Taupo to Waitomo – February 2

When I’d checked into my hotel in Taupo, I looked through the wall of brochures for ideas of things to do in the area.  “How about rafting?” the clerk had asked me.  Apparently he’d done it a couple of months back, and had really enjoyed it.  Besides, if you’re going to get wet anyway, it’s not a bad thing to do when it’s raining.  But… meh.  I’ve been rafting, before, and it just wasn’t calling to me.  The brochure that caught my eye was the one for parasailing.  But for that you really need decent weather.

After having called a couple of times (in the evening and then again in the morning), and being told they were watching the weather and playing it by ear, I had an amazing breakfast and then made my way down to the harbor on the off chance that the timing and weather would work out.

Nobody was at the parasailing boat area, and as I was considering whether to order a flat white and wait a bit, they called me back.  Meet there in 20 minutes.  Awesome!  Just enough time for a coffee, too!

I was the only passenger on the boat, and it didn’t take long for us to get out, get me hooked up, and get me up in the air.  And a good thing, too, because while I was up there, the weather started coming in.  I think they cut my ride short a bit because the wind was making things choppy, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  My feet were cold, so I didn’t mind that they didn’t wind up dipping my toes in the lake.  No sooner had I gotten unhooked and back into a seated position, than the rain came in and cooled things off even more.  By the time we got back to shore, they and their next passenger decided to wait a bit before going back out.

Since it was raining, I figured it was a good time for me to hit the road, and I headed down to see the other side of the lake, stopping in at the “Turangi Tongariro” i-Site to ask which short hike I should do to get some nice views.  They suggested I stop at a scenic overlook with good views of the lake before heading over to Whakapapa and hiking the Taranaki Falls loop.  So, I did.  There was a bit of excitement near the scenic overlook, where some folks (tourists on the wrong side of the road, perhaps?) had smashed in the front of their car.  A police officer was there, and was taking statements.  A good reminder not to get too comfortable, though, even when there’s very little traffic.

The Taranaki Falls loop was a nice hike, but unfortunately clouds obscured the peak. Along the trail, I chatted briefly with a couple of guys from Santiago who were on their way to do the Tongariro crossing “backwards.”  They wanted to know if I thought the water in the stream was safe to drink.  I had no idea, and wasn’t sure if “beaver fever” would translate, so I just said that even in places like Alaska where things are generally clean and not polluted, you don’t necessarily want to drink the water “because of animals.”  Hopefully they were more prepared than they seemed to be, and made it to their destination, safely.  They were certainly in a hurry to cross a pretty significant distance before dark, and were getting a late start.

A beautiful drive to Waitomo (well, to Te Kuiti actually), and my hotel welcomed me with a kitten in the reception area, and a giant cat napping in my parking space.  My kind of place!  I followed the receptionist’s suggestion for dinner and walked into town, where I ate at a pretty nice restaurant in the old railroad station.  Excellent lamb shank.

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