We came upon Taupo with Andrew being tired, hungry, and the van in need of diesel. The 'Jolly Good Fellows' bar & restaurant gave us a welcome respite (and tasty food). The sheer scale of the lake becomes more significant when you remember it was formed through a volcanic eruption.
We got to Mountain Air to find it empty - probably due to the overcast weather and the fact we couldn't see the mountains at all. After a bit of milling about and oggling at the planes, we decide to head up Ruapehu, then drop by later on to see if anyone is in.
Mt Ruapehu is eerily different in the summer; the only snow is located at the highest altitudes. This allowed us to go for a quick jaunt up a nearby hill.
Our red van (appropriately named "Red Van") blasted back down the hill in neutral. Our next stop was the Pukeonake Stream rapids and falls.
Andrew somehow convinced me that going on a walk was a good idea. Once again we set off in our not-so-suitable walking shoes towards the Tongariro Crossing. Fortunately, we were nowhere near prepared enough for the actual crossing, but we walked some of the way there.
Heading back down State Highway 47, we stop by Mountain Air and meet Ruven. He informs us that we're not likely to go flying today due to the poor weather. We hang around for a chat anyway, and he asks us, "You two are bikers, aren't you?". Astounded, we confirm this and ask him how he knew.
"As soon as you got out of the van, I could tell. Want to see my ride?"
We spent the next ten minutes or so admiring Ruven's pristine VFR 400. 80,000 k's on the clock and it looked like it had just come out of the shop. Soon we discover we have a biker friend in common, our mate Jafa (also a VFR enthusiast). Small world.
Andrew recalls a motor wrecker in Horopito, and how he's always wanted to go back there. Ruven informs us that it's left at the next intersection (not right, as we had assumed), and we jump back in the van and head toward State Highway 4. The car yard is astounding - the minority of the wrecks there are from the last couple of decades. Rusting outside in the light drizzle are Morris Minors, Humbers, old Mercs, Wolesleys, and dozens more I couldn't name. We spotted a tangled frame with wooden wheels attached, and a number of vehicles with plants growing in and on them. It was almost a shame to see so many classics faded and rusting away outside, but I was doubtful that any actually worked when they were brought in, and any of the useful bits had been stripped and stored in the warehouses.
Even though we didn't do what we went to the Tongariro region to do, we still had a great time, and I had a proper go at taking scenic shots with the DSLR.