Now that there is a bypass road that takes us past, rather than through Taupo, the National Army Museum at Waiouru has become the perfect place on a trip up the North Island for us to stop and refuel the driver.
We’ve toured the Museum before. It’s a fascinating place for a leg stretch, with exhibits for all tastes. While the weapons and machinery are of more interest to Iggy than they are to me, I hovered for some time looking at the personal effects, letters and poems, and realistic dioramas that are a potent reminder of the social cost of war.
The light and spacious café offers well-priced cabinet food and an à la carte menu. It’s homely fare, with much of the food cooked fresh on the premises, apparently. While you may not be writing home to Mum about the offerings, a bowl of French onion soup at $NZ7 was great value. The coffee is hot, wet, and served in generously sized mugs, and is better priced than at city cafes. Spotless toilets and a souvenir shop full of uniquely New Zealand gifts for our overseas family are an added lure to making the Army Museum our stopover. When our grandchildren are bigger, they will enjoy climbing all over the tanks before resuming the journey.
The landscape around Waiouru – you can see why it is called the Desert Road – is spectacularly bleak, with the dramatic contrast of the snow-covered volcanic cones. On the day we travelled, Ruapehu looked almost metallic, as if covered with crumpled aluminium foil.