Over these past couple of weeks I can safely say we have embraced the Kiwi lifestyle, we have become avid “trampers” the Kiwi word for hikers/walkers. Our home this week was the small town of Turangi, chosen because of it’s proximity to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and our reason for coming here. Bidding farewell to our lovely farm cottage in Rotorua we enjoyed a relaxing drive to Turangi, skirting the Eastern side of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand with a surface area of 616 square kilometers. Turangi is situated at the Southern end of Lake Taupo with a population of around 3,500 people, tourism and forestry being the main sources of income. No doubt the major draw for visitors to this small town is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the summer months and skiing in the winter months.
For an easy walk and to keep our legs loose prior to the Tongariro Crossing we headed a short distance outside of Turangi to the Lake Rotopounamu track, a 6.4 km loop from the parking lot and around the lake. Although the internet calls this a “flat” loop of 5 km, that was not quite true but a nice walk anyway!!
Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has without a doubt been the highlight of our time in New Zealand so far, it felt like anything else we see or do while in Turangi would pale in comparison, but we enjoyed a few more hikes and found one more noteworthy sight…The Huka Falls. They are the largest falls on the Waikato River near Taupo, just under an hour from where we are staying. At Huka Falls the previously placid 100 meter wide Waikato River is forced through a 20 meter wide gorge, roaring and rumbling at great speed before bursting out into a turbulent pool 11 meters below. Every second up to 220,000 liters of water gushes through the gorge and shoots out beyond the falls creating a beautiful blue/green pool of foaming water. The name Huka is the Maori word for “foam” which is appropriate with the rapids and falling water resembling foam. The volume of water rushing through the narrow gorge was visually amazing and the color of the water is a pale ice blue. I can see now why more than one person suggested we not miss visiting Huka Falls 🙂
Our remaining few days in Turangi were spent doing some shorter local hikes and visiting the hot pools, basically taking it easy after the Tongariro Crossing, but keeping our legs moving. We visited the Tokaanu Thermal Walk and Pools and for a cost of NZD $12 (USD $7.70) each we had a private thermal pool, soaking for 25 minutes and providing much needed heat therapy for post Tongariro Crossing legs. After our private pool time was up we had access to the large public pool for as long as we wanted, it is not as hot as the private pool but pleasant to relax in for a while longer.
The Taranaki Falls track is a 6 km loop passing through alpine shrublands and beech forest with excellent mountain views along the way. We started on the lower track descending to Wairere Stream, climbing alongside it passing Cascade Falls. Continuing up the track, Taranaki Falls comes into view tumbling 20 meters over the edge of a large lava flow which erupted from Ruapehu over 15,000 years ago.
Past the falls the track climbs to the top of the valley, where you can stand on the rocks above the falls, being ever so careful not to slip and go over the falls 😂 It was a flat easy walk back to the village where we started, taking just over 1.5 hours to do the walk. The day was slightly cloudy but we still enjoyed clear views to Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro. Now that we have done the Tongariro Crossing I find our eyes constantly drawn to these mountains, marveling that we crossed between the peaks.
Despite being a very quiet town, we have enjoyed our week here in Turangi and recommend visiting this part of New Zealand, particularly if you are interested in tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Heck if we can do it in our early 60’s anyone can to do this 🤣 Our next destination is New Plymouth, back to the ocean and a change of scenery…