Day seven saw us set off for Taupo, about an hour and 45 minutes’ drive from Hamilton.
It was a town I’d heard good things about, set on a massive lake with the well-known and impressive Huka Falls a beautiful two-hour return walk from Spa Park, an area with natural hot springs.
However, the best laid plans don’t always come through and instead our rental car’s clutch burnt out about 15 minutes from Taupo as we struggled up a hill. We were left unable to move any further, despite still being partially on the road, but thankfully a kind man with towing equipment stopped and helped us up the hill slightly, and out of harm’s way.
While that was happening I called the rental company’s roadside assistance number and then help in the form of a Taupo tow truck was on the way.
First though, a policeman stopped to chat to us – we think someone may have called 111 while we were still partially on the road. We explained we had been towed out of the way, then he checked we were okay and had a plan: “So, you’ve broken down. What are you doing about it?” Satisfied all was in order, he left us to wait for the tow truck which arrived about 10 minutes later.
So we were taken to a Taupo garage, cruelly close to Spa Park, where communication began with the rental company. Eventually it was decided that the Daihatsu Sirion would have to be towed back to Auckland and that the company would pay $44 for a hostel room in Taupo or the same amount towards a nicer room since they couldn’t get a car to us that night.
We took a scenic walk into town, along the Waikato River and even spotted someone bungee jumping 47 metres down towards the river. The walk was lovely but it was bitterly cold – definitely the coldest day of my time in New Zealand so far.
Once in town, we first found McDonald’s – which happened to feature a decommissioned DC3 plane – and accessed the wifi.. We quickly discovered the hostel room we were offered appeared to be bunk beds, possibly in a shared room, so instead found a lovely hotel room on the lakefront for $112.
Then it was just a case of making the most of the evening. I’m so glad we at least saw the lake – it’s so big it almost has to be seen to be believed. I know my photos don’t do it justice. You can just see snow-topped mountains far in the distance on the other side of the water, which itself laps and sparkles more like the sea. At night, there was a large expanse on the far side of the lake where there were no lights whatsoever.
We ate dinner at Dixie Browns, also on the lakefront, and would give it a mixed review. I had the melanzanne parmigiana (effectively aubergine with cheese) with garlic bread and thought it was delicious. Sadly though Frazer’s beef burger was not enjoyable at all, although he did like the pepper sauce it came with plus the chips and deconstructed onion rings.
The dessert was certainly something to enjoy though – the restaurant seemed to be known as a place for dessert, with the waiters asking anyone coming in from the cold ‘dinner or dessert?’ and a revolving display case of the cold desserts placed front and centre. We went for lemon meringue pie and chocolate mud cake respectively and they didn’t disappoint.