Sailing to Lake Taupo’s Maori Rock Carvings with Sail Barbary

Yes! We are in Taupo, a town on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake and what is considered the “Adventure Capital” of the North Island. We have 10 days of epic activities ahead of us, but what better way to start than getting straight onto New Zealand’s greatest lake?! Today, we are sailing with Sail Barbary!

In the aftermath of a spring cyclone that, to be honest, was painted to be a lot worst than it was, we are left with a day of on-and-off showers. The team at Sail Barbary – it’s a family business of Jamie, the skipper, and his wife, Sarah, the organisation master – let us know well in advance that there is enough blue in the sky for the sailing to go ahead! And we’re super glad they made that decision!

Barbary or Barbary II?!

We head on down to the Taupo Boat Harbour where two magnificent white sailing yachts are docked up between a flying flag of “Barbary”. We meet our friendly skipper and guide, Jamie, who is “umming and ahhing” over which of the two sailing vessels to take. Barbary is the original sailing boat which has been fitted with an overhead tarp for those rainy days, at the expense of not being able to put every sail up. Barbary II, however, is the real deal: full sails and unobstructed views (apart from, ya know, all the sails). That’s it! It’s decided! Barbary II it is! Should the rain come, Jamie assures us that there are plenty of ponchos in the cabin.

Just as if the rain has heard Jamie, it comes down in big splatters! But damn do we feel cosy in these over-sized ponchos, which are waterproof, windproof and have fleece lining on the inside.

On Barbary, it is encouraged to dress like a sail in these over-sized ponchos On Barbary, it is encouraged to dress like a sail in these over-sized ponchos
Sails are going up! Sails are going up!
Get comfortable on the beanbags Get comfortable on the beanbags
Riding on the front and trying to resist doing the Titanic pose Riding on the front and trying to resist doing the Titanic pose

New Zealand’s longest River to the World’s second largest volcano

Once our crew… we mean, passengers are all aboard, a mix of backpackers, families and locals, we start to leave the boat harbour, to which Jamie tells us it is actually the beginning of New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato River.

“How does everyone feel when I say that we are now sailing on the world’s second largest volcano?” Jamie says from the helm. Although nervous glances dash around the boat, this fact provides an opening for Jamie to give us heaps of insights into the geology of this area. After all, the Taupo Volcanic Zone is a pretty fascinating place to be in!

Learning about the art of sailing

Jamie also informs us that we are sailing on New Zealand’s second electric-powered commercial vessel. (He knows that because his other boat, Barbary, was the first). But Barbary II doesn’t need to use its electric power for long, as Jamie starts putting the sails up and getting Barbary II ready for what she was built for!

While some of us have been on a sailing boat before, the majority of us know absolutely nothing about these epic-looking vessels that make us feel like we’re in Pirates of the Caribbean. Nevertheless, we all appreciate Jamie running us through what he is doing, what wind conditions he is looking out for, what is “tacking” and “jibing”, etc.

Sailing into the sunny centre of Lake Taupo

The ultimate comfort vessel!

Once the sails go up, it’s peace and quiet but for the lake water gently splashing alongside the boat. The rain is avoiding the middle of the lake, leaving us with the sun shining on our faces as we relax on one of the many comfortable seating areas on-board. The middle seating area above the cabin is lined with cushioned seating backed with a beanbag backrest. More cushioned areas are around the helm for those wanting to get closer to the sailing action. Finally, there are a couple of beanbags at the hull. It’s all about the comfort on the Barbary!

Sailing to The Maori Rock carvings

Our sailing yacht brings us to the attraction we have all been dying to see, the Maori Rock Carvings. As the shapes of lizards and people carved into the rock become clearer and the gigantic face of a Maori chief covered in ta moko (Maori tattoos) is revealed, Jamie begins a story of the ancient carvings from the days of old… Then he gets onto the real story, explaining the different aspects of these cultural carvings as he goes.

We spend plenty of time at the 14m-high carvings, getting heaps of photos and taking in all the details. When no one takes Jamie up on the offer to swim, we start to make our way back across the lake.

Jamie gets us sailing across the lake! Jamie gets us sailing across the lake!
Robin gets a sneaky touch of the helm Robin gets a sneaky touch of the helm
Cruising on the crater of a volcano Cruising on the crater of a volcano

No avoiding the weather

Now we have a brilliant show called “The Weather” to watch. As we sit in a sunny spot in the middle of Lake Taupo, we watch dark shadows engulfing mountains and Taupo itself around the perimeter of the lake – eventually where we are heading. There’s no avoiding it, we’re going to need to put our ponchos back on!

Soda and chocolate fish

Jamie puts on some sailing-appropriate music on the surround-sound speakers and tells us to help ourselves to some soft drinks and a chocolate fish in the cabin – usually, mulled wine is on the menu but we just happen to have taken our cruise on one of the two public holidays where alcohol is not allowed to be served. Oops!

Sure enough, as we come back into the harbour, the rain comes down hard but no one wants to sit inside the cabin! Sailing is about feeling the breeze on your face, whether there are rain drops involved in that or not! We brave the rain until Jamie impressively squeezes the Barbary II back into its spot on the harbour.

Back to the heated swimming pool and pool bar

We’ve had a blast on the Barbary II, made all the better with Jamie’s humour and knowledge shared throughout the trip! Not it’s time for us to head back to the pretty fantastic Lake Taupo Top 10 Holiday Park where we can warm up in their thermally-heated swimming pool and pool bar (selling soft drinks, of course). See you tomorrow, where we are going to do whatever the weather lets us do, hopefully kayak! See you then!

Laura and Robin

Getting our first glimpse of the stunning Maori Rock carvings
Getting our first glimpse of the stunning Maori Rock carvings Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Have you read the yesterday’s post about jetboating to The Squeeze? How about these articles:

Until tomorrow’s blog post, check us out on the HerePin app to meet other travellers in your area. We also post travel tips for New Zealand on Facebook, as well as our adventure on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to find people to travel with, ask us questions, and buy/sell.

See you tomorrow!

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