Lady Knox Rainbow Mountain Wai o Tapu Ernest Kemp and a Crafty Trout
Lady Knox, Rainbow Mountain, Wai-o-Tapu, Ernest Kemp and a Crafty Trout.
In Iceland it is now frowned upon to put soap powder down a geyser to make it erupt for the entertainment of the captive audience but way back in the nineteenth century there was a mining prison camp under Rainbow Mountain, Wai-o-Tapu in Maori and the prisoners would lay their dirty clothes around the bubbling hole, throw in some soap and watch nature’s own top loader at work in front of their very eyes.
So maybe we were among the last visitors to sit waiting for the soap to disturb the layer separating two different types of water causing the hotter water underneath to release its pressure upwards. Anyway it was another experience ticked off the list and it might be the only geyser the children ever see.
“Granny, how many more countries do you and Grandad have to visit before you come home?” Ruby asked as we wandered through the hot water lakes and steaming craters hand in hand. A child’s honest question deserves an honest answer, so I listed the countries and we counted them together, but then I softened the answer by a promise to come home as often as we could including later this year.
I was telling her about the bushes around us (Manuka and Kanuka) that produce the flowers from which bees make excellent honey. When I asked if she thought any animals could live in this smelly place with its boiling water and hot muddy ground she mentioned birds who could fly away from it. Gary and Emily called to us to approach really quietly as they had found something, it was a tiny mouse like creature which stayed still just long enough for me to snap a picture through the twigs. Can you make it out?
Cyclone Cook was still moving over us. It was a vast system that was taking days to clear away. The forecast on Wednesday April 12th was for torrential rain and thunderstorms to cross the North Island until Friday with winds predictions up to 250kmph. Well fortunately those winds did not materialise but the rain came and was pushed along with gale force winds in places.
So when we arrived at our next campsite in the Wairakei Thermal Valley near LakeTaupo Rob and I had to decide whether it would be wise to sleep in the tent or in a chalet they had available on the site. Also our two next excursions were weather dependent and we started praying for a break in the rain. The family were due to take a jet boat ride to the Huka Falls that spill from the lake through a narrow ravine into the Waikato River but these don’t run if it is raining as the droplets of rain sting the skin of the passengers in these high speed craft.
Taupo got its name from a great chief and explorer, Tia. He arrived on the eastern side of the lake eight hundred years ago and noted a cliff formation resembling his heavy feathered cloak, known as a Taupo. He set up an altar and claimed the place as Taupo-nui-a-tia, the great shoulder cloak of Tia. Centuries later Ernest Kemp arrived on the scene and started the fishing trade and sport fishing on the lake, opening the first trading store to sell fishing gear and a variety of giant trout that thrived in the clear, pure and potable waters.
The little replica steamer we sailed in to the Maori rock carvings was named after Ernest Kemp and was run by a friendly couple and by coincidence had been built back in 1980 at Whangarei. Dave our skipper chatted to us as we crossed the near calm waters towards the famous Modern Maori Rock Carvings. “That house up there was once owned by Rod Stewart and was part of his divorce settlement, made a good job of repairing the chain saw cut didn’t they”.
The Lake itself is the largest in Australasia at 660sq.km and was formed 27,000 years ago when the Oruanui volcano erupted and then collapsed forming this vast caldera. It is the fourth largest live, very live, supervolcano in the world and is roughly the size of Singapore. The eruption 1800 years ago was the biggest in 3000 years of recorded history and was seen by the Romans in Italy and the Chinese in guess where.
In more recent times, back in the 1976 a Maori grandmother Te Huatahi Susie Gilbert asked her grandson to carve the likeness of her ancestor Ngatoroirangi in the wood of a totara tree to create a permanent connection for her family to the land. Well this troubled him because he could not find a suitable tree. So one fine evening he set off in his canoe for a thoughtful paddle out on the lake.
Passing Acacia Bay and approaching Rangatira Point, Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell found a natural rock alcove in Mine Bay and over the course of four years he led his team of four artists to create this wonderful 14 metre high figure of their ancestor. There it stood before us as Dave very slowly turned his little steamer full circle so we could all get a good view. Rob recalls that the lines on the forehead represent the family members, there being more on the wife’s side and the two mouths remind us that the ancestor was a mimic who copied sounds and voices of those around him.
A mystery to me was that Dave pointed out a house where he said Zane Grey, the renowned American writer of the late 19th century, wrote some books including ‘Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado’. Well he may have written the book while staying there but in my Kindle version it contained no reference to Lake Taupo, only his sea fishing off the Bay of Islands on the North East coast.
Back ashore and in the Crafty Trout Family Brewing Company’s Austrian Alpine Bier Kafe we tucked into a tasty lunch after texting the family to see what they had been up to. A few minutes later they all joined us and our lunch became extended into a family occasion. They had been to the swimming complex and spent the afternoon at the Honey Centre, interesting but expensive. We went food shopping for all at Countdown.
Lauren was travelling by bus that night to Wellington to spend a few days with Caroline and her family, and Rob and I were enjoying the comforts of the chalet we had rented. We rose just after 1.00am to take her to the bus stop in Taupo during one of the wettest nights on record. Vicky bounced through the muddy puddles on the track back to camp (we were lucky no trees had come down) and we returned to our snug bed after checking our little tent that we had lashed down in the covered lean-to to dry.
The next morning dawned much brighter and we were hopeful the Huka Falls Jet Boats would be running. I pinned our camp host down and asked what sort of cream they served with their famous cream teas. Sad memories of squirty cream on hot scones when we were in Jersey came to mind. “Is it clotted,” I asked innocently.
“No,” answered the ex-marine and retired motorbike racer of Isle of Man TT fame, “Its whipped cream served by a clot!” The clot was him and he also made the delicious scones we would enjoy later in the day, but first, to Hukka Falls.