Published: November 19th 2011November 19th 2011
Thursday 17th November
Up at 6.30am to another clear, sunny day, so we drove up to Mt Victoria for breakfast and to look at the fantastic 360 degree views. (Also loads of Tuis’ singing away!) Drove back down and parked at the Te Papa Museum (not cheap!!) and then walked along the waterfront and back into the town centre to the cable-car to take us up to the Botanical Gardens. Had a lovely stroll back down through the gardens, stopping at the Human Sundial, the correct time, herb garden and Lady Nora Rose Garden, coincidentally bumping into the Americans that we had bumped into yesterday at Picton!
Went into the Museum for about an hour but didn’t really do it justice as there are five floors and lots of interactive stuff! Spent most of our time on the 2nd floor which explained about earthquakes and tectonic plates and also experienced what it feels like to be in an earthquake!
Drove out of Wellington on Road 2 to see the Hutt Valley but then cut back across on Road 58 to Road 1 to continue driving north. Uneventful, if somewhat windy journey until we got to Bulls....”the town like no udder” !!
Bulls is most famed for its unforget-a-bull signage. For example there is Admira-a-bull residents garden, wear-a-bull Jersey knitting shop, soci-a-bull social club, Bulls Bacon where anything is poss-a-bull. Anyway, you get the picture?!
The scenery got slightly more dramatic as we then passed into the Rangitikie River region with its high cliffs and gorges and it also started to rain so we stopped at River View Campsite at Taihape ...main claim to fame ... the Gumboot Throwing Capital of New Zealand. Unfortunately there were no river views and no wifi and no phone in the phone booth! Sorry folks! (Info: Distance 277kms)
Friday 18th November
A sunny start but as we drove up towards Waiouru and across the Army Training Area, it started raining. It was very wet, windy and wild – a bit like the landscape as it changed from open heath desert land, to gorges and black rivers and then to forest plantations. Snowy topped mountains were hidden behind the clouds racing across the sky, but some quite dramatic scenery. (and we went the non-scenic route!)
Got our windscreen wipers fixed in Rangipo (minor problem, but they kept jamming together so it was a bit difficult as when
it rained you have to keep jumping out and un-jamming them!!) and reached Taupo lake for our coffee stop. Lake Taupo is Australasia’s largest lake and was created by a massive volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago, when it blew a 660 sq km hole in the earth, which sent ash flying all around the world.
Into Taupo town where we had a wander around, used the superloos, (thanks Mum!) before heading out to Huka Falls. Bright and sunny now and the Falls were amazing – a huge narrow chasm, about 100 metres long, with turquoise blue water rushing over the 11 metre drop at the end at a rate of 200,000 litres per second, creating masses of foam!
On then to Craters of the Moon – a nice gentle 45 minute geothermal walk around the bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. Feet got very warm but very different landscape to anything I had seen before!
Onto Wairakei Terraces where we had a half hour walk around the man made terraces and the thermal spa resort. The water is drawn from 1.5kms underground, and is piped into two ice blue cooling ponds before cascading over the terraces
where silica is developing into amazing coral like shapes and formations. A geyser shoots water out about 2 metres high and steam rises high into the air over all the terraces. All very pretty. Would have liked to have had time to sit in the hot pools as silica is very good for slowing down the ageing process , strengthening bones and boosting immune system!
Lunch was a late affair at the car park at Orakei Korako – a hidden valley and one of the best thermal areas in NZ. It was pretty good!! A boat takes you across a lake and you are then left to walk the boardwalk which takes about an hour, across a valley of colourful silica, close up to boiling pools and unpredictable gushing geysers before climbing up over and down to a rare geothermal cave, through a beautiful native bush forest and then to mud pools! Totally amazing and very active geysers!!
Back to Taupo to camp for the night – hoping for wifi but it didn’t work so had a refund of our $15! Sorry folks! (Info: distance 356kms)
Saturday 19th November
A leisurely morning and a short drive up to Wai-O-Tapu to
catch Lady Knox Geyser that ‘erupts’ daily at 10.15am. How could this be , particularly with day light saving time ??
A crowd of 200-300 tourists assembled for the event - as 10.15 approached, anticipation rose - cameras and video cameras were poised for the moment . At 10.15, a man appeared with a microphone and told us the history of the geyser. The site had once been a prison in 1901, and the prisoners were doing hard labour by clearing the bush, when finding a hot spring. They used this for washing themselves after a hard days work, and on one occasion, one of them dropped their soap in the spring, and it erupted as a geyser, showering them with water. Apparently, there are two reservoirs of hot and cooler water on top of each other, and the soap broke the surface tension between them, so inducing the geyser. A Lady Knox , the Governor’s wife was visiting at the time, and gave her name to the geyser.
After the history background, he then poured some silica crystals down the base of the geyser to "induce" it. After a few minutes, it duly erupted about 10 metres
in the air (not the "up to 20 metres" promised) and was quite a sight. Apparently, it would erupt naturally every 24 - 72 hours randomly, so not so good for the Tourists, so thats why they induce it .
We then had a 3km walk around the geothermal park, looking at the different named volcanic craters and pools. Amazing colours due to all the different minerals absorbed from the rocks by the boiling water underground – orange, yellow, blue, green – all very pretty bubbling away at boiling point!! The highlight was the champagne pool, which is unique in the world – a fifth of a hectare of bubbling, hissing water with a beautiful ochre coloured petrified edge. There was also the Devils Bath –a rugged crater full of water and mixing with sulphur and ferrous salts to produce a bright green pool!
Drove on to Rotorua a bit “volcanoed- out” by now and had a wander around the Government gardens with its lovely rose garden and down to the lake to watch the black swans! As it was still a lovely sunny afternoon, we decided to camp early and spend some time in the hot pools at the
campsite and catch up on all the boring necessities such as Laundry, sorting finances etc....and of course e mails and blog....@ great expense ; $22 (£11) (Info: Distance 104kms)
There are more photos below