than name the streets on the bus route map or name the stops after the streets, they base it on areas. Certain buses go to certain areas and only run on certain days. It’s a hassle. Some of the bus drivers didn’t even seem to know where they went when we asked. I even heard locals ask drivers if they went somewhere in particular.

We gathered our things and had to bring our bed sheet and pillow case back to the front desk. When we checked out at about 8:30 AM we had to ring the bell for the receptionist. She had been eating breakfast and playing on the internet when we were in the kitchen a few minutes earlier. I asked her what bus would take us to the street we needed and she didn’t know. She said we could walk down to the bottom of the street and get a bus back to the train station and find out there or just take a taxi.

We didn’t want to take a taxi because it would be way too expensive. We were only a few miles away, but the price we thought it would be was around $30 NZD. It was early in the morning and we didn’t see any buses. We figured we would just walk a little ways and try to find a but stop further down. After about 10 minutes of walking it seemed like it would be just as easy to walk the whole way to the train station.

From there we could get a bus or at least ask someone that might know something. My bags weighed about 80 lbs, plus I was having to carry fruit in a grocery bag. Andy said I looked like a turtle since my bag was so huge on my back. At first it wasn’t hard, but after a while the weight was all resting on my shoulders and hurting. I have lost so much weight that the belt around my waist couldn’t tighten enough to rest the weight on my hips like I’m supposed to.

Everything looked small on the map and was easy to get to the few days before, but for some reason it was taking forever to get to the train station. I wanted to stop and get a taxi or find a bus, but I didn’t want to pay the money. I felt like if I stopped walking I wouldn’t want to start going again so we just kept going. It was Saturday morning and the streets were pretty empty. Otherwise it would have been hard to walk through all the crowd of people with our bags on.

I thought I could see the train station ahead of us about 500 yards and I was ready to be there. As we approached it though it wasn’t the train station. We had just been in this area a few days before walking around near the government buildings, but everything was looking the same and nothing looked familiar.

We finally got to the train station around 8:50 AM. I was tired and ready to put down my bag. Our new problem was trying to find the right bus. There were no people at all waiting for buses. They don’t seem to be that popular of transportation. Probably because nobody knows where they go.

We tried to read the bus map that we had looked at when we got to Wellington from the ferry, but it made no sense still. We knew on the Lonely Planet map where we wanted to go, but couldn’t tell where that was on the bus map. It didn’t look anything like it. There were numbers, colors, and lines that didn’t even follow actual streets.

We must have stood there for about 10 minutes. I was ready to just get a taxi. I felt like it was only about 2 miles away and couldn’t cost more than $10 NZD. The bus would have been $2 NZD each, so for a few dollars more I thought it was worth it. We tried one more thing. We went to the main entrance looking for an information center. There was nothing. There was a New World Grocery Store and some small stands, but nothing that would be helpful.

There was a sign that pointed for taxi’s though. I was ready for the taxi at this point. It was already 9:05 AM and I wanted to be on the road driving long ago. There were a line of taxi’s parked and I waived at the first one. I asked him if he knew where Ace Rental was and he made a motion like driving a car, and I said yes. He was obviously from India.

He started the meter around $3.20 NZD. I was thinking it would start at $0 since we hadn’t gone anywhere. It took about 10 minutes to get to Ace Rental. We would have never found it and it didn’t seem like a route buses would take. It was on a side road to nowhere and had businesses and factories lining the street. I watched the meter the whole time. It seemed like every 20 feet it added more money. In the end it was about $12.50 NZD. We just gave him $13 NZD and didn’t get any change. It was a little more than I expected, but it was fine. We got where we wanted to be.

We went inside to get our car. I had booked with Ace before and got an email saying if we booked twice we could save 10% on the second booking. I didn’t know that until after I had booked the second car so I wanted to ask if we could get a discount. Because we were already offered a 25% discount they couldn’t add the 10%. It was ok though. The car was already only $18 NZD a day. It was really cheap.

We got all of our things in the car and were ready to go at about 9:30 AM. There were a few different routes we could take, but didn’t know how to get to either one of them. Trying to navigate with a map that doesn’t show all the street names makes it tough. It’s even harder when the streets themselves aren’t named.

We originally planned to drive along the eastern coast since I had read it was a scenic drive, but that would take longer. After we heard about the Rivendale Forest being nearby we figured we could drive towards Upper Hutt to see that, but because we had seen it on our tour we figured we didn’t need to stop again.

It looked on the map that going along the eastern side of the country would be faster. I thought it would be flat since it would be near a coast although that theory hasn’t been true at all in New Zealand. I thought the north island would be flatter than the south.

We chose to take Highway 2 towards Napier and then cut across towards Taupo. I wasn’t sure which route would be fastest, but today was just intended to be a driving day anyway. According to the map we had it was 5 hours but he map didn’t say which way to go for that time. It ended up taking much longer.
Along the way I consider having us cut across from Highway 2 over to Highway 1 since it went straight up the middle and the way we were going was sending us off to the east coast out of the way. Just before we were going to try that there was a sign that said the connecting road was closed. That made the decision a lot easier. We were headed for Napier.

The biggest problem with the way we went is that it included a lot of towns along the way so we had to slow down every few miles. It was much different than the South Island where we could drive for hours and not see a town and the ones we did pass through only had a few hundred people. The towns in the north island were much larger.

There wasn’t very many exciting things on the route, but we did go through a town called Dannevirke. There was nothing special about the city, but as we entered there was a sign with a cut out of a big Viking. I should have taken a picture of it since it was so random. I’m assuming it was a Scandinavian city.

When we finally got to Napier we decided we should stop and buy groceries since we were low on everything. There was a Pack ‘N Save, which according to their commercials have the lowest price on groceries in New Zealand. We thought we would check it out and see.

Napier is a pretty big town. It has around 40,000 people. For New Zealand that’s big. The Pack “N Save was packed. It was a Saturday so maybe that’s why. We were able to park right in the front though. We ended up buying a lot of things. Most of the stuff was about $0.20 NZD less expensive than New World, but some of the things were identical in price. We bought basically the same things as always. We got milk, eggs, bread, but this time two loaves, cookies, chips, and things like that. We spent about an hour in there wondering around.. It was set up like a huge warehouse building similar to a Home Depot, just with groceries.

The downside to this place was that it didn’t have bags for your things unless you paid extra, which is probably how they can charge less money. We didn’t buy any bags since we had some left over from New World. For the things that we couldn’t bag we could just rest in the trunk of the car.

From Napier we got back on the highway and left for Taupo. We originally were hoping we could still get there early enough to do something, but now it seemed like there was no chance. We left the grocery store around 3:30 PM. It was another couple of hours before we got to Taupo.

We arrived around 5:30 PM. We were really low on gas and didn’t know where we wanted to stay. I had seen a holiday park in the Lonely Planet so we tried driving there. It was called All Seasons Holiday Park. As we pulled in to the reception area another couple of people had just arrived and were also looking for a place to stay.

As we were waiting I saw a sign that mentioned the Tongaririo Alpine Crossing guided hikes were canceled for Saturday and Sunday due to weather conditions. We had wanted to do it on Monday, the day we planned to leave Taupo.

The goal was to spend two nights in Taupo. Sunday we would see the Lake Taupo area and then Monday do the Tongaririo Crossing. After we returned we could continue north to Waitomo and do our cave tour on Tuesday. Then we would spend Wednesday and Thursday in Rotorua seeing the geysers, hot springs, and a local Maori village.

We asked for a tent site.. It was $20 NZD per night. They asked where we were going next and we said Waitomo, Rotorua, and Tongaririo National Park. They told us if we stayed 3 nights then the final night would be free. Basically pay for 2 nights and get one free. It sounded good, but I needed to look at our itinerary and decide if that would work. To help make the decision I asked them what the weather was going to be like later in the week.

The lady we were talking to didn’t know, but the guy working there said he would check the weather conditions. He said that Tuesday the weather would clear up, and that on Wednesday it would be clear. We went ahead and just paid for two nights. We drove around the corner and parked in the tent site they assigned us. There were only about 4 spots for tents. Everything else was cabins and campervans. A common thing for New Zealand campgrounds.

We sat in the car and looked at our itinerary. I quickly wrote down a possible new plan to see if it would work if we stayed three nights in Taupo. It seemed like it would be a better option to go ahead and book the three nights.

The new plan was to spend Sunday in Rotorua. The weather was supposed to be rainy and we figured if we checked out a Maori village that the weather wouldn’t really matter. Monday we had a few options dpepnding on the weather. We could go to Tongariro National Park and do some hiking, finish Rotorua, or stay in Taupo and see the lake.

For Tuesday we had pre-booked an Adventure Cave Tour in Waitomo. In order to make this plan work it meant we were going to have to wake up pretty early and get back pretty late, but we didn’t think it would be a problem.

Wednesday would now be spent doing the Tongariro Crossing and Thursday we could do more hiking in Tongariro or go to Rotorua, depending on what we did earlier in the week and the weather conditions.

After figuring all of that out I ran back over and booked an extra two nights to save some money. I paid an additional $40 NZD for both of us. I ran back to the car and we  set up the tent. It was late enough now that I was just about ready for dinner.

We made fish in the oven that we bought at Pack “N Save. We also made fried potatoes and a salad. For dessert we had cookies and chocolate. We had bought a bottle of coke so we drank that. I was tired of tea, water, and hot chocolate. I never drink cokes at home, but I needed something else.

After dinner we walked across the street to the TV room. There was a game room connected to it with a pool table and fussball. There were a bunch of teenagers in there making a ton of noise. In the TV room there was a guy and a girl sitting on one of the couches watching TV. The lights were off and I didn’t want to bother them so I sat in the back at a table in the dark with my laptop.

They had on cartoons the whole time they were there. They watched Family Guy and American Dad. After about 15 minutes Andy came in. He was trying to read a guidebook in the dark. There was an open sliding door between the two rooms so some light was coming in, but not a lot. The kids were being extremely loud and it was annoying. A few little girls came in and watched TV a little bit, but they left after a few minutes.

The girl finally got up and closed the doors between the rooms and turned on the lights. They stayed for another 30 minutes and then left. It was about 8 PM. There were two couches and I moved over to one and Andy sat on the other. We charged batteries and wrote in our journals.

I changed the channel to see what else was on. They had a satellite with a ton of channels. I turned on a movie channel and we watched “The Money Pit” with Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore. I had seen it before, but it’s really funny. They buy an apartment and the top floor is being rented by an old lady. She drives them insane and calls the cops all the time for various reasons. She makes them do chores for her an keeps them up late at night.

Ben Stiller’s character is trying to write a book and she just calls him lazy and says he just naps all the time. They decided they are going to murder her by burning the house down. They end up burning up his book and he loses his book deal. In the end it was a scam. The lady, the cop, and the realtor were all in on it.
Around 9:30 PM the guy working at the campground came in to let us know to lock up the room and turn off the heater when we left. After the movie we went back to the tent. It was about 11 PM. It had been raining a little bit while we were in the room, but I didn’t even realize it at the time.

It was pretty warm outside for what we had been used to. It wasn’t freezing on the ground. I didn’t even bother putting a hot water bottle at the end of my feet in my sleeping bag. I felt like I would be warm enough without it.

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