Well, I remember it as a lovely day when we started but as we headed over the Taraweras - not truely mountainous like the Southern Alps but a good road through very scenic country - we glimpsed the sights through rain , fog and sunshine.Somehow the weather did not detract from the rugged beauty and added to the experience.The Napier-Taupo Highway (SH 5) is part of the themed 'Thermal Explorer Highway' from the NewZealand.com site ( much quoted as is the Best resource for NZ trip planning and I link frequently to specific areas mentioned in our trip.)We also travel along parts of this route as we continue our trip to Rotorua ( next bit )
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The other interesting area on this highway to Taupo is the Kaingaroa Forest -
the largest man- made forest in the southern hemisphere.
Taupo itself is a great place to stay and the lake is the result of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the world - pick up some pumice (for free ) from the lakeshore to rub out those rough spots on your feet - that pumice may have landed there 26,500 years ago!
We lunched at the Replete Food Company - great food and even better prices - well recommended by us at least and great for a bite on route.
After lunch we departed north - destination Whitianga - through some of the nicest farmland in the country - through the prosperous country towns Tokaroa , Putaruru, Matamata, Te Aroha. Every type of farming abounds here - timber, sheep and dairy. It is also a great horse breeding area around the Cambridge - Matamata areas. The annual yearling sales are major earners for the breeders and NZ as a whole.Just a generic Google search under 'Cambridge Yearling Sales ' will give you an indication of the depth of quality in the thoroughbred bloodstock industry here.
We arrived in Whitianga late afternoon - the roads on the Coromandel are challenging but safe and the road into Whitianga would be wonderful on the world hillclimb circuit - if all the traffic was one-way and there were no speed cameras.But that is pure fantasy, so a sedate trip ensued to take in the equally spectacular views and thus we arrived at Villa Toscana .
The owners Giorgio and Margherita are amazing and have transported a slice of their wonderful country to the most magic location in the world - all exaggeration justified.
We stayed 3 nights - it should have been forever.This is a 'chill out' destination- great food area and , if you fancy some deep sea fishing then Giorgio is your man - he also is Mamma Mia Game Fishing and Scenic Charters - so you just have to enjoy yourself - you can't help it!
Not to be forgotten while visiting Whitianga was a visit to the home and business of New Zealand Encounters - a fabulous boutique NZ travel company - totally unique - totally committed to service and your wishes. No standard plan for this firm - each of their itineraries is designed for you, the customer- totally tailored. I love small, owner operated travel companies - they are user friendly from the point of view of both the customer and the provider. Satisfied clients produce happy guests and memorable journeys . Win - win - win situation.
Well that is all for now - my catch-up blogs are progressing - you ask for more and that surprises me - but it is not hard to enthuse about NZ as a destination - as I have said before - all this and no snakes.
All we could wish for is a win in the Rugby World Cup next year and paradise will be complete!