Taupo is a small town on the North Island commonly known for doing skydiving, bungy, a large lake, hot springs and an hour away you can climb Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movie.
We stayed at Urban Retreat, a small hostel in the centre. Once again we avoided the Base Hostel and rightly so because there was news of bed bugs the following day. Eek!!
As people were grouped off to do sky dives, we did a 45 minute walk from town to the hot springs. This was a small section of the lake where a waterfall was under a bridge. The water was a bit muddy but after stepping in to the cold lake, a few steps in you feel the warmth of the springs and it’s brilliant. A man from Canada was well prepared for this as he brought speakers along and played Bob Marley. What a great way to chill out, much more enjoyable than jumping out of a plane if you ask me!
The following day 80% of the group headed off to climb Mount Doom at 5am… why didn’t Bekki and I join them? Well, it’s $65 for return transport… but the mountain is free to climb. We just felt like it was a lot of money to ask for an hour there and back so we passed on this. But Nici climbed and I couldn’t be prouder of her… Anyone who climbed it raved that it was horrible but their biggest achievement. I did not realise how difficult this mountain was, it looked extremely steep and the weather didn’t make it easy. Good work Nici!!!
Bekki and I instead went on a walk around town, part of Taupo lake and visited ‘The world’s coolest McDonald’s’ which was an aeroplane. I was also keen to try out paragliding over the lake for a bit of a challenge (feeling guilty about missing the mountain) but no one was manning their stand on the lake… such a shame. We instead just exolored the town and found some really nice street art.
At sunset I went for a run around the lake, it was a great way to see more of the lake and the views were incredible.
The next day we were off to River Valley for the night. On our Kiwi tour bus, we often do a few on the way to places for photos, walks and café breaks. The journies are often 5 to 9 hours so it breaks up the day. On this journey we stopped off to get a good view of Mount Doom (a mountain I haven’t climbed) from a distance as well as a waterfall from Lord of the Rings (a film I still haven’t seen).
On to River Valley. Now I know what you’re thinking… why did they choose this creative name?? Well, ‘River Valley’ is simply a valley with a river running through it… mystery solved! There is nothing around for miles, no shop, no wifi, no phone reception, no other homes, just us in ‘River Valley Lodge’. Which in case you didn’t know is a lodge, next to a river in a valley. 🙂 It is a beautiful little place though… a good place to get away from it all and relax amongst nature.
In the evening in the middle of a valley with no Internet and no where to go we took the time to bond. A few of us grouped together and made up an international drinking game using famous phrases from each country to pass around until someone messes up. It’s a very hard game to describe but we started with 4 players and ended with about 20. We were joined by Germans, Sweeds, Dutch, Spanish Canadians and Bekki and I representing the Brits. It was a good way to get to know a new group of lovely people. After changing buses we didn’t really this group very well.
In River Valley Lodge our hostel room was like nothing I have ever seen or slept in before. It was described to us by our driver as an ‘orgy pit’ (lovely!) which was simply a giant bunk bed where 4 could sleep on top and 4 on the bottom… and there were 4 of these sets of beds altogether backed onto each other. Very strange indeed!
The next day we were off to Wellington… or so we thought. We were all rushed by our driver to get all our bags out and on to a trailer. We all then had to trek up a hill to meet our big green kiwi bus (it was too big to drive down the valley). But when we got there, we found two problems… one Bekki and I’s bags were covered in white gravel… why? Because our driver decided to race the truck up the hill so loads of bags fell off the trailer. One girl even found her bag in the road whilst walking up that he’d missed! The drivers response to this was “You’re travelling girls, happens all the time in Cambodia’. My annoyed reply being: “I’ve been to Cambodia, this did not and does not happen.” Second problem, it turned out we couldn’t go anywhere yet because people weren’t back yet from their morning activities of horse trekking and rafting and our driver was just rushing us to make sure we were ready so he didn’t miss the cricket… So we had to wait an hour and a half in the hot sun. I hate being rushed for no reason, we were perfectly happy sat in the shade with a cup of tea, next to the river, in the valley.
But on arrival to Wellington, one poor soul (James from Canada number 1) found his backpack was missing. Turns out the driver did not collect all the bags that fell off the trailor, and not everyone was aware bags had fallen off so people didn’t get a chance to double check. What made this worse Kiwi Experience took no responsibility for this, and also reported to James that they couldn’t find his bag so he had rebuy all this stuff.