Monday, April 12, 2010

Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings was shot all thoughout New Zealand and we'd been excited to see some of the places in the films. Then about three days into our tour of NZ I saw a LOTR book that detailed all the set locations and showed photos of the places while they were filming and then of the places themselves without all the crew. What disappointed me was that most of the places they filmed simply looked like an ordinary hillside or cliff face once you took the actors and digital CGI castles out of the picture.

We finally were close enough to one location that I couldn't pass it up. Its Mt. Doom from the Return of the King movie. Plus there are three volcanos located right next to each other that offers some good hiking with excellent views.

We drove two hours outside Taupo to the ski village on Mount Ruapehu which is right next to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom). We took the chair lift half way up and hiked another hour and a half up to a good lookout point.

I've never been to a ski resort in the summer time and it was hard to imagine people skiing here.

It looked more like Afghanistan than a ski resort.

Here we are near the top. We continued down the path behind us in the pic below up to a sweet lookout spot.

In this pic below you can barely see the tiny tip of another volcano hundreds of miles away peaking through the clouds. Maori legend says that it used to be next to the other three volcanos but it tried to come onto one of the nearby female volcanos and so these three male volcanos pushed him away. According to the Maori people male volcanos are ones that can get snow on them.

The cone shaped volcano is Mt. Doom.

It was nowhere near the same emotions as being at the top of the mountain we climbed in Bolivia but the views were similar. Feeling like you're above the clouds and on top of the world feels pretty cool.

Here I am pointing the wrong way to the volcano. You'd think Gemma would have told me so....

I love this pic. Thats me looking like the Christ the Redeemer statue.

In the bathrooms at the ski resort they had signs telling you what to do if the volcano errupts! Can't say I'd ever seen that before at a ski resort.

One last view of Mt. Doom in the side view mirrors.
We're headed to wine country next and can't wait to get there!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Taupo- Honey Hive, Huka Falls, Maori Carvings and Geothermal Waterfall

On our way to Lake Taupo we stopped just shy of town and saw Huka Falls. Its a small but powerful waterfall at the end of a narrow river that carves through rock. Its hard for a waterfall to impress us these days but it was a beautiful day outside and this one was pretty good.

A couple minutes down the road was The Honey Hive. We stopped in and tasted about 12 different kinds of honey, ate honey ice cream and learned about the difference between bees and wasps. Did you know a wasp can sting you multiple times without dying?

They had a glass boxed honey hive which allowed you to see a hive in full swing.

Most places in New Zealand don't allow what they call "freedom camping" or parking your car and sleeping in it for free. The people at the I-site are always telling you its not allowed and directing you to holiday parks where you have to pay between $10 and $30 per person. In Taupo there is actually a really nice spot along the river just minutes away from Huka Falls where they allow it.
It was one of the nicest places we'd parked, mainly because we didn't have to worry about getting woken up and told to leave. That hasn't actually happened yet but its always in the back of your mind that it might happen. Can you imagine not feeling safe about where you're sleeping? Its an awful feeling and one thats got really old really quick. Not that its been annoying enough to justify spending $30 a night to fix. ;o)
The kind older couple who was parked next to us in their massive full size camper van brought us some treats around dinner time. These cheese and egg souffles were amazing and really made us wish we had an oven. Gemma constantly tells me about how good of a baker she is but she never baked me anything in London so I'm still waiting to find out the truth. If I don't see some cakes a few weeks into our stint in Australia I'm calling her out on it.

Here was the misty mourning river just outside our van the next day.

We woke up the next day and headed to the lake. I saw alot of people watching boats speed by and went over to check it out. I figured they were just racing boats but then I noticed something strange behind all the boats. Are those water skiers??? I couldn't believe people actually race boats with skiers towed behind! Seems kinda dangerous no?

Here's another Hiace on the road. It seems to be a popular vehicle with the youth around here. They paint them bright colors and throw some rims on them and cart all their friends around.

We hopped on a boat tour around Lake Taupo. The boats takes you out to see some Maori carvings on a cliff face.
Looks like these two could use a hair brush.

Here are the Maori carvings. We learned on the boat tour that they were carved in the 70's. We thought they were ancient Maori carvings when we signed up for the tour. Oh well, they are impressive nonetheless. They were done by students at a local art school and they used tools only available to the ancient Maori.
Here you can see some animals carved into the rocks.

The mountains you see in the background are actually three differnt volcanos, one of which is Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. We plan to get a closer look at them in the coming days.

I've been growing out my hair for the hell of it. Check out the mane blowing in the wind.

Here was Rod Stewarts old house, the one in the middle.

We headed to the outskirts of Taupo to a geothermal area. This area of the North Island is full of geothermal areas due to the high concentration of volcanos. This one is just a small waterfall that leads out into the river. You can sit at the river's edge and relax in very warm water just feet away from the freezing river water.
It was pretty hot near the rivers edge but after I saw some other guys get right under the waterfall I realized it must not be THAT hot and gave it a try. It's really hot at first but the pleasure far outweighs the pain. The hot water beating down on my back was amazing and you get used to the temperature pretty quickly.

Here is Gemma trying not to get her hair wet.

What a babe.

This place was free and one of the highlights of the North Island. The guidebook barely mentions it and most travelers we spoke to about it afterwards didn't even bother going. Definitely don't miss it if you go to Taupo.

Here is where the water flows out to the rivers edge.

Fall has just started to appear and this red tree really stood out. We haven't experienced anything but summer for the last year dating back to the summer in London before I left for Central America. I'm looking forward to fall. Mom, can you bring me some of my jackets down?
More fall colors.

Here are the three volcanos again at dusk.

We are taking a two hour drive to get a closer look tomorrow.