At the Edge of a Supervulcano
12.05.2015 - 14.05.2015
It was the 12th of May. In only one week I'd be leaving New Zealand. I didn't comprehend yet what that meant. It meant, that my world trip was almost over. It meant, I'd leave Aotearoa and have only week left of travels. It meant, I would be home at last after having traveled over 300 days through many countries. It didn't fit in my head yet at that point. I pushed that thought back in my head and continued looking out of the bus window. We headed towards Lake Taupo with the township of Taupo right at its edge. The highlight of that days bus drive was the cone shaped mountain many would recognize from a special movie trilogy (yes, The Lord of the Rings) - Mt. Ngauruhoe aka. Mt. Doom.
Winding along the street, Waikato River was making its way to Lake Taupo as well. We stopped at the massive Huka Falls (Maori huka meaning foam). With a height of 11 meters and what looks like a caved channel it looks man-made, however, it is completely natural. An earthquake formed the Waikato River in that area. Every second, 220.000 liters of water rush down the falls. The massive amount of water created such a thundering sound.
The Huka Falls were only a short distance from the township of Taupo so that it didn't take long to get to our hostel after the stop at the waterfall. The town of Taupo's full name is Taupo-nui-a-Tia (Maori for great cloak of Tia). It is named after chief Tia who laid his cloak on the ground and by doing this forming the lake. The lake itself is about 616 km2 big and therefore larger than Singapore (where I would be in only 7 days!!). It is the biggest freshwater lake in Australasia. This wasn't always the case. Around 186AD ancient Chinese and Roman records recall a dark red skies that brought climate change. The Chinese talked about a "red dragon" high in the sky. The red dragon was one of the world's most violent volcanic explosions. Simply put, we were standing at the crater of a supervulcano. Damn...
One main cultural attraction which is actually located on Lake Taupo are the Mine Bay Rock Carvings. Master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell who had finished his 10-year training period with Maori elders in the late 1970's returned to Taupo in order to start an important carving. Matahi decided to start a carving of Ngatoroirangi, a visionary Maori navigator who guided the Maori tribes of Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa to the Taupo area over a thousand years ago. The main carving is over 10 meters high and took four years to complete. The artwork is Matahi's gift to Taupo. Too bad I had no chance to see them in person but only on pictures.
Near the water side, a variety of sculptures, arts and crafts can be found. The artistic works shall reflect the landscape and cultural background of the lake, mountains and surrounding landscape. The Taupo Art Connection Art Trail includes works like "The Crossing" by local artist Robbie Graham. It represents the volcanic peaks of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (which I couldn't do either due to the short amount of time I had left...). Another beautiful piece is the "Reid’s Carving". That beautiful Maori carving was built in 1961 by carver Tene Waitere. The red carving symbolizes a woman, Lucy Rongoheikume Rickit, who was a descendant of the Maori tribes Tuhourangi of Rotorua and Tuwharetoa of Taupo. It honors the great Maori leaders who founded the two tribes and how they came together through the whakapapa (Maori for lineage) of Mrs. Ruihi (Lucy) Rongoheikume Reid (born Rickit). Both and many more are a great addition to the region. All have a special story to tell.
The rest of the day was spent strolling around in town and finishing the day hanging out with the group.