We got up early, as we knew the drive today would be challenging, due to the memory of a journey we took a couple of years ago in NZ on the SH38.It was only about 250km to Turangi, but took us 5 hours (much better than the 7 hours it had taken us to get from Napier to Roturua, on the SH38, two years ago).Just because a road is called a Highway in NZ, it does not mean that it will be a 'highway' in the sense of a British highway.
We began on the SH3 towards Stratford and stopped to take a few more photos of Mount Taranaki.I forgot to say in the last blog that this was the mountain used in 'The Last Samurai,' in disguise as Mount Fuji!We then turned onto the SH43 for the next 150km.The sign posts aptly name this as the 'Worlds Forgotten Highway' and it certainly felt like it at times.To begin with it was very frosty that morning, so there was a lot of ice along the road.It was also very sunny, so dazzling, as well as creating a lot of mist from the evaporating frost.The first vehicle we met, after some time, was a police car, there to rescue another vehicle, and after that we saw a handful of cars along the whole 150km, and a couple of trucks (I wouldn't want to be driving one of those around the tight cliff bends on this road).After a while the mist started to ease off and we saw a few horses and pigs, hundreds of cows and thousands of sheep.Unfortunately some of these sheep and the occasional cow were actually on the road, so that caused some delay.We had to wait a while behind a farmer who was herding his sheep along the highway, quite casually, with the aid of a couple of dogs!There was also a stretch of about 10km, where the highway turned to gravel, and many points where there was only room for one vehicle - lucky not many people use it!
Along the way we were also treated to the fantastic views of the Watirangi forest on the left and the Okara forest on the right.After a very long time along this road we took the SH4, then SH41 to Turangi, stopping off at my new favourite supermarket on the way 'New World' (strange the things we miss - I've realised that I actually like going to the supermarket).We also stopped to view Lake Taupo, as 2 years ago we visited Taupo, which is at the north of the lake, so we wanted to see it from the south side - still pretty much the same - lots of water!
At Turangi we went to the I-Site and got some great advice about walks in the area, and set straight about the first.As it was late afternoon we just did a short 1 hour walk, at the Taupahi Reserve, along the Tongariro River.This was a great little woodland walk, with good views of the river, and we spent much time watching the fishermen standing waist high in the river trying to catch trout.Now this is apparently the trout capital of NZ, but we looked into the clear waters for ages and saw nothing, and none of the fishermen appeared to have caught anything.
The next morning we drove a little way down the SH1 ready to do another, longer walk.This time we went for a 3 hour walk which should have, and would have given us spectacular views of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu, had there not been so much low lying cloud!We took the Waihohonu track to the Wahihohonu Hut (in NZ the Dept of Conservation have several huts which walkers can hire to stay at).The walk was quite challenging, as the path was mostly mud and lahar, with a frost and some snow over much of it.There were several places were the path had frozen over and tiny stalactite looking icicles had formed vertically, about 10-15cm long, so when you trod on them the ground collapsed underneath you!Anyway, we made it, and I only fell over in the mud once!As we got close to the hut the cloud lifted a little and we saw the 2287metres of Mount Ngauruhoe (apparently it was Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings) and on the way back the 2797metres of Mount Ruapehu was revealed too - the only problem was that they were behind us now, so we had to keep stopping to look back!
We continued our journey on the SH1 and then took the SH54 towards Feilding, where we planned to spend the night.On the way we stopped off at Stormy Lookout for our final views of Mount Ruapehu, before continuing south.So, we are both moaning about our aches and pains now after our walk.... oh we are getting old!