It’s Saturday morning and the Whanganui Traders River Markets are in full swing by the time we leave the house. We both love a good market. This one is lovely with loads of home made foods and crafts. There are barbie doll dresses on doll sized coat hangers, wooden toys and lots of knitted items. There are cake stalls, coffee options galore (not that I drink coffee) and all the usual friend foods. We buy cheese, cakes and vegetables.
We are passed on our way north by about 60 Minis driving southward. The tiny low-slung cars hurtle around the twisting corners as though on tracks. Most are old classics with gaudy paint jobs that make the cars look even more fun. I suspect every Mini in New Zealand drives past us today.
We stop at Raukawa Falls, which are visible from the road. There’s a large apple tree next to the lookout but, unfortunately, we are unable to reach the remaining apples, which are meters off the ground. So we settle for enjoying the view.
Tiny Raetihi seems to be a sleepy town. The few shops in the main street seem to sell used goods, though there is an expensive art gallery that we browse. I get tjst artists take a lot of time to create their works, but I can’t see the value in paying $200 for a small photo mounted on canvas. AndI can’t help but wonder whether the artists or gallery actually ever make any money when they charge what Paul and I refer to as “artist prices”. We stop at the local church to take our own photos, rather than paying for someone else’s interpretation. It’s such a unique church for this part of the world and well located for photography. Even the views through the windows are pretty.
We continue our drive until a bright red viaduct catches our eyes. This is the Makatote Viaduct, which was constructed in the first decade of the twentieth Century. Prior to this rail bridge being built, the Central Plateau of New Zealand’s North Island was isolated from development. Trains simply couldn’t cross the void to transport goods there. The viaduct has recently been renovated and restumped to provide ongoing rail access across the island.
By the time we reach Mt Ruhapehu and Tongariro it’s late in the afternoon. Clouds block any views and drizzle is falling. There’s nothing to see so we leave Ruhapehu for another Kiwi adventure and drive to the start of the Tongariro Crossing hiking trail. Surprisingly, there are many tourists who have hiked in the bleak conditions and who are now waiting for bus transfers back to their hostels. I can’t understand hiking here in near white out conditions but each to their own. We’ll be back one day to see the volcanoes.
And then, finally, Lake Taupo comes into view. It’s far larger than I had imagined. And it has cliffs along the edges, not just sloping shores. It’s a pretty drive around the lake with plenty of places to stop.
Taupo proves to be a busy town filled to the brim with tourists and souvenir shops. We stop briefly to use some free wifi (all banks have free customer wifi during business hours), download maps to our accommodation and do a little grocery shopping. Then we drive 20km (14 miles) out of town to Kinloch where we’ve rented a bach (holiday cabin) for two nights. It’s cosy and within easy walk to the edge of the lake where we take in the final rays of sunshine.