Long Walks and Helicopter Rides

What an exhilarating few days!

Wednesday we decided to go for a walk. We started along the lake walkway when we decided to walk to nearby Mt. Tauhara. According to the city map, it shouldn’t be that far of a walk, not much farther than the lake road was. No problem! So we set out.

Lake Taupo is a little different than Lake Rotorua. For one, it’s bigger. Biggest one in Australasia. It also has as many ducks as Rotorua had gulls. They’re much less greedy and more sociable. Mallards and black ducks, mostly.

About halfway to the mountain (about 8km from our hostel) we took a rest and observed our surroundings. We were walking along a main highway from town and were approaching pasture and farmland, not totally unlike rural Oklahoma. Indi and I figured the road shouldn’t be that much farther on and we felt in good spirits. We crested the next little hill and were greeted by a herd of cattle. It was like one of those moments in the movies where the stranger enters the bar: everyone stops, looks…the piano player stops playing. The cows were quite interested in our presence and followed us, mooing incessantly, until their fence prohibited further investigation. A few kilometers later, we stopped for a break again. How much farther was this road, anyway? I saw a roadsign in the distance. I told Indi that if that didn’t get us where we were going, we’d turn around and head back. As luck would have it, that was indeed our road.

Twenty minutes later, we were standing at the entrance to the mountain path. After assessing our road wear and the gear/food we had, we decided not to go up. It was a fairly easy walk, but it would take two hours and we’d have no rations for the walk back. I took a picture to prove we had made it and turned back. It wasn’t until the final 1/5th of our walk that my hip started to give me trouble (my left leg is about a quarter inch shorter than my right, after awhile my hip reminds me of this) and we hobbled into the BK near our lodging for a beverage and burger, seeing as how our lunch was eaten way back at the mountain. We got back in and crashed.

Yesterday, we got up and ached a little. It was an easy decision to stay in. Early afternoon set in, though, and we were restless. We talked to the desk lady here and got some ideas on what to do. Due to the cold, we figure we’re not going to be in NZ for the whole three months and wanted to get some excitement in. As soon as we saw the helitour brochure that included the Tongariro Crossing we’d miss out on, we had made our decision. A whirlwind of activity (and only about 30 mins) later, we were about to take off on our two hour tour.


It was our first time in a chopper. It was also breathtaking. I was worried about getting sick, but I needn’t have. It was smooth and the day had cleared beautifully. We took a tour of some of the thermal areas and farmland before going to the mountains. There are pictures on the Flickr site; my words cannot do justice. It was an amazing experience and, although expensive, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. We even landed in the mountains for a few minutes. It was -12 C! Bloody cold, I believe, is the local designation for that temperature. On the way back to town, we zoomed through a river area and got to see Taupo from the air.

Brilliant! As soon as we got back to the backpacker, the Dramamine I’d taken finally overrode the adrenaline and put me to sleep. Today we took a short walk but it’s quite cold. Supposed to snow tonight. We may see a local band perform, which would be a NZ first. Speaking of firsts, I need to post my ‘new foods’ list soon. You may be surprised.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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