July 5, 2008

To The Town of Taupo

(I had typed this up in my laptop at the end of the day, but had no Internet access so could not upload it until July 14th)

We were supposed to wake up early today, to see Toby, Jin’s farmer friend, shifting the cows at 7.45am. I was awake since about 5am, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Perhaps because I was excited; but I didn’t feel excited, although I did think of the skydiving and bungy jumping. I think it was mostly because of the cold.

The past week, I’ve been sleeping with a pair of gloves and a pair of socks on because of the cold, but I’ve noticed that everytime I wake up, only my right glove remains. Both my socks and my left glove will always have disappeared – and I would have to strip the bed to look for them! This happens not only at Jin’s, but also in my aunt’s at Auckland.

My back has been aching too, since the second day I was here. I don’t know why it is, but it is. And it got worse when I stayed at Jin’s because I was sleeping in a sofa bed which isn’t completely straight (there are “dents” where the folds are) and it’s rather hard. I like firm beds, but I didn’t know the damage this bed could do to my back. After the first night my back hurt but not really very badly; this morning I couldn’t bend forward without hurting 🙁 Fortunately Jin had some Deep Heat rub which has helped alleviate some of the pain. I don’t want to hurt before I’ve done some serious activities! But then, since when has back pain ever stopped me? 😛

Oh, one thing before I forget… the weird thing about New Zealand is that in the houses, there are no locks on any of the doors; the doorknobs are merely there to open the doors out from their doorframes. The only room in the entire house which has a lockable door is the lavatory – even the shower room/bathrooms have no locks! By the way, because it’s a typical white man’s land, the lavatory and the bathrooms are separate. The lavatory typically does not have any sinks or bidets in them. A bit of pain for me, really 😀

Anyway, this morning, I finally rolled out of bed by 7am, and was dressed and ready by about 7.30am. It was raining – nay, there were hailstones! I’ve seen my first hailstones!!

Because of the rain and the hailstones, we didn’t leave early to see the cows. Jin and Matt made pancakes, and we waited for the rain to subside before we piled the things into the car and went on our way. Poor Matt would be left alone as he was not following us on this holiday… Jin said it was the first time they were spending their holidays apart! Matt even gave me a hug and told me to take care of Jin. He’s such a nice sweet guy.

Anyway, so we finally made our way about 8.30am, amidst the rain and hailstones. Jin drove for the first 3 hours, and unfortunately I was sneezing and sniffing :'( ( I DO NOT WANT TO BE SICK ON MY ROAD TRIP!! THIS IS MY FIRST ROAD TRIP, MY FIRST SNOWY WINTER, AND MY FIRST VACATION FOR AGES, AND I WANT TO ENJOY IT!!!

However although I was sneezing and sniffing, I wasn’t feeling miserable, although a bit sleepy. I took a nap before I took over the wheel for the next three hours. Then Jin drove a little bit more, and as we neared Taupo, we made some tourist stops.

We first stopped at the Huka Falls, which at this lookout point was just part of the long Huka River. The falls were very strong and rushed; the river was so lovely and clean and clear. It was aqua green with white foam, rushing through with such ferocity, that I feared it and admired it at the same time. One of the signs explained that it eroded the soil (it rushed from a narrow path to a sudden wide river) and over time it will continue to erode.

The rushing rapids at Huka Falls
The rushing rapids at Huka Falls

Then we drove over to the Craters of the Moon, and it was $5 entry per person; but I figured hey, I came all the way here via a RM3k++ flight, what?s $5?! So we went in. The lady advised us that it would take about 45 minutes to an hour, and to always keep to the trail.

They name it Craters of the Moon because of the huge craters formed by the sulphuric thermal gases that spout out from the ground. Interestingly there were no rangers or personnel placed in the park; we were left to roam freely on our own. They did put up signs of “Danger” etc, and Jin and I kept faithfully to the trail. This place was a real sight to behold – there were tufts of steam, both large and small, spouting out from the ground! Even when we looked down some of the smaller craters near the trail, we could not pinpoint the exact source of the steam.

Steaming sulphur at the Craters of the Moon
Steaming sulphur at the Craters of the Moon

There were a few lookout points placed in the park near gigantic craters; one of them was a “mud crater” which was full of mud which wasn’t bubbling when we were there. However, off to the side, we did see some bubbling mud.

We could hear hisses and bubbling sounds as water boiled, or the thermal gas escaped the ground. There were certainly a lot of greenery – they apparently thrive on the hot gases. One of the signs said that skin burns at 50°C; some of these plants thrive at 70°C! Water boils at 100°C (duh!) and these gases are at 140°C. Whoo!! That’s hot.

Within the park, there were two alternative routes at the end; a steep climb, or an easy walk to the end. The lady had advised us to take the steep climb as it was worth it, so we did, and yes, it was worth it. From the top, we could see a beautiful view of part of the park, with the steam spouting as if the greens were on fire!

View of the Craters of the Moon
View of the Craters of the Moon

We then made our way back and headed on to the town of Taupo. We stopped by the Info Centre (i-Site) first to check out some brochures and info about Taupo, and then we went on to our stay for the night which is Tiki Lodge.

Tiki Lodge is a backpacker’s boarding place, with shared bathrooms and a common kitchen/TV room/lounge. In fact, right now, I’m sitting in the common lounge next to the pot stove fireplace (which Jin says is fake because the fire was blue in colour, indicating that gas is used although there were pieces of wood in there).

The shared bathrooms were surprisingly very clean and tidy, and they even provided hairdryers. However Jin and I had opted for a double room with ensuite bathroom as we didn’t want to share bathrooms and weren’t sure what the people would be like. Our room was pretty near the common rooms.

After unloading our bags, we went to Pak n’ Save and bought some food items including things to be made for dinner. Jin craved Indomie – and we found some!!

We made dinner of Indomie Goreng at the common kitchen, with some pak choy which she brought from home, and some chicken breast which we had bought from Pak n’ Save. We even had some mango and yoghurt. Yummmm.

Everyone was supposed to clean up after him/herself, but some of the earlier lodgers had just left unwashed utensils in the sink which was extremely thoughtless. We just washed the things we used though. We won’t clean up after other people!

Jin was tired so she went to bed early, and I was feeling a little tired but I wanted a walk around town. So I bundled myself up and walked around the town alone. It was only after 8pm, but the town was as dead as a doornail. Almost all the shops were closed, and there were hardly any people in the streets. I must say that I suppose the town is safe, but having grown up in a city (ridden with crimes likes snatch thefts, rape and the like, no less), I was a bit nervous being all alone. I constantly looked behind and around me to make sure no one was tailing me either on foot or in a car, and anytime I felt uncomfortable about walking down a street, I skipped the street.

I did find a street where there was some form of nightlife; it was where all the pubs were. There were certainly more people there than in all the other streets.

There was also a 24-hour McD, and the petrol stations were still open. However I finished my walk quite quickly and got back to the lodge by about 9pm. I was glad to be back because my nose was almost frozen! I forgot my scarf to wrap around my nose.

So now I’m drinking teh-o next to the gas-wood fire enjoying the warmth. Jin is asleep and I suppose I’ll have to go soon too. Tomorrow I’m planning to bungy and skydive – and as I?m the one doing it and not Jin, I?ll need all the sleep I can get!!


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