Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 1 - Wellington to Taupo

27th December 2009

It’s a Sunday and having dropped hubby off at the airport, I pack my things into the car. For someone traveling solo there are a lot of things I seem to be carrying. I realise at this rate, I’m never gonna be a backpacker :) It’s a rainy day and windy as well, but that is not so bad because it keeps the temperatures down and driving is not so tiring. My first halt is Taupo, around 350 km away and after I leave the city, the landscape unfolds like a green dream. Grass covered hills dotted with cream-coloured sheep, head down in the grass. Pastures of cows grazing, the sea lazily caressing the sands with foamy fingers. Pine-covered hills sparkling dark green in the rain and wildflowers nodding merrily along the roadside. To add to the sensual feast Talat Mehmood voice flows smooth against my skin and serenades my heart.

Mount Raupehu rises majestically on my left, head among the clouds and sides still streaked white with snow. There are photo opportunities everywhere but I can’t take any without stopping but the snow-streaked mountain is so breathtakingly beautiful I stop to take pictures. I stop for a short lunch break which involves having my lunch in the back seat of the car. After that it’s back to the undulating road which curves ever so often and winds up and down hills, over little brooks and streams, and beckons, always beckons, to take the next turn, to find out what lies hidden beyond sight.

Finally she comes into sight, the lake that looks like a blue jewel in NZ’s topography. Lake Taupo is one of the largest fresh-water land-locked bodies and is actually a crater of a dormant volcano that is filled up with water fed by various streams. It is so huge that the other side of the lake is not visible and it can be mistaken for the sea, for waves lap against it’s shores and it’s far shores disappear into the mist. It’s a bright sunny day with little patches of cloud and so the blue sky is reflected perfectly in the waters gleaming aqua in the sunshine.

I reach the Taupo township by around 2 in the afternoon and check into the hostel. This time instead of staying in a motel I’ve decided to try out hosteling. Youth Hosteling Association is an international body which provides backpacker accommodation at cheap rates. The room is clean but the toilet and kitchen are shared which is a new experience for me. The kitchen is a large room with crockery, cutlery, pots and pans, stove, microwave and fridge. So basically you get your own materials and use the kitchen to cook and clean up later. There is an attached dining area. It’s almost like the UN there because I hear very little English being spoken, most people are speaking in foreign tongues. Everyone cleans up after himself and food left in the fridge is labelled with the owner’s name. All very clean and hassle-free. However, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to cook Indian food :)

Then I come to what might be the most exciting part of the trip, or even one of the most exciting moments in my life.