Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Bryan's campground

Forgotten World Highway

another view

down the road

even more

Lake Taupo

Mt. Taranaki

Whangamoma

hotel is still open

farm

sheep


Once upon a time 26,000 years ago a giant volcano blew its top here in one of the most enormous eruptions ever, making Mt. Krakatoa look like a pimple. The surrounding area is still thermally active and the caldera that was left behind is Lake Taupo today, the biggest lake in New Zealand. The area between Lake Taupo, our driving goal and Mt. Taranaki where we stayed last night in the cow pasture, is littered with remnants of these two volcano’s explosions.

The last remnants of rain and cloud finally left the area and we could easily enjoy a great view of Mt. Taranaki from Bryan’s campground. We were sorry to say good by, but there’s much left to see. Although our GPS did not want us to take the Forgotten World Highway, which is the most direct route between these two areas, Bryan assured us that we could handle it and the views were terrific. He was right on both counts.

The highway has been forgotten for a variety of reasons. Maori used to live in this rough and mountainous land, but found it more convenient to live nearer the coast. Various European settlers tried to make money here mining coal and farming, but this hard land eventually drove almost everyone out. The hamlet of Whangamoma is still visible with a viable hotel surrounded by a ghost town of what used to be a commercial center. What remains is a mighty hard to drive road punctuated by a one lane tunnel and great views. We took a few last photos of Mt. Taranaki before we left Bryan’s home, but that mountain kept turning up as we twisted and wound from west to east. At one point the pavement ran out altogether, but we couldn’t go very fast even when it was paved. As we reached the Mt. Taupo area, the tips of other mountain to the south began to appear. We’ll have to check those out. It was a wonderful adventure on a beautiful day, but not one you would want to attempt in rain or fog. It helped that hardly anyone else tried to take this route and we met very few other vehicles on the hairpin turns.

By the time we reached Lake Taupo, we pulled into the campground and called it a day. We can see the sights here tomorrow. Tonight we can swim in the thermally heated pool or bounce on the giant pillow, an inflated rubber device fifty feet long and twenty feet wide that mimcs the action of a trampoline. What more could we ask for?

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