March 5, 2015 Turangi, New Zealand

Our next stop was Turangi, about a 45 minute drive from Taupo.  We were glad we had timed our visit to Taupo just right since they were having an Ironman Marathon competition there that weekend and hordes of people were beginning to descend on the town, traffic was picking up and the hotels were all displaying No Vacancy signs.  I had practiced a little driving while in Taupo and felt comfortable driving to Turangi.  Along with driving on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the right, the turn signals are on the right side of the steering wheel with up meaning left turn and down a right turn.  The windshield wiper control is on the left side of the steering wheel.  The lights on the right.  My biggest fear are the round a bouts where you drive on the wrong side of the road going in a clockwise direction in a circle.  Back in the States we drive in a counterclockwise direction.

We arrived in Turangi, a sleepy little town known as the “Trout Fishing Capital of the World”.  It is known for three things: trout fishi white water rafting, and its close proximity to Tongariro National Park.  Can you guess which of those three brought us to Turangi?

We checked into our home for the next two nights which was really a fishing lodge with several cottages spread around the property.  We are no longer surprised to receive our complimentary bottle of milk (we always have a choice of whole or skinny).  We were pleased with our cottage with a living room area, kitchen, bathroom and separate bedroom.

If you guessed Tongariro National Park as our reason for coming to Turangi, you are correct!  Tongariro National Park is the first national park in New Zealand and the fourth oldest in the world.  It is a Dual World Heritage Area because of its cultural and physical attributes.  It is made up of three active volcanoes, Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe.  It is a 80,000 hecacre park with lava flows, craters, hot springs, forests, and ski areas in the winter.  Much of the Lord of the Rings movie was filmed in this park.  Mt Ruapehu is New Zealand’s largest volcano with its peak rising to 2797 meters and the largest ski area in New Zealand.

We knew that bad weather was forecast for the next day, so after settling into the cottage we drove part of the way to the park in hopes of getting some pictures of the mountains before they became fogged in the next day.  We stopped at an overlook on the way back to grab a geocache and spent a few minutes chatting with some French tourists.  We are surprised we have still not met any Americans.PicsArt_1425893920648PicsArt_1425894203351

By now we were getting hungry and since the restaurant choices were very limited in Turangi, we decided to stop by the grocery store.  There was only one grocery store in town, a chain called New World.  They proudly advertise themselves as being 100% New Zealand owned.  We prefer Pak n Save since the prices tend to be a little cheaper, but the New World stores are always clean and the people very friendly.

We decided to get some bread, peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches since eating lunch out was getting old and we needed to pack a lunch to take to the park the next day.  We noticed you can buy sliced bread for sandwiches or thicker bread for toast.  One of the first things we did after arriving in New Zealand was purchasing a large cooler and that has really come in handy as we travel from place to place.

The frozen dinner selections in New Zealand are extremely limited, no matter which store you go to.  We settled on a frozen pizza to cook back at the cottage.  I needed something to cook the pizza on so it wouldn’t make a mess in the oven, so I walked up to the office and asked the owner for a cookie sheet and a pot holder.  He looked at me like I had three heads since he had no idea what I was talking about.  After explaining why I needed them he went into his house adjacent to the office and after consulting with his wife he came out with something resembRings (LOTR) a cookie sheet and a dish towel.  Guess they don’t use pot holders/oven mitts in New Zealand.

The next day we awoke to clouds and showers and drove to Tongariro National Park.  New Zealand does not charge a fee to enter their National Parks.  In return you are not furnished with free maps and information on the park like we receive in the States.  We passed the beautiful Tongariro Chalet on our way to the Visitors Center.  The rangers at the Visitors CenterPicsArt_1425894759930PicsArt_1425895367737PicsArt_1425895869605 were warning hikers about the forecast calling for heavy rain, cold temperatures and gale force winds, especially on the mountain trails which are famous for their hiking, one being the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  They had stopped running the shuttle that takes hikers to the beginning of the trails in an effort to discourage hiking that day.  There were still some die hard hikers who failed to heed the warning and headed out.  We contented ourselves with seeing two great movies about the park which explained how in 1887 Chief Horonwku presented the land to the Crown for the purpose of a national park to ensure the land’s everlasting preservation.  This area of New Zealand was one of the last to be settled.  Development was slow until the railroad reached there in 1909 and the first visitors began to arrive.  In 1936 WWII servicemen settled in the remote valleys under a government program to transform the forest into farmland.  Though initially prosperous, the farmers eventually gave up due to difficult access for trading and the Great Depression.  A bridge called “The Bridge to Nowhere” is a memorial to their dreams. Development began to mushroom in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the building of roads.

After finishing at the Visitors Center we decided to drive the loop road around the park and do some geocaching.  We had hoped to take some short hikes, but by now the rain had picked up and the wind was really whipping.  With temperatures around 50, not factoring in the wind chill, any hikes were unpleasant.  The rain did let up long enough for us to take a short hike to Tawhai Falls and we did stop a few times to grab some geocaches close to the car.  With the rain and fog we didn’t have a chance to see much except for field after field of sheep.  A lot of sheep! By the time we headed home the rain had turned into a steady downpour.  We stopped for a quick dinner at a pub and were glad to get home, somewhat wet and cold.PicsArt_1425896138763PicsArt_1425896362586PicsArt_1425896504018PicsArt_1425896702790

Some more thoughts on food:

If you want a burger most like back home go to a fast food restaurant.  All larger towns have a McDonald’s or a Burger King or both.  Wendy’s is most like back home but they are harder to find.  If you order a burger in a sit down restaurant it is standard for it to come with an egg, beets, carrots, lettuce, tomato and onion all piled on top. If you ask, they will leave off the egg and beets, but we went in one restaurant where the snarly waitress told Bill that is the only way they fix it and told him to order something else.  That kind of rudeness is rare here.  Most people are eager to please and helpful.

I am supplementing my diet with shortbread cookies, but I am getting tired of them.  They have never heard of White Zinfandel wine here so I have adjusted to drinking Rose and it isn’t bad.  Wouldn’t you know my one positive adjustment was wine? And I don’t drink that much.

Bill’s biggest adjustment was the coffee.  Both the price and the weak taste.  He finally decided to buy some instant coffee at the grocery store and uses the pot furnished in all the hotels to heat water.  American beer is also ridiculously expensive here or not offered.

Since we have no way to keep ice cream in the tiny freezers, we have broken our habit of eating ice cream at night.  Just as well since the ice cream here isn’t as good as back home.  There are no donut shops in New Zealand.  They have bakeries but things taste different.  I think it is the flour. French fries are always good and mashed potatoes are always fresh, never instant.

Some observations:

The government wants to make the country completely smoke free which makes the tourism industry very nervous because they feel it will keep tourists from coming.

Gasoline is averaging about $1.92 a liter.  Half of the money goes back to the government.  We got a free card from BP which gives us a few cents off at the pump and gives us more money off as we add up points from purchasing fuel. There is no pre-pay at the pump.  You pump your gas first and then go inside to pay.

No 7/11 convenience stores here.  They have something similar throughout the country called “The Dairy”.

1 thought on “March 5, 2015 Turangi, New Zealand

  1. karnold249

    I am reliving our trip through you! We loved the National Park and Mt. rupahua was actually spouting out steam. I actually have the same exact picture as your second one above.

    So glad you two are enjoying the trip.

Leave a Reply