Since the short hike from Taupo didn't quench our thirst for activity, we decided on more of a full day hike along the Tama Lake trail. A drive further south to the Volcanic Zone, led us to the Whakapapa village. While the typed name is quite entertaining, the correctly pronounced name of "Fakapapa" is even better!
It is fully autumn here, and the walk through the alpine tundra in the shadows of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu was surreal; the fall colors, blue sky, and looming volcanoes were all so vivid. Knowing that Ruapehu erupted as recently as September 2007 and the trails were just recently reopened, and Ngauruhoe for its cameo as Mt Doom and Mordor, Kate and I had plenty to keep our minds wandering about as well.
Starting the hike at sunrise allowed the two of us to have the trail essentially to ourselves. It's currently the ANZAC holiday here, similar to our Veteran's Day, so we knew that there would be a lot of traffic before long. The lower Tama Lake was our first destination, which protruded as a brilliant turquoise blue while being surround by volcanic sand and rock. A quick 30 minutes later, up a steep ridge, the upper Tama Lake was where we rested for lunch of cheese and salami sandwiches, apples, and a few Oreo's! Of the two lakes, the lower would be our favorite. On the way back down, we started to pass the human train of hikers walking with huge bags for the long weekend. It surprised us at what a late start they were having!
The sun hasn't shown itself too much while in New Zealand, but we still can't help ourselves from visiting coastal beach towns, especially when they are next to vineyards. We are in Napier now, which is home to the famous Hawke's Bay wineries. We have been a BIG fan of the NZ syrah's so if you're looking for something to drink, see what you can find in your local stores.