Wairakei, Taupo, North Island


Wairakei Geothermal park in the Tongariro volcano area of the north island

On my way to Wellington, I stopped off at a place, so I was told by Bernie and Michael and their friends – Taupo that they visit for holiday breaks, and where they had a speed boat I think.

I found it hard to book there and eventually found Blue Light hostel but hadn’t realised how far out it was!  Or what it was!

Dropped off by the bus by the information centre, on the road of out Taupo, I had looked it up and crossed to the bus stop where I found the bus was due out there – and to the waterfall famous and often visited by tourists here – but realised they were only two hourly – there or back!

SO I got on, unsure where I was going, to Wairakei, that turned out to be an estate of homes originally built to house the waterworks staff who built and manned the water run energy factory nearby.   It was an odd place, 6 km outside the town!  A stop off on the bus at the waterfall where you could walk to it – and I did one day, and the shop where memorabilia could be bought from T-shirts to globes!

I stood to get off but then hesitated as I couldn’t see nothing like a hostel nearby!  The driver realised where I was probably headed and dropped me off two stops later at a fenced hostel where schools book or police bring groups of offenders to help them lead better lives etc.  There were several buildings and I had one to myself, choosing my own room by the door and two windows, not far from the house the manager and his family lived in!

He was a big black guy, very friendly, open and helpful.  His wife too spent a few hours one day chatting with me, his daughter of about 7 didn’t like me taking attention from her, and their enormous dog used to sit with me in the shade where I read, wrote or used the internet by the office in their gardens!  It was a bizarre experience but fun!  I had a shared kitchen to myself, a fridge, gardens and a lounge!  On day two other people came and stayed and then a Belgian couple who spent an evening or two with me, watching films, and chatting about traveling, cycling and life!   They were lovely.

I stayed there about four days and nights, resting, showering in the stalls down the corridor, and explored, sat under the big tree at the back at times quietly, and sunbathed in the gardens.   I shopped at the corner shop, owned by a tall New Zealander who had married and brought his Thai wife and child to live there a few months before to run the shop and social club! 

I got to know them and a few locals (quite rough and ready, basic people but friendly enough if you joined in, ate and had a drink at the social club/bar, bought soup, bread and sweets at the shop, and wander the town within a town at times.   I chatted to the manager, who worked with the police (ex policeman himself) to run the events and working there, had two travellers helping out in reception and cleaning, chopping wood along with his brother, and his wife a teacher in Taupo.   Again, learning what real life is like out and about in NZ, and not like I expected at all.  Many seemed like backwater towns to be, dated facilities and ideas, and life at a steady pace.

Taupo itself was for the rich and raucous really, a bit run down off the front and a place of struggle for many I think including Moaris.

Wairakei river walk leads to the bridge over the natual hot springs you can – for free! – simply relax in as it cools from 100 degrees out of the ground (right) flowing into cooler river waters on the left picture …

One day, I set of from Wairakei into town, walking along the river for a couple of hours …that ended up being a six hour trek in hot, hot sunshine!  I did find the wonderful cool river where I sat with ducks, chatted to a foreigner from Europe who came to share photos of the duck family hanging around with me!  I found and sat in the hot springs that come from the ground at boiling point, you can see the steam and dare to touch it and be scalded by 1– degree water, that then flowed down and into the river via a widened water way where people sat and relaxed!   It was hot – 42 degrees near the bridge, as the boiling water flowed and mixed with the cool river water, and then cooler towards the river.  It fascinated me. 

I found somewhere in the trees to change into my swimsuit and at one point, slipped and my head went under although you’re warned not to do that (and I did get an ear infection later from the bacteria that rapidly grows from the cooling waters!)  And from then on my swimsuit foamed bra had black spots of bacteria on it but I washed it so it was safe enough afterwards!

The duck family of mum and two babies who swam around as I paddled my hot, tired feet in the cool river – so clear you could their feet paddling and the rocks to the bottom of the riverbed!

The strong current of the river higher up used for energy production at the water plant that Wairakei was built to support…

It was weird but wonderful to do this, and visit the volcanic park with brightly coloured waters of boiling to warm that came to the earth’s surface here from far underground the volcanic landscape!  A geyser they set off regularly with washing powder for audiences, but which jumps on its own several times a day.

There were people on tyres having fun floating down the strong-flowing river.  I walked on to the children’s park, found a much-needed toilet there before walking on to Taupo itself!  

I had met two girls sitting, tired on the roadside, looking for somewhere or other, the water plant I’d heard about and the motorways joining or major intersections of major roads at the head of the valley.

I got there and was exhausted, with sore feet!  I ate at a waterfront bar, people drinking and laughing, yachts on the bay and hills all around – it was indeed very pretty!

Not much character really but my experience at Blue Light and Wairakei making up for this.  I did another long walk up the front, and back, exploring streets and the medical centre, bus station and shops …a normal town in places, a seaside resort at the lake front and water plant village outside!  Oh and not to forget the natural hot springs all around the area at Tongariro National Park around this area, and the geothermal park at Wairakei (pronounced wy-reeki)!  Golf courses, childrens sites, and other attractions in the area http://www.wairakeitouristpark.co.nz/volcanic-activity-centre.html

Chemicals and heat create bright colours in the boiling waters and pools of the Wairakei geothermal park you can wander around for hours!  Its amazing to see and watch the activity, the geyser and walk the boardwalks created to and above them at times!

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