New Zealand: North Island – Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo is located in the North Island of New Zealand. It is in the caldera of the Taupo Volcano and with a surface area of 616 square kilometres (238 sq mi), it is the largest lake in New Zealand, and the second-largest in Oceania.
I had booked us onto an early morning kayak trip on the lake. We rose early munched our breakfast and set-off to our 8.00 am rendezvous point outside the information office. The arrangements had been made at the last minute online and meet up details were at best sketchy and to make matters worst there were actually two information offices on the road were told to go to. We split ourselves up and waited and a few minutes later than scheduled our tour guide turned up in a van pulling a trailer with kayaks already loaded. Sorted! At least we thought we were the only problem was that he was expecting one person and the one person was none of our family. I was supposed to have confirmed the booking the day before. What could have been a disaster turned out okay as the guide was a typically laid back Kiwi. We hopped on the bus with the one real customer, an Australian lady called Robin, who was visiting with her husband Michael. He was chilling out back at their hotel, preparing himself for the upcoming New Zealand Iron Man event taking place in Taupo a couple of days later (more on that later). A quick detour back to the office later, for some more kit and we were ready for the off.
Our vessels were double sea kayaks. We had been in kayaks a few times before but never in sea kayaks with the rubber splash skirts, which look incredibly silly until you are actually ensconced in your kayaks. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in Oceania and is actually an active volcanic caldera. We asked the guide how likely it was to explode and he said not very and if it did we’d probably be the first people to reach orbit in a kayak – now that would be a claim to fame. Sadly the weather was not playing ball completely, it was cloudy and there was a bit of a wind blowing. With a lake of this size the waves can get to be a challenge, hence the splash skirts, but today it was not a real problem, although it was hard work paddling into the wind. Our total planned journey time was 3 hours – which is a long time if you’re not used to paddling for that length of time.
The goal of our journey was to travel our to some Maori carvings on some cliffs beside the lake. After about an hour or so after we reach the carvings which are spectacular but we are surprised and somewhat saddened to hear that the carvings were only 31 years old but as our guide pointed out in 500 years time they will be ancient. Still, they were great to see and we enjoyed hearing the truly ancient stories depicted by the carvings. We pulled into a beach a little further down lake shoreline to enjoy some cakes and hot drinks, with our first taste of Milo, a New Zealand form of hot chocolate. It was then time to set-off back. The wind seemed to have turned around and we spent most of our time paddling into it during our return journey, but finally, we rounded a promontory and headed back to shore.
We headed back to the hostel for a bit of lunch, after which Jack and Emily play outdoor table tennis whilst Mark and Karen catch a few z’s.
Later in the afternoon, we head back into Taupo which is only a short walk from the hostel. As we previously mentioned Taupo was hosting the New Zealand Iron Man event a few days after we were planning to leave town. This is a big event with over 1500 competitors from around the world. There are 3 disciplines in the Iron Man event; a 3.2 km swim, a 180 km cycle and 42 km run all done consecutively. The top athletes complete their disciplines in around 8 hours. They must be bonkers! There is an official exhibition centre set aside for the event, with displays of bicycles, neoprene clothing and really expensive shoes amongst other things. It was great fun to look at the “cool” high-performance gear. We decided to get into training for an upcoming Iron Man event!