Flat Hills has a jet boat on a stick. The road marches straight at a respectful distance from the sheer cliffs across the valley (cliffs of insanity). The plane cafe at Mangaweka is now covered in cookie print and the corrugated figures start here with a man playing golf with a chainsaw blade...
A lilac cadillac and peach pontiac pass us: the metallic red roadster 34 Oldsmobile is still behind us. Then a turquoise Buick roadster, a red mustang... They catch us up, show off in the passing lane then move on.
Through the desert to the Army Museum (restrooms and stickers of a kiwi in uniform and pack). Nothing in the desert but tussocks, sand, pylons, snowy volcanoes peeping out from the clouds - and trucks following the state highway. 1074 metres at the summit and a glimpse of lake Taupo in the distance. Scallloped colour slices of sand beside the road - and the occasioanl tumbling river in the desert.
Lake Taupo stretches and stretches and stretches along the road. Cormorants hunch like vultures on every rock or hang their wings out to dry. One large rock is a miniature island, with grass and a sapling. A line of rocks run out from a corner of the lake studded with cormorants. Stopping by the lake to gaze across: grey blue water, a tree with yelllow flowers, white pumice pebbles that float when you throw them in. A cacophony of birdsong: croaking, thumping, booming and cawing before a tui flies out.
Warnings along the road of overconfident drivers with heads too big to fit in the car gaily proclaim 'locals crash too' and 'I can crash anywhere' as well as 'I can't TXT and drive'. We see our first mynah bird on the way into Taupo, just before a line of parachuters descend. Lunch at Villino (asparagus risotto, griddled aubergine/kumara/polenta/portabella that goes very well with the aioli from the pesto bread and a perky sauv blanc called secret stone).
Spotted in Taupo: Scottys Electrical Xpertise. The van says 'PHONE for SEX' and the licence plate is IMKUMN.
Rolling green hills north of Taupo, with gleaming steel pipes in the valleys from the hydrothermal plant and a plume of steam jetting from a hill. A very impressive volcanic plug and forestry warning signs with lines like 'trees growing: do not disturb'.