65. The “Ernest Kemp”, Craters of the Moon and some Prawns.

Oh no – somehow this unfinished blog has already been published. Please ignore, here is the real deal. Also, I’ve been corrrected, we were at Five Mile Bay not Beach. 

Another evening in Taupo together with friends Graeme and Barbara we went on a late afternoon cruise on the “Ernest Kemp” a replica steamboat regrettably propelled not by steam but by diesel. A nice little boat nevertheless, suitably decorated in places with the ropeweaver’s art then heavily tarred.

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We ‘steamed’ out of the little boat harbour and along the northern shore to the Western Bay, admiring the palatial homes on the clifftops until we reached a carved rocky cliff where the water was crystal-clear and some ducks and black swans came to welcome us.

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After a short stay while some of passengers had a quick swim, including Graeme …….

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IMG_7909……we were off again heading across the bay, along the eastern shore fairly close to where T5 was camped at Five Mile Bay, and thus back to the boat harbour.

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Wine or beer and nibbles were plentifully supplied particularly on the way ‘home’ and by the time we got to our berth everyone on board was chatting together like old friends.

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IMG_7935i was curious about the rock carving, although maori-style it did not look that old and it was surrounded by some rock carvings of animals. Thanks to Google <chrisjolly.co.nz/> I have discovered that the 6 metre carvings were commissioned by the NZ Arts Council in 1979. the main face depicts Ngatoroirangi, a High Priest and great navigator of the Te Arawa canoe which he piloted to Aotearoa (NZ) from Hawaikii during the great migration of the 13th century. 

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IMG_7867On the nearby rocks are carvings of Tuatara (lizard) regarded by Maori as Taniwha, meaning Protector. 

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On the way home we stopped off at the Fishbox for some ‘chish & fips’. This must be the most popular fish shop in Taupo as the waiting time after placing an order was about 45 minutes! – but well worth the wait as we eventually discovered.

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Despite what I said in an earlier blog about having seen all the steamy stuff I wanted (!!!) we went to investigate one of Taupo’s newer attractions, the Craters of the Moon. This involved a 45 minute walk mainly on boardwalks over a curious landscape, “…. still a very active and expanding area where steam vents and craters are constantly forming and changing as underground streams finds new passages to the surface.”

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Notices everywhere warned us not to venture off the boardwalks unless we wanted scalded legs.

For non-Kiwis, thermal activity is common in NZ because it lies on the edge of two colliding tectonic plates, the Pacific and the Indo-Australian Plates. The former is pushing downward beneath the North Island and the deeper it goes, the hotter it gets. These colliding plates are also responsible for NZ being so earthquake-prone, truly the “Shaky Isles’.

This crater last erupted in 1983 …

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This one erupted in September 2002, the biggest eruption in a decade. The surrounding paths and boardwalks were covered with mud, ash and pumice to a depth of 5 cm.

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This large mud crater frequently erupts pumice and mud, but did not oblige for us.

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The bright orange and red clays are  formed by the action of condensed steam and acidic gas chemically altering the pumice soil, and hardy algae growing around some vents make the soil look green. Obviously the ferns and mosses that colonise the area have adapted to the conditions.

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Penny had to stay in the ute of course, but recently we purchased some window shades (the big folding silvery type for the windscreen and dark shadecloth-type for the side windows) and they do help keep the interior cooler. We also have grilles fitted to both back windows. Penny seems to be happy with this arrangement, plus her back-seat bed, a water bowl and a toy or two. She would rather stay in relative safety and comfort than be tied up in a shady spot outside, although that is sometimes necessary.

When we were driving towards the Rapids (last blog) we noticed a sign saying “Prawn Park”. What!? Prawns in NZ?? How I miss the Queensland ones. We decided to brave lunch there, which which turned out to be warm large freshwater prawns of rather different appearance to the Queensland Kings. Not too bad but not a patch on … well you know what. The Prawn Park has been turned into a tourist attraction with a number of geothermically heated shallow ponds surrounded by beach-style paraphernalia; people are invited to catch their own prawns using simple bamboo rods and a tiny bit of bait, either from land or safely- moored  rubber boats.

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