All right, Joe Wellington. Are you in Taupo?

Taupo (means ‘The great cloak of Tia’, the one who discovered the lake) is a town in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. It’s bordered by the largest lake in the country and a volcano. With a population of 24,000 people, surely Joe could be there?

My search began at Craters of the Moon, a geothermal walk known to be rather touristy but an easy little trek for any preschoolers in tow. The bubbling, steaming pools of mud and geysers along the walkway provided an eerie sort of soundtrack to the otherwise gorgeous view.

We wandered along, oohing and awing that just below our feet, earth is doing its thing, with magma ready to burst and burn us all (ok, maybe it doesn’t work that way but fun to be spooky near Halloween, right?). A few people, most with young kids, stopped for photos among the craters but none who resembled Joe Wellington. Still, it was nice to brush up on our geology.

Craters of the Moon, Taupo

Next up, we drove to Huka Falls (Huka means ‘foam’). According to the web site, they are the largest waterfalls on the Waikato River, and empties into Lake Taupo. Another tourist destination, I was quite confident I’d have a good chance at finding my Kiwi mate here. The entrance was overwhelmed with crowds and I gave a good up and down glance to as many as I could. One man in particular caught my eye with his light red hair and beard, but as I was about to ask him if his name was Joe, I got completely distracted by this intense rushing sound and a vibrant turquoise hue with foam splashing atop! Huka Falls! I ran to the viewing platform to attempt a photo; I had to try to capture the power of the falls. Impossible. A jet boat full of people on a tour approached the falls only to get forced away by the angry current.

Huka Falls, Taupo

When I turned away from the falls, my possible Joe sighting had vanished. I figured. Oh well. It probably wasn’t him, anyway. I mean, if he lives in New Zealand, why would he want to visit tourist attractions, right?

Onward to Wai-O-Tapu, a ‘thermal wonderland’ near Rotorua. It was a bit of a drive, 40 min from Taupo, but long enough to let my kid have a sleep and ponder yet again how I’ve not found Joe in the two years of living in this small country. Some people suggest he doesn’t want to be found. And I suppose there may be some truth to that. It’d probably weird me out, too if some acquaintance from years ago had a blog about trying to find me. Maybe this is as far as I’m supposed to get in my search.

So, I decide, instead of looking for Joe Wellington at our next stop, I’m going to stay in the moment and just enjoy the sights.

I pull into our next tourist attraction and instantly pinch my nose. I even try to hold my breath so the sulphur won’t seep into my lungs. Or pores. Ew. The stench of rotten eggs is overwhelming and my son thinks his dad is passing gas. Eventually, I just get used to it because this place is awesome!

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua
pretty but so stinky!

It’s said that back before there were kitchens and stoves, Maori women would place their food on the rocks near the volcanoes/geysers to cook! Mother Earth always giving back…

Gollum? Are you in there?

So, no, Joe Wellington didn’t pop out from any volcanoes, nor did Gollum from Lord of the Rings. But I came away with an even deeper appreciation for what this small country has to offer. It’s pretty wild to drive from the ocean, through the desert, to a lake, to waterfalls, and to volcanoes (!) within hours. Anyone would be lucky to grow up here. Every day, I look out my window at home and see the Cook Strait. Never in a million years would I believe that I’d be living here. Yet, I am. So, I best appreciate the moment rather than looking for some dude.

Goodbye for now. I’ll have to come back to Taupo again soon. You know, to see if I can find Joe Wellington…

Lake Taupo

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