Taupo is a fairly large town, serving a wide swathe of dairy and sheep farms and forestry around the lake. Its main industry, however, is the road which curves around the waterfront before ducking across the Waikato over the flood control gates and heading north to connect with the Tourist Triangle.1 Trout fishers, skiers, backpackers hoping to bungie jump, kayakers… Taupo had something for everyone. For us, it had lunch.
James handed each of us a card and told us the PIN. He then imparted the information that the Professor had mentioned a limit of some sort, in the same way that if one happens to pass the heliopause, one is no longer in the solar system.2 I suggested we all buy new swimsuits and stop by at Kerosene Creek on the way home, to which James immediately agreed. Darwin was instructed to put his card in his pocket, with a promise of an explanation later, and James went off to buy food – taking Darwin into a Subway and going through the whole ordering process struck us as a daunting prospect – while the rest of us wandered down to the waterfront, looking out at the faded imprint of the volcanoes on the horizon.
“What is that, a swimming-raft, or mooring-platform, or something of that sort?” Darwin asked, pointing at a square construction bobbing gently out in the bay.
“Well, no, uh, actually… it’s a golf green. One of those, uh, diversions you tend to find in… places like this.” I nearly said seaside towns, but of course Lake Taupo is not a sea.
“Shall we give it a go?” Alex asked with a playful smile. She’d changed her uniform for a white summer dress which came to mid-calf, presumably so as not to shock our guest, though he seemed to be taking the swimmers in bikinis in his stride, and I remembered he’d travelled the Pacific as a young man.
“Well… we’re probably supposed to stay out of the spotlight… and…”
“You think we’ll be as naturally good at golf as we were at everything else?”
“Yeah… that, and our lunch has arrived.”
After we’d eaten, and Darwin had urinated again, we went to a shop on the main drag and all chose swimwear in our size, and then we were on the way. It was still a long way home.
1Auckland, the main airport, Rotorua, which is a perfect storm of geothermal attractions, Maori culture and golf courses, and Waitomo, a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere which happens to have ridiculous numbers of caves in the surrounding countryside, including the famous glowworm grotto.