Taupo was such a lovely town. I could easily move their it was so wonderful. To me, it was a mix between a beach town and a mountain village. With a population around 23,000 the size was ideal as well. Our hosts, Johnny and Maaike told us that they loved it because they could do mountain biking and water sports there in the summer but also winter skiing was just as close.
Day two started with a complimentary breakfast that we fixed for ourselves. I had yogurt and Matthew made himself some eggs and cereal. After breakfast we headed downtown. We had contacted Amanda and told her we would meet up with her for her Pro Q & A session just after noon. Because we had an hour to kill we parked the car then wandered into the Taupo Museum. At just $5 per person this was money well spent.
First we took off our shoes and walked around a traditional Maori meeting house. The walls were made out of traditional Maori weaving that must have taken a million hours to complete since it was hand woven. A lot of the history we had been taught the day before at Rotorua was applying in this museum too.
Next in the museum was my favorite part, the art gallery! I loved getting to see two different artist’s displays. The first was a local New Zealand who did Oil Painting in still life, plein air and abstract. Each type of painting was so vastly different for one artist. Though the abstract and still life were worth up to $10,000 each, I absolutely enjoyed his Plein Air pieces the most. Beautiful scenes of Lake Taupo, New Zealand farmland and common countryside barns had me captivated.
The second artist did African Batik paintings on stretched cloth. I really enjoyed this artist as well because she had a folky-whimsical style and used lots of bright colors. The artist was from Auckland but had spent many years living in Africa with her husband who was a surgeon. When she wasn’t working as his surgical nurse, she was sketching and painting.
The final stage of the museum contained the oldest Maori Waka in the area. A waka is a huge wooden canoe that he Maori used for transportation across the waters. The waka is often used as a symbol of unity because all passengers in the waka had to row their oars at the exact same time in order to get from point A to point B.
While walking through the museum we also saw exhibits telling the story of Taupo. I learned that timber and also fishing were huge economical foundations for the area. It was fascinating learning the history of the city and figuring out what made it tick just so. I couldn’t help but to think, “why couldn’t Frederick do this?” Why doesn’t the Tillman County Historical Society charge a $5 fee for every visitor. Why isn’t it so clearly marked that all visitors make it their first stop into town. Tourists love stories. They want to hear what makes our town click. They want to know what economic foundations started our community and what continues to fuel it now.
The entire town was easily marked for tourists. We knew where the big destinations were. We were given a paper map every time we asked for directions. Locals would tear them off and circle where we were and where we needed to go. I’ve said before, this is something Frederick needs. Whoever the last Chamber Director was should have got that done…tisk, tisk.
After the museum we wandered over across the street to “Ironman Park.” Sure enough, Amanda Sadler sat on stage with only seven other professional Ironman triathletes. The whole ordeal looked much like an ESPN session. People were taking photos and asking questions and the athletes were smiling and inspiring, which is what they do best.
Amanda seemed excited to see us—her two biggest fans—because we in fact flew all the way from the US to be there for her big race. She gave us big hugs and then we quickly asked questions and listened as she explained the ever-fascinating Ironman competition.
Per Amanda’s recommendation we decided to spend the afternoon at WAITAPO Thermal Park, just at the edge of town. After donning our suits we walked about a half mile down to an awesome site. Thermal pools, just as we had seen at Rotorua, except this time with lots of visitors swimming and bathing in them. We jumped in for a quick dip but quickly realized it was too hot for comfort on a warm New Zealand day. So we instead decided to take the one hour hike down to Huka Falls. Every turn of the hike was full of beautiful plants, water and shrubbery. We would hike for a while then stop and take pictures and soak in the beauty that was too good to seem real. Around 40 minutes in we started to wonder if the falls were worth the full hike but several other tourists walking by told us it was worth the extra hike.
Boy were they right, I have never seen such an amazing site. If you would have told me to hike an hour to look at water I would have told you you were crazy, but this was so beautiful it was worth it. The water was rushing so fast they said every minute it could fill up eight olympic-sized pools. That’s a lot of water! There were people camping everywhere and the beautiful green hills in the background just made the picture that much more beautiful.
The hike back was much shorter, probably because we weren’t stopping as much and we actually jogged parts of it.
When we finally arrived back to the house, Johnny and Maaike explained that they were having friends over for a barbie and that we were totally welcome to join in. So we showered and walked back to the corner liquor store for a bottle of wine to give to our hosts. The friends they had coming over was a man they had met while backpacking in another country and his new girlfriend they had yet to meet. Misha and Elise were their names and once again it felt like we had made fast friends. Misha was a tall, 100% New Zealand boy, full of orneriness and adventure. He had a loud laugh and a huge smile. Dinner was wonderful. Steak, sausage, fresh salad and twice baked potatoes. The only thing different from an American cook-out was the size of the steak. I guess everything really is bigger in America, because our steaks are normally about the size of our heads, where as the NZ steaks we ate were about the size of my palm. I enjoyed every bite and left nothing remaining on my plate.
Throughout dinner we discussed politics, traditions and culture. Maaike was actually Dutch and had married a kiwi. Elise was from Wellington, New Zealand and Misha was from Auckland. Throw in two Americans and you have some really great discussions.
We talked about how New Zealand is currently voting on a new flag. They are doing this to get rid of the Union Jack. Johnny and Maaike explained that the entire country could put in designs for the flag, then professionals dwindled the entries down to only five designs. The country then voted between the five designs and picked one design that could possibly be the new flag. This week the country would be voting on the old flag versus the new flag. How cool it was to hear about history being made right as we were visiting. I don’t yet know the outcome of the flag election, but I did notice there were dozens of places around the country that were already flying the new flag. Personally, I thought the new flag was much more conducive to New Zealand culture, at least what I had learned about it in my four days there.
We also talked about the American presidential race. They asked us about Trump and Obama and we agreed that our politics had become a bit ridiculous lately. Matthew showed our new friends a video of Trump defending his “tiny hands” that another candidate had insulted him about.
After lots of interesting discussions and observations, we all retired early so we could be up early for the Ironman beginning ceremonies at 6am.