Published: February 19th 2012February 18th 2012
I headed out of Taupo early, as I figured if I hung around too long, I'd be unable to resist the urge to throw myself out of a plane. Not that it's the fear that gets me, because it's not. It's the sheer cost - you're looking at the best part of £300 for your 5 minutes of fun including a handful of photos. If you want your own video, it's more again. It's all the fault of the exchange rate - would have been much more palatable a few months ago but now, with the rate at an all time low, it's just not do-able. I'm missing out, yes, I know, and everyone I've spoken to has said the same, but frankly, I'd rather keep the money and spend it on one of the following:
1) a weekend away with my sister and the kids - far more worthwhile than 5 minutes thinking you're going to die
2) a few nights out with my mates when I get home - I've missed them
3) going to Gary and Vicky's wedding in October.
There I've said it now - skydiving is off the cards (Dad, breath a sigh of relief).
To treat myself for being so decisive, I headed off to the spa. It was an accident really - Ed and Mimi had recommended I go to the Waikite Valley and I misread my handwriting as it being Wairakei. This wasn't long out of Taupo but I saw the spa and thought I'd found the place. Wow. I'm so glad I did.
9am and there was no one around other than one receptionist. The sun was shining and the pools empty. I headed outside to see what I'd signed up for - bright blue bubbling spas, straight from the hot water thermal spring. Little bridges over the pools, a couple of waterfalls and temperatures ranging from 45 degrees to 38 degrees depending on the proximity to the source. The sun was belting down and I dived on in - I could happily spend the entire day here. It was so relaxing lazing around in the warm waters, braving the boiling ones, and topping up my rapidly-fading suntan. All around me you could see steam and vapours rising from the earth - the ground all around felt hot to the touch, and it looked like the countryside was on fire. Except it's all the heat escaping from the ground below. Amazing.
I had the whole hour and a half to myself, and spent much of it (to my amusement) taking photos of me and my surroundings. God knows if there were any cameras watching - would make a very funny home video I reckon.
Anyway, I couldn't lounge around all day so I headed off towards Rotorua again. The next place I saw was Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland and remembered that that rang a bell as somewhere to stop (thanks Jules and Paul, as well as Ed and Mimi on this one). I pulled in and couldn't remember what it was all about - something told me it was a mud bath so I packed a bag of swimming stuff to cart round with me.
I was wrong. And it was a pain dragging two bags round. But I'm so glad I stopped. And here's for why.
It was a series of mini-attractions: lakes, geysers, rock formations, craters, etc, all demonstrating the thermal activity in the area. Not man made either - all naturally occurring and created over time sights which made you gasp with wonder, and get totally snap-happy with the camera. I'd been told you can smell Rotorua before you get there, due to the levels of sulphur present, however this place was a great warm-up. A stench of rotten eggs lingers around but you soon forget about it when you start looking at the bubbling mud pools (that you can't swim in, no!), crude oil rising to the surface, fluorescent yellow sulphur deposits, and nuclear yellow lakes. There were also more bubbling mud lakes nearby which I stopped at before hitting the road to Rotorua once more.
Another 3km walk under the belt, and it was time to relax once more - this time because I found the Waikite Thermal Valley! Another selection of hot pools straight from the source, which were overlooking the sprawling countryside. Beautiful, definitely worth stopping at, but could have done without the kids' birthday party in full throw in the main pool behind the one I'd decided to perch in...
Onto Rotorua, this time not stopping, and the book was indeed right - you can smell the place as you arrive. Heavy sulphur, making Wai-o-tapu fragrant by comparison. Still, the place they nickname 'Rotovegas' looks great - similar to Taupo but with a bit more going on.
Not to waste time, I drove straight off to see the Blue and Green lakes that Mimi and Ed mentioned. Stark contrasts - the green lake was so calm and untouched, whereas the blue one looked like any beach on a hot Saturday afternoon. Packed. Kayak racing going on too - Sparkes, you would have had a ball...
Dorm's OK too, and met a half Scottish/half Geordie Craig Phillips dopple tonight. Really must stop seeing everyone as celebrities - bringing back hilarious memories however of a similar time when involved in organising a TP Christmas party. As close as it gets to being fired, when you decide to announce to the room that you think your boss is the double of Anne Widdecombe. And he's male. Say no more...