Days 1,115-1,117: High Tea in Mordor

Fri 20.01.12 – Sun 22.01.12:

Lake Taupo is one of those must-see sights in New Zealand, and it’s not hard to see why. Situated slap bang in the middle of North Island, you’d be a fool not to stop off here on your way between Auckland and Welly Town. Today the weather was as fine as fine could be. After a lazy morning, Mand and I went for a walk around Haka Falls, a stupendous piece of natural engineering: gigalitres of water THUNDERING through a narrow chasm, one that looks at once exciting to try to go down sitting on a big rubber donut, but one that your common sense circuits are screaming DON’T BE AN FOOL, HUGHES!!

At the falls I was jabbering away into my camera (as I have a tendency to do) and a lady standing nearby asked Mandy if I was making a TV show or a really good home movie. Mand explained what I was doing and the lady, Natalie, asked if we were hitting Wellington any time soon. Yeah – we’ll be there next Monday. Would you like us to show you around Miramar (the peninsular that Peter Jackson has his home, film studios and special effects company in). Hell yeah! We swapped details and told her we’d be in touch.

After our walk, we headed back to the resort for a private spa. The water is naturally so hot that you’re not allowed by law to stay in the spa for more than 15 minutes since there’s a good chance you’ll overheat or even die. Which is not a good look.

All this luxury…! I totally don’t deserve this, but I better start getting used to it: next week I leave New Zealand on the Sea Princess, a five star luxury liner, lightyears away from the floating nightmare that was the Shissiwani II.

The next day Mand and I visited the awesomely-named Craters of the Moon, just north of Lake Taupo. What started as a geothermic cock-up (the power station down the road caused the craters to appear in the 1960s) is now one of the top unnatural wonders of the world.

In the afternoon we jumped in our little car (which in hindsight we should have called ‘Bertie’) and headed towards MOOOOOOOORDOOOOOOR!! Well, the volcano south of Lake Taupo that doubles as Mount Doom in the movie. It was a spectacular day weatherwise, I wish we had realised how rare a spectacular day like this could be, I would have taken more photos of Mount Doom.

That night we stayed in a place called ‘National Park’ which is quite a clever name for a national park, I have to admit. The place we stayed in was not as luxurious as the Lake Taupo Resort, it was more of a base camp for backpackers, ramblers and ‘trampers’ (as they say in New Zealand) looking to scale the mighty volcanoes nearby.

Far too much like hard work for us lazy badgers, Mand and I elected to just do a one-hour waterfall walk the next day. We might have done more, but the weather turned and we found ourselves struggling to see through thick fog and valiantly attempting to fend off the drizzle with a little umbrella. We dried off the best we could and then and then headed over to what looked like the Overlook Hotel from The Shining… for a spot of high tea. No, seriously, high tea with cakes and scones and stuff. It was all incredibly posh, looking out of the wonderful 1920s glass windows at Mount Doom, growling at us through the fog. I could quite imagine Gandalf sitting there in this exquisite dining room, puffing away on his pipe and commanding The Eagles to go rescue Frodo and Sam from the erupting volcano out yonder. And The Eagles yes I mean the band wot sung ‘Hotel California’.

After our marvellous tea, it was back in the car and Welly Town here we come!!

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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