As much as we would like to spend more time at Waihi Beach and Karangahake Gorge the timeclock is ticking and we have to move on. We did get a chance to meet with Ryan of Hercules Tanks to get in a dry fit of the freshwater tanks before we left. They are looking fabulous! It is a great thing we did the dry fit too because one of the tanks was a tiny bit too wide….just wide enough that it would not have fit properly. Many thanks to Ryan for insisting that we do this. Now that the tanks are going into the final manufacturing stage we can keep traveling.
Our time at Waihi behind us, we headed south to spectacular Lake Taupo. Of course in my quest to photograph waterfalls wherever I can find them I made certain to locate one to stop at on the way south. The falls of the day…Pokaiwhenua Falls. These falls are located in Duxfield Reserve just six kilometers outside of Pūtaruru. Unfortunately, they proved to be a little less than stellar. In fact, they were a complete waste of time. Fortunately we are always on adventure and found the ride there to be simply beautiful. Plus, it really wasn’t that much out of the way.
New Zealand Deer!
On the way back toward Rotorua we stumbled upon the Oraka Wapiti Deer Park. This made the entire detour worthwhile. The park is permanently closed but we stopped along the road and were finally able to get an up close view of some of New Zealand’s deer. Interestingly enough they look more like elk to us rather than deer but either way Jungle Jilly was in the height of her glory!
After a short stop to see the deer we completed the two hour drive to Lake Taupo. Our Air BnB here is another hit. It’s located in a very nice neighborhood that sits along the Waikato River. In fact, if it wasn’t so cold we’d have walked on the trail along the river the fifteen minute walk to the city centre it was too cold for that this trip.
Deb, our hostess, came downstairs to greet us upon our arrival and offered plenty of suggestions on places to go, restaurants and things that we just “have to see”. The flat itself is clean, well appointed and quite lovely. We even have a porch that overlooks the neighborhood and has some pretty views looking out toward Lake Taupo. Home sweet home…at least for the next five days anyway.
Aratiatia Rapids Or Bust
This morning we awoke to a lovely day but there’s rain in the forecast so we’ve decided to stick close to home for our touristing. First stop…Aratiatia Rapids. Aratiatia means ‘stairway of Tia’. Who is Tia? Tia was a high priest of the Te Awara Maori tribe who passed through this area on his way to discover Lake Taupo many moons ago.
The rapids here have been featured in one of the Hobbit movies as well as Without A Paddle and Yogi Bear. They are formed when the Aratiatia Dam is opened and the water comes rushing through the narrow gorge. They open the dam gates three times a day during the winter and in the summer months they open it a fourth. We, or should I say I, didn’t do the appropriate research so I thought they would be going all the time. Guess I missed the part about the dam and the opening of the gates. Oops!
We arrive at the dam and hike down to where we are supposed to see the rapids. It’s just a short fifteen minute hike and it traverses some gorgeous forest but alas there is barely a trickle of water to be found on this part of the Waikato River. Bummer!!!
We leave the dam area and head east on the Aratiatia Road which leads us to a dead end at the Aratiatia Power Station. It is here that we see a sign showing the dam opening schedule. As Dan says…”sometimes God smiles on the stupid” and for me it is today. Turns out the dam opens at noon which is just 45 minutes away so we decide to go back up to the main viewing area and watch the release.
Holy Cow That’s A Lot Of Water
WOW! I have to tell you this is a very impressive sight to see and we’re so very glad we stayed. These rapids fall 28 meters in the distance of just one kilometer. The release sends down 90,000 liters of water per second! (See Video Below). The first of nine hydro electric power stations that were built along the Waikato River, this station alone generates 84,000 kilowatts of power and it has the smallest reservoir of all nine. It is definitely very impressive to watch the power of water as it fills the gorge.
Seems today is going to be all about falling waters as we leave the amazing Aratiatia Rapids and head just fifteen minutes away to Huka Falls. Now, it would be difficult to think anything would be extraordinary after what we’ve just witnessed but then we arrive at Huka Falls.
The mere sound of the violently churning turquoise water as it rushes under the bridge just a few meters below us is awe inspiring. The water comes through with such force that it actually creates its own breeze. The cold air pushes up from the surface of the water like it’s being forced through an air conditioning duct. There’s a fine mist all around and the longer you stand here the colder it gets.
300,000 liters of water per second is forcing its way through the narrow gorge that is just 15 – 30 meters wide. It’s stunning and brilliant and unlike any rushing river I’ve ever seen. It’s so loud that I nearly have to yell at Dan to get him to stop and pose for a photograph. Honestly, there’s not much more I can say about this place that would give you the full experience so we’ve put together some photos and video to give you just a taste of it. Even this doesn’t do it justice but we hope you’ll enjoy it.
Incredible Falling Waters Video
After experiencing two of the most phenomenal water features on the Waikato River we decide it’s time to head back to the BnB and relax. Seriously, what else could we see today that would top this?
Tomorrow we’re off to the Tongariro National Park which is home to three active volcanoes, majestic landscapes and some of the best hiking in the world!
Until next time,
Jilly & Dan