Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Zealand: Kayaking Lake Taupo, Taupo, and Rotorua (Thursday, February 18)

Written in the car headed to Taupo, about 12:50 pm on Friday, February 18, and finished in the room in Wellington at 10:00 pm

We drove back down to Taupo today for my kayaking outing, arriving at the i-SITE Visitor Centre about 10 minutes before departure time (just right).  I forgot my water bottle and towel in the car, and Mom left a couple minutes after we got there, so I had to do without.  (Didn’t need them in the end.  I’m not one of those who guzzles water from a bottle all day, anyway, and I just settled for being wet after swimming.)

Run by Kayaking Kiwi, our party included 10 of us and two guides.  I was paired with Daniel, a backpacker on vacation from Cork, Ireland.  We were one of the strongest pairs — my father used to do a couple river canoeing trips a year when I was a teenager, and you never forget those skills.

We drove out through Acacia Bay, where we were told that the housing market has spiked quite a lot, to where houses with a lake view are now in the NZ$500,000 range.  (Which to my eye is a steal; that’s about US $350,000, and Seattle houses with these sorts of views would be over $1,000,000.  Maybe I should emigrate?  And indeed, a real estate search for Acacia Bay does show lake-view houses in the $400–600K range.)  We unloaded kayaks on a beach and donned safety gear, including a funky tunic which stretches over the mouth of the kayak to help keep the water out.  The group spent about an hour kayaking to the carvings, 20-30 minutes there, 20 minutes back to a spot where we had some snacks and swam a bit, then back to the starting point.  Only one of the kayaks was lagging much of the way; I think we may have been a faster group than average, over all.

(While I could do all the paddling fine, there’s no question that I will feel this upper-body workout for the next couple days.)

I had initially thought the carvings were ancient but well preserved, but that’s silly when you think of it: there was no metallurgy in the South Seas 300-600 years ago, so there was little way for the Māori to develop the tools needed to carve volcanic rock.  Rather, they were done in the late 1970s by a trained native carver using metal tools but traditional methods.  The largest is about 30 feet high, a solid wall carving representing Ngātoro-i-rangi, the navigator of the canoes which brought the Māori to Aotearoa (New Zealand).  There were several other smaller carvings, including one of the lizard-like guardian of Lake Taupo (in Māori legend, all bodies of water have one, called a kaitiaki).  (Here is a Google images search for the carvings.)

(The Easter Island moai were apparently done with stone tools, and except for a handful, are made from tuff [compressed volcanic ash], which may be easier to carve. These carvings are very fine in comparison.)

We were back to the i-SITE drop-off spot just after 5 pm, an hour before Mom was supposed to pick me up. I wandered around, but most of the shops closed at 5 pm on Thursday (but some had been open later on Wednesday, which seemed odd).  I had a cone of Tip Top ice cream, pineapple with chocolate chunks — yummy — and wandered through a kitchen store on Tamamutu Street, then visited the Taupo Library and headed to the parking lot where Mom had dropped me off and dozed in the sun.  (Yes, the sun eventually came out a bit while we were on the lake, and then later as well. I used good sunscreen today.)

(The pineapple ice cream echoed a brand of New Zealand candy, pineapple-flavored taffy covered in chocolate called Pineapple Lumps.  What a name, eh?  Then what do you make of Peanut Slab?)

Mom had gone to a bookstore, and then to the Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park, where she walked the entire park except for the cave.  Good for her!  After she got back, we ate dinner at Portofino Italian Restaurant in Taupo, then headed back to Rotorua.

Each place we’ve stayed at has been outfitted with an electric tea kettle.  These have proven to be superb paired with a French press to make coffee, able to bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil in just a minute or two.  That seems vastly more efficient than using a stove to heat a metal tea kettle.  I don’t recall having seen electric tea kettles for sale in the States at the likes of Bed Bath & Beyond, but now I’m going to look for one.

Updated on March 1, 2010

Updated on March 17, 2010
Added links.
Added travel map.
Updated on June 7, 2010
Moved part of this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

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