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Lake Taupo weekend: 1~Mountains & army museums

This year we had an iconic summer like the kind I remember well from my childhood. Brilliantly fine stretches of weather prevailed, putting the nation in a good mood and giving visiting guests the impression that this was nothing unusual. (If anything we had too much of a good thing and much of the country was later declared in drought.)

We took Mike’s children away for a few days at the end of the school holidays. Several options were investigated with the final decision being the Lake Taupo region, taking up the suggestion of a friend’s holiday cottage.

If you’re not especially familiar with NZ, Lake Taupo is in the middle of the North Island. The town of Taupo on the northern shore is about 4.5 hours drive north of Wellington. We would be staying just south of Taupo.

On departure day we weren’t in a screaming hurry and besides, a long drive with small people needs to be broken up for the sanity of all concerned. A stop at Waiouru was planned.

Waiouru (Why-ooo-roo) is a small community three hours north of Welly on the volcanic plateau. It is most well known for its army camp, the largest in NZ and Waiouru’s raison d’etre. It became a logical place to put a National Army Museum.

The Waiouru Army Museum is an excellent facility and I was keen for the boys to experience it and gain a teensy bit more knowledge about NZ’s military history.

Waiouru Army Museum

Waiouru Army Museum

Mike chaperoned J & F who had a great time following the kids’ treasure hunt sheet and playing dress up.

I moseyed around the exhibits, a selective bit of reading here and there, before browsing the gift shop which has an excellent range of military history books. We last came through here prior to our 2010 European trip to research our visit to the Western Front battlefields.

The greenstone wall with water running over it combines with an audio recording of the names of NZ's war dead to form the NZ Roll of Honour

The greenstone wall with water running over it (representing tears) combines with an audio recording of the names of NZ’s war dead to form the NZ Roll of Honour

Waiouru Army Museum stained glass windows

As you’d expect, there’s also a bunch of outdoor exhibits. Quite eye catching as you barrel along State Highway One.

If you’re lucky, as you approach Waiouru from the south, you’ll see Mt Ruapehu. It was that sort of a day and from the museum we had stunning views of the most famous of the three main North Island mountains.

Boys, tank, mountain

Boys and cannon

Waiouru Army Museum flagpoles

A memorial wall featuring NZ army unit and corps badges

Memorial wall featuring NZ army unit and corps badges

Waiouru Army Museum, NZ SAS badge

The army camp can be accessed up the road that runs along the side of the museum

The army camp can be accessed up the road that runs along the side of the museum

We continued north via the Desert Rd. The Rangipo Desert is a harsh but stunning tussock-covered landscape and yours truly was gagging for another stop to photograph the mountain. We pulled off at a favourite place for this, off the road with no power pylons obstructing the view.

Haven't been to the Tukino Ski Field but it lies further up this road

Haven’t been to the Tukino Ski Field but it lies further up this road

Boys and Ruapehu

Army training ground

Grown-ups satisfied after two successful stops and boys immersed back into Kindles, we began the final leg. A lake was waiting!

Mt Ruapehu from Desert Rd

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Janice Strong #

    Stunning photos Hayley. The greenstone wall with water representing tears and the names being read out of the NZers is a very moving part of the museum isn’t it and no doubt makes it very real for the young people. It is a very barren part of the country which makes the atmosphere also very real and you have certainly shown that in your photos. I have spent a lot of time in earlier years in this area skiing so this reminds me that there is a lot more to see here. Thanks for another interesting blog. Janice xxx

    2 June 2013
    • Thank you Janice 🙂 – I am fond of that region, I remember touching snow for the first time along the Desert Rd. That would have been in the ’70s and I was interested to read that Waiouru’s population then was 6000, about 4 times what it is now.

      2 June 2013
      • Janice Strong #

        The ’70s was when I began skiing and now that you mention it the area was a lot busier then than what I remember it being in the ’90s even. That is amazing that the population has dwindled so much. Very sad and perhaps indicative of what has happened to so many outlying areas that were once hubs of happy communities and a way of life that is fairly hard to find these days.

        3 June 2013
        • The changing role of the army camp over the years has a lot to do with it. It’s like any other place that is reliant on one big industry or employer.

          3 June 2013
          • Janice Strong #

            So true.

            4 June 2013
  2. How interesting it was to see Your photos from this museum.

    8 June 2013
  3. Outstanding! A wonderful way to teach pride in one’s country.

    15 June 2013
    • I think it’s so important. It’s a great sign that services on our main memorial day here are very well attended by families and children.

      15 June 2013

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