Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Summer Road Trip

It has been a long time since I have had time to sit down and write this blog. However I am determined to get back into blogging regularly, now that my extremely kind and giving husband has brought me a new laptop.

We have been experiencing our first summer in New Zealand and it has been fantastic. Although the weather has not been amazing (the worst summer for many years according to the media here) we have been exploring the country and generally enjoying the outdoor life we moved all this distance for.

In New Zealand kids are off school from a few days before Christmas until the 3rd of February. So J has had a nice long summer holiday which has included Christmas. She was upset at first when she realised she wouldn't be at school for so long but has since been so busy swimming, cycling and exploring the countryside she hasn't had time to miss her mates. Both the girls, despite being smothered in sun cream, have now got healthy tans.

We booked a "Bach" (a small holiday home or beach house so called because they used to be used by bachelors for the types of thing bachelors apparently do!) near Lake Taupo and spent a few days exploring the area. I had never been any further than Otaki along State Highway 1, so it was with great excitement that we finally left the Wellington region.

I had heard tales from friends and seen pictures on the news of, what is known as, the "Desert Road". It is notorious over here as a road with absolutely nothing on it and can be dangerous particularly in winter when people can get stranded in the snow. Its at a high altitude, 3520 ft above sea level, and is very exposed which can lead to quite bad driving conditions. So I made sure we were prepared and knew when to fill up with petrol so we wouldn't get stranded. I might have gone a bit overboard with the first aid kit, emergency food rations and sleeping bags!

In the end I discovered that the Desert Road is actually only 52km long but it is still spectacular. If, like me, you are used to concrete underpasses and fields of cows as your main scenery when travelling on motorways, this road is completely different. Within a few hundred metres of entering the desert road Mount Ruapehu suddenly rises up on your left and you are confronted by a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. Alongside the huge volcano is Mount Ngauruhoe, a slightly smaller, but more cone shaped volcano which doubled as Mount Doom. At any moment you expect huge eagles to fly over on their way to rescue Frodo and Sam. This area is like nothing I have ever seen before, quite an Alien landscape when you are used to the rolling hills of Sussex and Wiltshire.
The road goes on to twist and wind through the volcanic landscape which I imagine is similar to Nevada. There is nothing for miles and miles apart from straight stretches of road with heat mist causing mirages in places and then it twists into small tight valleys with rather scary 90 degree turns. I can easily imagine why the road becomes so dangerous in winter.

The road trip was made more exciting by the fact that unlike the UK there are no purpose built service stations or Little Chefs dotted every few miles along the route. If you need to stop for refreshments you have to stop in one of the small towns you pass. These settlements occur every 20-30km along the road and tend to be heralded by the boards on the side of the road advertising the cafes and facilities offered. The two cafes that we tried out where great and one in particular called the "Soul Food Cafe" has the best Hot Chocolate I have ever tasted. I found it made the trip even more interesting to stop and explore these towns and villages along the route with there cowboy style shop fronts and sun shades.

Some of these towns have really interesting names and clearly try to distinguish themselves from the next town by building something big that you cant miss. Like the town with the giant Wellington Boot (gum boot) built for no obvious reason I could see in the middle of the high street. Or there is the really interesting town called "Bulls" that we drove through with, I suppose understandably, many large pictures and a statues of Bulls littered throughout the high street. Unfortunately, try as I might I didn't manage to catch a picture of these many interesting and unique sites - So I'm afraid you will have to make the trip yourself. I would highly recommend it.

Our final destination. A beautiful little Bach surrounded by countryside.

1 comment:

  1. I love Lake Taupo! (Who doesn't?) The Desert Road reminds me of the high desert in Wyoming. With volcanos, of course.

    I never knew that "bach" came from bachelor.