Our next journey did not involve buses, or any other form of public transport, because Gerrard and Ania's friend Beth drove us from Rotorua to Taupo. However it did involve a loan car that would fail any inspection into it's road worthiness. The front passenger window was jammed open, the headlights needed a fiddle before coming on, and the speedometer worked in ball-park figures rather than precise numbers (and even that required the driver to give it a forceful prod). Gerrard's valiant attempt to construct a new window (so that I - the front seat passenger - wouldn't get cold) was in vain. Apparently beer boxes don't hold up to speeds in and around the ball-park of 80kmph.
Beth is a lovely woman and very bubbly. She reminded me of a less hyper Davina McCall. She's Brit, but moved to NZ a few years back. She worked for Gerrard at FGV and decided one day to go to Taupo and do a skydive. She ended up falling in love with her skydiving instructor (get it? She FELL in love. Like when you fall out of a plane?... Tough crowd!) and she never left. She now owns a hostel called Blackcurrant and that is exactly where she took us to stay - hefty discounts included. It's not what you know...
Blackcurrant is the unofficial sister hostel to FGV and it is very similar in feel. It's clean, cosy and chilled but with the added advantage of a 42inch plasma TV with a list of DVDs.
On our first day we walked down to Lake Taupo which, according to Steph, is the same size as Singapore - she was very proud that she knew this useless factoid before me! We trekked for a good 5hrs up a section and didn't even make a dent into the full lake. It was a hot day and we worked up a good sweat. At one point we saw a hole-in-one challenge. There was a floating green about 20m out on the lake and people paid to have a go at sinking a golf ball from dry land. No prizes were offered - just honour. According to the noticeboard the last person to succeed was from Devon, England.
The next day we had coffee and cake with Beth in the morning and then headed out on another hike. This time it was a river walk and a lot more strenuous. Some of the spots that we stopped at were impossibly picturesque. The crystal clear flowing water was surrounded by sheer cliffs where you could bungy if you have the guts and wallet to give it a try.
The highlight was Huka Falls where a mass of rapid water is forced through a narrow corridor causing its ferocity to increase tenfold. It isn't a particularly high waterfall but the power and volume of water is impressive. According to Steph every 3 seconds Huka Falls could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool - she was proud of this one too! On our return journey we stopped at a bridge over boiling water (I'm sure there's a song about that) and bathed in the river where the hot water trickles in. It's a strange sensation because there are patches of icy cold while the rest of you is covered in unbearably hot. What is also strange is the big rocks that float. Weird.
Taupo was great but we wanted more time. Unfortunately we have been so slow to make progress through the North Island that we need to keep on keeping on. No rest for the wicked - we're mountain-bound!