Taupo is surrounded by dozens of hiking trails leading into the hills or along the river. Avid walkers and hikers frequent these trails morning through dusk, and I just may have covered all of them during my stay in Taupo. My favorite hike followed a winding trail to the popular Huka Falls and then on to Craters of the Moon, another fantastic Taupo destination. If you have the time while in Taupo, I suggest trying to fit both activities into your itinerary. Ask at the tourist information center for a map of all hiking trails.
I left Rainbow Lodge at dawn to catch the best light and see the mist rising off of the Waikato River. The entire area surrounding Taupo is thermally active and there were plenty of hot pools to stop and admire along the way. It was much too cold to strip off my wooly layers and go for a soak though I imagine the pools would feel much like a hot tub, without the massaging jets of course. Huka Falls was a two hour hike away from town, but the view and serenity was well worth the chilly morning walk. I heard the falls before I saw them. The previously smooth Waikato suddenly turned into gorgeous torrents of angry water that hurled themselves downwards, ending in a cascade of churning, turquoise pools. “Huka” means Great Body of Spray in the Maori language. The phrase explains itself!
The foresty path then led onward to the Craters of the Moon, a huge, actively thermal park complete with bubbling mud-pools and jets of hot steam erupting into the sky. There was a wooden walkway that allowed close access to the craters and steam pools. Since the hydrothermal power station up the road started using up ground water, the fumaroles (steam vents) and mud-pools have become even more active. There is less water for cooling the magma near the surface and the ground cavities, previously packed with hot water, are now filled with high pressure steam. This steam breaks through, thus giving us the Craters of the Moon. Just a bit of trivia!
At this point, I was about a three hour hike from town. While I am not by any means a lazy person, I decided to forgo the walk and try to hitchhike back to Taupo. Yes, I know that it isn’t a safe thing to do, especially by myself. However, I asked a nice elderly couple that was just leaving the thermal pools and they quickly complied. Steve and Erma just had one quick stop to make before heading back to town. This quick stop turned into a two hour masquerade tromping through the forest and digging through the mud. Suprisingly, they were in the middle of a type of scavenger hunt! As it turns out, there is this new worldwide phenomenon, called geocaching and this couple was on a hunt for two hidden parcels. I honestly don’t know how I wind up in these situations.
Time to move on – I loved Taupo and was hesitant to leave. The Rainbow Lodge was a fantastic hostel, complete with a sauna, movie room, and spice rack. I get excited about the little things and a spice rack was certainly thrilling. The management was genuinely kind, the down blankets were extra cozy, and I had a special fondness for the always hot showers (not something that you can often find in hostels). But, thus is the life of a backpacker sometimes – constantly on the move. Off to Auckland!