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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Travel: Exploring Lake Taupo & The Maori Carvings

Southern In Law in New Zealand - Exploring Lake Taupo

Phew! Where has the month gone and how is it already February?! The last couple of weeks have been so crazy that I haven't had the time to sit down and tell you about our New Zealand adventures - but luckily I have the chance to share some more with you today!

In our last post, I told you about our first wet and soggy days in Auckland and just a few days later, we left Auckland (in the rain!) and headed down to Lake Taupo! 

Here's what we got up to on our adventures! >> 

Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

After packing up our bags and leaving our Auckland Accommodation, we jumped in our rental car and popped the TomTom Bandit Action Cam in the bracket so we could share some of our trip with you (video above!). 

The Bandit camera is seriously the best video camera to have with you whilst you travel. It's small but the videos it takes are incredible. Whilst we might not be cinematographers or even videographers - the videos kind of speak for themselves. Throughout our NZ posts we'll be sharing snippets of video here and there so you can see what we got up to - and I'd love to hear your feedback on whether you'd like to see more videos in the future!

Driving to Lake Taupo from Auckland in the Rain

The drive from Auckland to Taupo is around about three to three and a half hours, however, it doesn't really feel that long as there's quite a lot to look at. 

As you'll see in the video, we went from the Auckland Harbour to farmland, right through to forests (and steaming mountaintops!) and eventually ending up at gorgeous Lake Taupo. 

The rain meant we couldn't really see everything, however, even in the rain and fog and limited visibility, it was gorgeous. Lake Taupo is the largest lake (by surface area) in New Zealand with a perimeter of around 193 kilometres (or 120 miles). The deepest point in the lake is a crazy 186 metres deep - so your feet definitely could not touch the bottom :P 

Ernest Kemp Maori Rock Carvings Cruise Lake Taupo

Instead of just look at the lake, we wanted to be on it - so naturally, the first thing we did when we arrived in Lake Taupo was jump aboard the Ernest Kemp to explore what is one of the world's largest freshwater volcanic craters - and head out to see the Maori Rock Carvings.

It was wet and very rainy, however, The Ernest Kemp is an all-weather boat with a cozy interior cabin to keep you sheltered from the rain.... though... we decided to skip out on the cozy side to ensure we had the best possible view by staying outside!

Cruising to the Maori Rock Carvings, Lake Taupo aboard Ernest Kemp Cruises

The Cruise departs from Taupo Boat Harbour and you head out on a two hour cruise aboard a 1980 built replica steamboat; "Ernest Kemp". Whilst there is plenty to see, the highlight of the cruise is definitely getting up close and personal with the Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay. 

The rock carvings can only be seen by boat - and The Ernest Kemp gets you closer than any other cruise running. With complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits, the cruise is perfect on even the coldest of days - and a little bit of rain is quickly forgotten when you see the incredible workmanship of the carvings. 

The skipper was informative and funny, sharing different stories about the landmarks and history of the area - as well as sharing the story of the boat itself. The original Ernest Kemp was actually a ferry on the Bay of Islands; named after the great grandson of one of the first settlers on the North Island. 

The Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay, Lake Taupo - Ernest Kemp Cruises Review New Zealand

After around 50 minutes, we reached the Maori Rock Carvings and they seriously exceeded our every expectations. Surrounded by crystal clear waters and tucked away on the cliff, the sheer size and detail of the main carving itself is enough to blow your mind. 

But don't let anyone fool you. These carvings aren't ancient and they didn't mystically appear one balmy night - but they do have a story behind them!

The Maori Rock carvings were created between 1978 and 1982 by the Maori carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. Matahi has carved the main 10 metre high cliff carving pictured above in the likeness of the Maori navigator "Ngatoroirangi" who, according to Maori legend, guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupo area over a thousand years ago.

Maori Rock Carvings on Mine Bay Lake Taupo - Ernest Kemp Cruise Review

But whilst the main carving is what you'll see on postcards and picture books, there are also dozens of other smaller carvings - each with their own story and reason. 

Matahi started these carvings after returning from an incredible 10 year training period with Maori elders where he mastered the art of carving - and he chose this cliff face as a canvas for his work. 

The Story of the Maori Rock Carvings Lake Taupo - Ernest Kemp Cruises Review

One thing that I found really interesting about the carvings (and all maori art and tattoos) is that each section has its own meaning. On the forehead of the main carving is the Whakapapa (or Family Tree) with the fern fronds curling upward depicting a male ancestor and the fronds calling downward depicting a female ancestor and the two fronds together depict a couple. 

The right hand side of the foreheard represents the male line and the left the female line - meaning that this carving depicts four generations that preceded Ngatoroirangi. These same features are used on traditional maori tattoos which are designed to tell you the story of the person's family and tribe and were only seen on those of high ranking or status. 

This is because, up until recently, the Maori people actually had no written language. They recorded special events in their history through carvings, song and tattoo. 

Jesse aboard the Ernest Kemp Cruise Lake Taupo

After spending some time admiring the carvings, we headed back to Taupo and ended up taking a seat inside with a warm cup of tea as all of a sudden it was freezing! 

Hire Car Review New Zealand North Island - Cheap Hire Cars New Zealand Go Rentals

After a quick pit stop to grab some warmer clothes at The Warehouse (a super cheap department style store), we headed to our next accommodation which we'd booked through Airbnb.

Tracy's Place Air BnB Lake Taupo Reviews

Whilst we planned our trip well in advance, we were heading to Taupo right in the middle of the area's peak season - so our accommodation options were quite limited! Luckily we stumbled upon this listing on Airbnb which was quite nice - and right where we needed it to be for this point of our trip! 

You see, Taupo is incredibly popular - not just with tourists, but with locals too! It's the place where many tourists come to visit during their trip as well as the place where many New Zealand locals choose as their summer vacation spot - so whilst school's out, the place is packed with people!

Coeliac Friendly Restaurants in New Zealand  Gluten Free Burger at Burgerfuel Taupo

Coeliac Friendly Restaurant! Whilst we were in Taupo we didn't have a kitchen to cook in, so we headed out in search of dinner! We'd heard great reviews about Burgerfuel and I'd been emailing their customer service team to find out if they were indeed coeliac friendly. Whilst I was told they were, I knew the only way to know for sure was to try the burgers for myself. 

We headed into their Taupo store and, being your typical coeliac, I asked a million questions whilst ordering and found out that they have a separate grill and toaster for gluten free burgers - and those burgers are stamped with an allergy stamp to ensure that they're not cross contaminated. 

Whilst the burger was so so (i'm not really a burger fan), it was SAFE! I didn't get sick (and I'm the coeliac who reacts over the slightest trace) so I'd definitely give Burgerfuel a try if you're in New Zealand! They have stores all over the country so it's good to know that a coeliac safe gluten free option isn't too far away!

But tell me, since I'm sharing our road trip story with you... What are your road trip must haves?
Music? Snacks? Entertainment? 
We always have to have a good road trip playlist (Spotify premium with offline songs is a must!) as well as my camera (because you never know what you'll see!)

The Cruise: Ernest Kemp Maori Rock Carvings Cruise - sails every day of the year (except Christmas Day) at 10:30am, 2pm & 5pm  | Car Rental: Go Rentals Compact Auto Toyota Corolla | Kristy and Jesse explored NZ as guests of Tourism New Zealand.

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