Southbound

In which Miles brings MileSteppin.com to the end of 2015 with the recounting of the journey from North Island to South Island.

To view the full gallery of 55 pictures on imgur, click here.

I mentioned Auckland’s rainy Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day clearing up to become sunny and beautiful.  The weather remained hot and sunny with blue skies.  I had some desire to experience Auckland in January, when the locals have gone on holiday.  But the kiwis clear out gradually over the first two weeks of January.  I have seen a lot of Auckland, and I was feeling the urge to head south.  That urge won out.

I met some friends who I hadn’t seen for years for lunch in Mission Bay.  After lunch I crossed the road for a look at the beach, and the last look at Rangitoto I’ll have in some time.  It was a beautiful day, and Aucklanders were out enjoying the beach and the sun.  This is probably the best picture of the island I’ve taken.

Rangitoto Island from Mission Bay
Rangitoto Island from Mission Bay

I said farewell to Rangitoto and Auckland, and headed south.

I had a couple days to get to Wellington, so after four or five hours of driving, I decided to spend the night just south of Lake Taupo.

Lake Taupo, late afternoon
Lake Taupo, late afternoon
Lake Taupo after sunset
Lake Taupo after sunset

Lake Taupo is the caldera of the Taupo Volcano.  It is a huge lake with a surface area of 616 square kilometers (238 sq mi) and a perimeter of ~193 kilometers.  Any view I’ve seen takes in only part of the lake.   The deepest point in Lake Taupo is 186 meters.  The supervolcanic eruption that formed the lake was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5000 years.  There is still hydro and geothermal activity in the Taupo area, and it extends through Rotorua and the active volcano White Island.

I had never actually been on the lake before, so I caught a morning cruise to the Māori rock carvings.  These were created in the late 1970s by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell and John Randall, and draw a lot of tourists on boats and kayaks.

During the cruise to and from the carvings, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films), and Mount Tongariro, key features of Tongariro National Park, are visible on the horizon.  These are all active volcanoes.

Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doon), and Mount Tongariro from Lake Taupo
Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom), and Mount Tongariro from Lake Taupo
Boats on Lake Taupo
Boats on Lake Taupo
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings
Māori rock carvings

The Māori rock carvings are a very cool and worthwhile destination, and a great reason to get out on Lake Taupo, but they are topped by their setting.

The town of Taupo
The town of Taupo

South of Taupo the highway enters a high desert as it passes the eastern edge of Tongariro National Park for even better views of the three mountains.

Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doon), and Mount Tongariro from Lake Taupo
Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom), and Mount Tongariro
Mount Ruapehu
Mount Ruapehu
Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom)
Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom)

I drove about four hours and spent the night just north of Wellington.  My ferry wouldn’t leave until 6:30pm, so in the morning I visited Mount Victoria Lookout for its panoramic views of Wellington.

Wellington from Mount Victoria Lookout
Wellington from Mount Victoria Lookout
Wellington from Mount Victoria Lookout
Wellington from Mount Victoria Lookout

Then I had a late lunch, bought some supplies, and headed to the ferry terminal.

The Interislander
The Interislander

I still enjoy the novelty of driving a vehicle onto a ferry.  About nine years ago I watched a train being driven onto the Interislander.  This time I had to settle for joining the long row of cars boarding.

Onboard the Interislander
Onboard the Interislander

Crossing from the North Island to the South Island takes about three hours.  The scenery is spectacular, and the change between the two islands is striking.

Wellington from the Interislander
Wellington from the Interislander

The weather had become cloudy and cool during boarding, and the breeze on the top deck was cold.  People’s spirits were high, and I had some very pleasant conversations before the weather chased others indoors.

Leaving the North Island
Leaving the North Island

People emerged again when the ferry entered Queen Charlotte Sound.

Queen Charlotte Sound from the Interislander
Queen Charlotte Sound from the Interislander

It was dark when the ferry arrived in Picton.  I drove off of the Interislander, and headed southwest, stopping at the first campground for the night.  The next day was New Year’s Eve, and the next morning I arrived in Nelson, the subject of my next post.

To view the full gallery of 55 pictures on imgur, click here.