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Published: June 10th 2010
We Started Week 2 with an early start from our overnight stay hiding amoungst the rest of the Apollo fleet. With the girls sleeping in the back of BIG FAT SUE, we drove from Auckland and headed east to the Coromandel Penisula. Our destination for the day was a place suitably called Hot Water Beach. For 2 hours either side of low tide, you can access and area of sand in front of a rocky outcrop right in the middle of the beach where hot water oozes up from beneath the surface. Essentially the water is heated by flowing lava some 9km down towards the earths core. As luck would have it we pulled up 30 minutes before the the 2 hour time slot and quickly had some breakfast. For $5 you can hire a good spade to dig yourself a pool to lie back and relax in the volcanic heated water. Now being the creative group of people we are, we thought could construct a sofa out of sand for us all to sit on, we picked our spot on the beach and started work. After a brief few minutes the sofa idea came to an end as the sand
Thumbs up if your wet and cold!
was not as compact as we thought, so we opted for a giant size paddling pool!!! The water at times here can reach 64 degrees, with this is mind we linked a little channel of cold sea to our paddling pool to maintain a warm not scolding temperature. We spent a good few hours down on the beach chilling out in our man made bath before heading back to BIG FAT SUE for lunch. As we were about to leave Hot Water Beach, we noticed a big hairy male showering naked in front of us clensing and everything! He was oblivious to the coach load of elderley tourists that had just pulled up and didn't even batter an eyelid when we beeped the horn at him several times!!! We all came to the decision that he must have been french!!! From here we ventured further north to Whitianga to partake in some Maori Bone Carving, we soon changed our minds once we'd arrived and saw the prices!!! So after driving all that way myself and Matt decided to go have a beer and Cerri and Kate went off to do laundry prior to heading back down the coast to a
Mario, Luigi, Princess and Yoshi at the start of the Mushroom Cup!
town called Waihi to spend the night.
Another early start the next morning as we headed further down the coast to Tauranga, which is classed as New Zealand's Riveria. It might well have been, but due to the rain we were unable to comment! After a quick Starbucks Coffee and some catching up on things back home via the internet, we had a stroll round the city in the rain. We then decided that it would be wise to start looking for the all important thermals ready for the visit to the South Island, so basically we headed for any clothing shop the had a sale sign in the window! With our purchases made we drove on a little bit further to a town across the water from Tauranga called Mount Maunganui, which was recommended to us by our Ferry Friend Phil Abbot. Good old Phil didn't let us down, it was a cracking place with plenty of bars, restuarants and nice beaches all situated with a mountain over looking them. Whilst we were strolling round the town, we contacted Apollo Caravans again as the de-mister had stopped working again! We spoke to an absolute muppet, who had the
We dug ourselves into hot water!
customer service and communication skills of an McDonalds Trainee! Finally after he found our reference number and information, we agreed to drop BIG FAT SUE into a garage in New Zealand's Capital, Wellington to be looked at. Hitting the road again we headed inland to Rotorua, which despite the eggy smelling odour caused by the dynamic surrounding thermal area with its steaming hot springs and bubbling mud pools, is actually quite nice! The town itself is situated on the shores of Lake Rotorua, so we decided to park up nearby the lake to enjoy the views. A short stroll into the town centre and we popped our heads into the information centre to see what tourist attractions we could partake in other the coming days. The Maori lady 'Helen' behind the counter was excellent, unlike the muppet at Apollo! We opted for a Maori experience evening for the following night, with this booked Helen then gave us some vouchers for a free beer so guessing where we went next... The Pig and Whistle Pub! As this pub had its own Microbrewery we decided to sample some of what it had to offer, a few pints later and a live band
Caravan Club on he Gondola!
came on, we listened to a couple of songs before a short walk back to BIG FAT SUE for the night.
We awoke the next morning in 'Sulphur City' and decided to drive 10 minutes out of town to the Skyline attraction. Here you catch a gondola (Ski Lift) up to the top of a small mountain, where you get a spectacular view of Rotorua and the Lake. Also from the top you can get a luge (tobbogan) and race down the mountainside tracks. Now this wasn't planned but i was wearing a red hoody and Matt was wearing a green hoody, we both selected our hoody coloured helmets and before you knew it we look liked Mario & Luigi! After finding a small enough helmet for Cerri's peanut sized head, we hopped into our luge's and started off with the scenic track. You can actually pick up some good speed on the tobbogan going down the scenic track, so as the pace picked up I found myself racing against Matt, weaving in and out of Skyline's other patrons down the course it looked more like a scene from Super Mario Kart! We had two more goes down the
luge tracks, one race down the intermediate course and down the scenic once more for a few comedy photo's. This took us up to lunch, when we headed back into town to have a wonder round Kuirai Park to see some of the natural bubbling mud pools and an even stronger smell of Egg! That evening was spent at the Mitai Maori Experience, we arrived by bus and headed into the marquee to be greeted by our Maori host for the night who came with the traditional Maori name of Larry! Larry then explained how the evening was going to happen and we selected a chief from the evenings tourists. Now there were 17 different countries that were represented in the marque that night, from England, Wales, China, USA, Germany and India to name a few; with the selection of nations on offer Larry went and picked a bloody Kiwi! Alan aka the cheif then led us out of the marquee and up to the unveiling of the Hangi; which was our food for the night being cooked underneath some hot rocks. From here we carried on down the path to the river front to watch the Waka; an ancient
They forgot to take down the Christmas Decorations!
warrior war canoe paddle up stream. Then into the Maori village itself where we met by the Chief of the Mitai Tribe and after hearing a few facts about their culture, we were entertained by several Maori songs and dances before witnessing the world famous Haka war dance. This was followed by eating the food cooked earlier by the Hangi, a good selection of New Zealand lamb and Chicken, alongside an unsual maori verison of the english classic side dish, Stuffing! Obviously I went up for seconds. . . . and thirds, to get my monies worth! The evening ended with a stroll through the darkness to the fairy pools, where we should have been able to see some glow worms, unfortunatley another tourist (probably french!) kept using his torch which scared them off, but a good night was still had by all.
The next day we went geothermal crazy, starting the day off with a visit to Hells Gate Geothermal Park. By this point we had all become accustomed to the smell in the Rotorua area, so we didn't mind strolling around the bush walk between various sized steaming mud pools, some reaching temperatures of 200 degrees which
The Maori Waka
apparantley can cook an adult pig in only 2 hours! Just before we exited Hells Gate, we were able to try our hand at some traditional wood carvings. After picking our symbols; Cerri chose the Maori symbol for compassion, Kate chose the traditional and National emblem the Silver Fern, myself and Matt decided to chose the rather tricky design of the Kiwi bird. Being quite arty ('C' grade at GCSE!), I was looking forward to producing a good, solid piece of work... With my first tap of the hammer and chisel, my block of wood split! Everybody else made pretty decent carvings, I resorted to trying to encorporate my unfortunate split into the kiwi bird design, some might call it freestyle carving! Continuing on the geothermal theme, we headed to a little known spot off the beaten track called Kerosene Creek, which a lady in Auckland had told us about. She advised us to drive until we reached Benny Bee's Honey centre, pop in and ask them for directions. After recieving the directions we navigated BIG FAT SUE down a bumpy unsealed road until we reached a dead end, we'd arrived at Kerosene Creek which is where a cold waterfall
My ball is the furthest on the right!
runs into hot thermal pools. We bathed in the hot pools and chatted to some locals, who had actually been in the Mitai Maori Experience show the night before! We took a couple of photo's and stayed for about half an hour until one of them mentioned that you could catch menigitous from the bacteria in the water, with this news we all decided it was time leave! Back in SUE we set the compass to west and drove towards the Village of Waitomo, where the next day of adventure would start spending the night in the town of Te Kuiti.
Monday 31st May 2010 will officially go down in history as ''National Caravan Club Extreme Sports Day!'' If you are sitting comfortably, then I shall begin... It started off as most mornings do at 6am with Matt worried / panicing about the parking cars around BIG FAT SUE and are we able to get her out of her overnight parking space! With the panic over we set off and within the hour we arrived at the nearby famous Waitomo Caves. Our first extreme activity of the day was a mix of caving and tubing, which when put together
Hi Ho, Hi Ho its off to work we go!
form the sport of Black Water Rafting. Now as you can imagine at 9am on a cold New Zealands winter day, the last thing you want to be doing is putting on a damp wetsuit but thats exactly what we had to do! After donning the body hugging soggy wetsuit, we ventured out by mini bus towards the caves, stopping en route to select our rubber rings for the day, by making sure it had a snug fit around your bum! Once selected, we then had to practice the fine art of sitting in the rubber ring and jump backwards into the water. I accepted the challenge and went first, after hitting the Ice, Ice cold flowing water I knew we were in for a chilly day. Upon our decent down to the caves, Matts Claustrophobia started to kick in, as I could overhear him asking the guides numerous questions about how narrow did it get in the caves and how dark was it going to be?! The experience saw us navigate our way through the caves carrying our rubber rings, jumping backwards off waterfalls in the dark and all linking up in a chain called an 'eel' to look
The Mitai Tribe
up and view the hundreds of glow worms in the caves or so we thought... in fact there is no such thing as a glow worm, they are in fact actually maggots! But if they put Glow Maggots on the brochures nobody would come to see them! Matt to be fair to him did manage to overcome his fears as the day went on, he only once asked to hold my hand as we floated into the darkness! After a well needed hot shower and a bowl of soup to get the feeling back in our fingers and toes, we headed back on the road in search of the town of Taupo. We arrived in Taupo a couple of hours after leaving the Waitomo caves all thawed through, and headed straight for the information centre to try and book the final extreme activity of the day... A Sky Dive! The lady at the information centre told us that the weather was going to get bad over the next couple of days and rung the sky diving company to see if they could squeeze us in today, as the lady was on the phone you could hear Cerri and Matt praying
Bloody Scary Man!
that the answer was NO! She put the phone down and said ''you're all booked in for 4pm today!'' literally in 30 minutes time, you could see Matt already starting to panic! Now we couldn't have timed it better, we were able to do a Sky Dive in the Sky Diving Capital of the World, Lake Taupo at sunset, it was meant to be. We arrived at the Sky Dive Centre and were introduced to our sky dive instructors, I had a strange guy called Malachai who looked like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons, Cerri had a guy who looked like Harry from Dumb & Dumber, Matt had a guy who looked like an ex military sergent / Ross Kemp lookalike and Kate's looked as if he was royalty! This would be my third skydive, but everyone else was about to lose their skydive virginities! We boarded the companies lovely bright PINK aeroplane, and crambed ourselves in one by one. We soon reached the altitude of 12,000 feet and Kate was first to launch herself out of the plane, followed by me, then Matt and finally Cerri who had the toughest time as she had to witness the rest of
Even bigger scarier man!
us leap out of a perfectly good plane! Pictures and words can't describe the view you see jumping out of a plane over Lake Taupo, especially as the sun was setting behind the surrounding snow capped mountains, luckily we got a DVD of our experience for you all to watch! We celebrated in style with some of the Colonel's favourite recipe for dinner before retiring to BIG FAT SUE and heading to our lakeside sleeping spot, we had a few Steinlager's to bring us back down to earth before hitting the hay.
The following day was a much more subdued than the previous days extreme activities. The weather for one had taken a turn for the worst and was raining quite heavily. We decided to try and get out and about to see some of what Taupo had to offer, starting with the Huka falls. These stunning falls are the spot where NZ's longest river, the Waikato is slammed into a narrow chasm, with 200,000 litres plunging over the great rock making a dramatic 10 metre drop into a surging aqua marine blue pool. We took a scenic walk over the bridges walked to the view points for a
The finished hot water pool!
couple of photo's . Then onto the Aratiatia Dam to see them open the flood gates and the water exploding through to then meet the Huka Falls. The opening of the gates was some what outdone by Cerri heroicly saving an injured duck from some savage Cockerels by fending them off with two umbrellas! From here we ventured to our second Honey Centre of the trip, 'The Honey Hive' where we sheltered from the rain for the next couple of hours, watching a documentry on the bees and making the most of the free honey samples on offer. We ended the day with a stroll around the town and by popping into an internet cafe, catching up with friends and family.
Our Final day in Taupo was spent at the Huka Prawn Farm just outside Taupo. Here you are able to catch and cook prawns and within 10 minutes of being there Kate managed to hook the caravan clubs first prawn. We were all spurred on by this and thought we were going to be in for a lot of prawning action. Five hours later and the leaderboard looked like this...
Cerri - 4 Prawns
Matt - 4
I didn't want to tell her she had some food on her face!
Kate - 3 Prawns
Ben - 0 Prawns (I couldn't even catch a cold that day!)
After my frustating five hours trying to entice the little buggers to take the bait I was looking forward to eating everybody elses catch, especially Kate's 'Catch of the Day' measuring in at a staggering 31cm long! The prawns didn't disappoint the taste buds, cooked in some garlic butter they were delicious. From the Huka Prawn Farm, we drove back into Taupo and down to the Lake shore where Matt and myself took part in the Golf 'Hole in one' Challenge. Basically you can will $10,000 if you manage to get the golf ball 102 metres over the water onto a small floating green and down the hole. Matt struggled to overcome the pressure of the evergrowing crowds and shanked a few balls into the nearby mud, I did manage to land one on the green but unfortunatley nowhere near the hole! Sadly this is where our Taupo adventure ended along with week two, the next day we would be heading further south on the North Island.
Ben & Cerri's Tip of the Week - Always add 30% onto the prices
Caravan Club at Hells Gate!
quoted in the Lonely Planet guide, as they are nearly always wrong!
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