After the cave tour we headed off in the direction of Rotorua, about two hours drive from Waitomo. Rotorua is a large enough town in the middle of a thermal playground. The draws here are hot mud pools, geysers but definitely not the smell. The place literally stinks. It is like driving into Killybegs on a really bad day but you can’t drive past it, it lingers. The smell is of course from the sulphur in the air from all the active thermal activity in and around the town. We did a quick shop for dinner before heading to our remote campsite next to a beautiful lake a few kilometres from the town. When we found it (the directions were wrong, I swear), it didn’t disappoint and we set up the camper and John made a yummy dinner. There is nothing nicer than making dinner and looking out at a fab view – mountains, lakes, ducks and the silence. At that point I was so happy we decided to rent the camper cos it gives us such freedom and we get to stay in random spots here and there. That night we spotted a wild wallaby hopping around
the toilet area, really cool to see something like that unexpectedly.
The next morning we headed to one of the thermal parks to see the Pohutu Geyser (the highest one around). We went on a guided Maori tour first as the park is based around a Maori Village, carving and weaving schools. Our guide gave us an introduction to the park, some Maori culture and we were able to see a welcome ceremony (some other tourists paid extra to get into a show and had to be welcomed into the village). This involved one member of the crowd of tourists representing the whole group. Then a Maori man came out of the main village building doing a Haka type approach (psyching out the tourist) and placed a leaf on the ground. The tourist had two choices, pick up the leaf (to show that his intentions were peaceful) or leave the leaf on the ground (to show that he meant harm). Of course the tourist did as swayed by the guide but I would think that in past times there were a few hairy moments when the leaf was left on the ground cos that Maori man was pretty scary
when he was doing his Haka!!
We then learned that carvings were of importance to the Maoris because they did not have written expression but only pictures and verbal words. Each carving relates to a story and he described it well in that if I was to carve a girl with a red cloak and a wolf dressed as an elderly lady most of us could easily remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood. So for the Maori people to understand carvings the stories would have to be known to make sense of it all! Very interesting indeed. We visited the carving and weaving schools to see students and teachers at work.
After this we were led to the mud pools (smelly and very hot at 95 degrees Celsius) and then left to our own devices and we visited the geysers. There are three rights beside each other and they were certainly active! I think I was expecting the Pohutu to stop and start but it was continuous while we were there and wasn’t as dramatically high as I had anticipated but still it was something I haven’t seen before so worth a visit.
thermal park we took a drive to the lake in the town and had a walk around. The lake itself was busy with black swans, ducks and all manner of craft – boats, airplanes, jet boats, and helicopters. Tourism in New Zealand is so well set up and this is just one lake! We took a few photos and had a look around before heading onto our next stop, the lake town of Taupo. Taupo
We arrived in Taupo in the afternoon and decided to stop off at a local falls first called the Huka Falls. This is on the outskirts of town but was also close to our campsite for the night. The falls were pretty striking, the sheer force and volume coming through them was visible well after they ended with all the water in the river holding its white colour as it flowed down stream.
We headed into the town to have a look at the lake (the largest in NZ). The day was sunny, clear and blue. We had a drive along the shore and took a stop for some nice photos. We also spotted a Hole in One Golfing Challenge and of
course John gave it a go. Basically if you get a hole in one on a pontoon out on the lake you win 25000 dollars. John started well and within a few shots he had hit the pontoon (this earns you a free ball). A small crowd of spectators gathered and he seemed to lose his nerve. I’m pretty sure the laughing Japanese man (with sniggers directed at John’s shots) and the older man with a very good shot could have been off putting …… Unfortunately I have no Tiger, Harrington or McIlroy as a boyfriend! That few thousand dollars would have come in handy for the last few months!
We did a shop and headed back to our beautiful campsite called Reid’s Farm – totally free to stay in. It’s right beside the river that feeds into the Huka Falls but is really calm. We got some wine, made a yummy dinner and checked out the river bed. There were some pretty cute ducks who were struggling, calmly, against the river flow. It was a nice way to see the sun go down behind the hills with some vino and a homemade dinner in a quiet location with
lots of wildlife around. Bliss!
The next morning we woke to another glorious day. I have wanted to try out some thermal hot springs and we did a bit of research to find a place that the locals in Taupo use. So off we went to a Public Park, took a ten minute downhill stroll to find steam rising by a little bridge. It looked really nice and just what I wanted. There were a few people around but not as many as I thought (it was ANZAC day, a public holiday). One woman is the colour of a beetroot sitting in a little waterfall rock pool. On the other side were three backpackers/campervanners using the hot spring falls as a shower. Soap, shampoo and the works!!! John and I took a stroll further up to test the temperature. Way too hot! So we retreated to where the others were. I was all swim suited up and ready to go and I slowly wandered over. Toes dipped in, it felt a bit hot, hmmmm. You know the feeling when you get into a hot bath first, exactly like that. The only problem I had was that this wasn’t going
to get any cooler……. So I wandered around to a small fall/pool. John stayed behind. I sat on a rock and really tried to enjoy the heat but no, it was way too hot. I did give it a go cos John came over a few minutes later, laughing his head off at me, in my purple suit, one toe dipped in, hiding behind a little rock. So I did try to go out into the river a bit but it was still unbearable. After walking around like a lost sheep (half naked) for another 10 minutes, I gave up. They beat me!
After the hot springs we took a walk around the park, had a go on an army confidence course for a while (John had to give up his second go on a zip line to some 6 year olds he he) and I had a mess around on some swings. It was a reliving my youth moment and it was fun!
After the park we had to head further along on our journey. The next stop Tongariro National Park. Chantel recommended a walk to us, so we are gonna head in that direction to see
what it’s all about!
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