Taupo is a tourist town on the shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Lake Taupo fills the caldera of an active volcano. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but the volcano is one of the most violent in the world. Its wikipedia page is sobering. While researching, I learned that volcano eruptions are classified on a scale from 0-8. An eruption classified 0 is “effusive,” and 1 describes a “gentle” eruption (who knew volcanoes could be gentle?). The scale is logarithmic and the descriptions on the scale escalate quickly: a 4 is “cataclysmic.” When the Taupo volcano erupted about 26,500 years ago, it measured an 8: “mega-colossal.” Luckily the volcano did not erupt while we were there, and we had a delightful time.
The whole region is geothermally active, and it’s common to see steam rising from the ground. One especially active spot has been turned into a tourist attraction called the “Craters of the Moon.” It sports pots of boiling mud, plenty of steam vents, and ominous signs warning of grave and painful injury if you stray off the path.
Another natural wonder is the Huka Falls, where the Waikato River races through a narrow canyon before shooting out over a short waterfall. An information sign at the falls boasted the flow of water is so great that it could fill an olympic swimming pool in 11 seconds.
One day we took a boat cruise on the lake. The main attraction is a set of Maori rock carvings accessible only by boat. Once we were underway, the guide let us know that the carvings were made in the 1970s. Not what we expected! They were still interesting, but not quite the cultural marvel we’d anticipated.
Another day Nate and I chartered a boat to go trout fishing. The area is famous for its trout, which live both in streams and in the lake itself. We had a wonderful captain who knew where to find the fish. Nate caught 4 keepers (plus one that got away), which we took home. That evening we took the fish to a local restaurant that cooked them for us. The fresh trout was delectable, and all of us ate far more than we should have.
New Zealand must have more helicopters per capita than anywhere else in the world, and there are plenty of floatplanes too. Jack, who loves planes, wanted a ride in one. We arranged a short flight in Taupo, complete with a takeoff and landing on the water. Quite an experience!