At the end of our several hundred kilometre detour around some of the slightly lesser travelled parts of the north island, we found ourselves back in Taupo, partly to do our second park run and partly to wait for a weather window to allow us to finally enter Mordor.
Taupo is a small town that sits on the north side of New Zealand's largest lake. In the winter it's a ski town and it seems to be the extreme sports capital of the north island - there are lots of adverts for opportunities to go jet boating and skydiving all over the place. We weren't here for any of that. We were here as a stop off for what we knew, but couldn't see, was on the other side of the lake.
On the south side lies Tongariro National Park - home to several mountains, including Mount Ngauruhoe (known hereafter as Mount Doom because it's easier to spell) the star of the Lord of the Rings films and the focus of “New Zealand's best day hike” the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Bad weather in Tongariro had mean that we hadn't been able to see the mountains on our first visit to Taupo, but we were hoping we'd have better luck on the second attempt.
There is more to Taupo than just proximity to good things: it is also the home of Superloo. Super in name and super in nature, this beautiful grey building houses warm showers and clean toilets. For 2 dollars 50 you can enjoy a water cannon of steaming hot water for four minutes, enough to wash your hair and feel you are inside a volcano. No surprise that we had been dreaming about it for days. We are also familiar enough with the town now to have created a charging and wi-fi route that starts are the library and sees us come out of a cafe with fully charged electronics and a new article uploaded to our website.
Heading back into Taupo on a Friday afternoon also meant that we'd be in town on Saturday morning and therefore able to attend another of New Zealand's newer park runs. Having only started in January (the height of summer) and been through its first winter dip, Taupo park run only had 16 participants the week before we came so we were excited about the prospects finishing with high positions.
Having gone to bed on a cloudy Friday night, it was great to wake up to much clearer skies on Saturday morning and, for the first time, views of the mountain peaks in the distance. The park run itself runs along the shore of the lake and back, which meant that we had views of the mountains to look at as we ran.
The event director was an engineer who worked for the company that manages the 9 hydroelectric power plants that come off the Waikato river, and told us how they use the lake as a reservoir, controlling its level to feed the river as necessary. The amount of rain they'd had this winter meant that Huka falls, a nearby waterfall that we visited on our first time in Taupo, was very spectacular at the moment.
This time at park run there were still only 18 people and sure enough we both finished in the top ten - Adrian in fifth and Dina in eighth, getting up the distinction of being the fastest female.
Having seen the mountains which are our next target, we're heading into the national park with renewed optimism that we might actually be able to set foot on Mount Doom.