We arrived in Taupo and stayed in a hostel that was designed for the summer. It was very cold so all our layers came out here. We met some interesting people here and met a winter guide for the Tongario Crossing which we both wanted to do. He was saying that there was currently a huge snow storm passing over and that the walk had to be cancelled for the last few days. There is a huge lake in Taupo called Lake Taupo surprisingly. This is the largest lake in New Zealand. It sits in the caldera of a volcano that began erupting about 300,000 years ago. The caldera was formed by a collapse during the Orauanui eruption about 26,500 years ago which threw out 750 cu km of ash and pumice.
Taupo is still a volcanically active area and has some great thermal hot spots which we discovered our first night there. It was about a 20 minute walk from our hostel and situated at a bridge and waterfall, was a free hot pool. The waterfall was hot as well and it was full of locals and tourists. We didn't feel the cold at all. It was a perfect start to our few days in Taupo.
We had an early start the next morning and caught a bus to a place called Waitomo. Waitomo is famous for its Black Water Rafting and caves. It's a tiny village with three different Black Water Rafting companies. We opted for the quietest one called Cave World and had a guide all to ourselves again. We had a bit of a trek to the caves, the water was so cold in the caves. We saw glow worms, fossils that were found in the caves over the years, different water formations within the cave, one looked like an elephant. We had headlights and helmets on and at one point we just drifted for about 10 minutes in the very cold and pitch dark cave watching the gloworms. It was so beautiful. Glowworms are the larvae of the fungus gnat. The larva glowworm has luminescent organs that produce a soft, greenish light. They live in a hammock from an overhang and it weaves its sticky threads trail down to catch insects and feeds off those. We also got to jump down underground waterfalls in the dark - very scary!
The next few days we took it easy after all our previous busy days. We went to the museum in Taupo, we had our first incredible burger from Burger Fuel ( a fast food burger place that had been recommended). We took a walk along the lake and discovered some of our own little hot pools and got a hot chocolate to warm ourselves up.