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Published: September 22nd 2008
Spotted KiwiFriday 19th September
We learned there are several varieties of kiwi bird and most New Zealanders haven't seen one in the wild. That's because they are nocturnal and the ones we saw were in Nocturnal Houses. That's why this one is stuffed!
Today we set off on what will probably be the last section of our exploring of the North Island. Just before we reached Rotorua we visited the Kiwi Encounter facility which is a working hatchery and nursery, kiwis being hatched and nurtured here until they are old enough to be released into the wild where they came from. The eggs are actually taken from the nests of wild birds. This is done as the survival rate otherwise is very low.
It was an interesting hour or so, we being shown eggs hatching as well as live animals in the nocturnal room. Each bird is fitted with a microchip so that they may be monitored in the wild, details of their breeding also being kept.
Lunch was on the bank of Lake Rotorua, followed by a walk around the Government Gardens nearby. This area had a few small volcanic areas on display the main attraction being the original building which now houses the museum, and a complex named Polynesian Spa where you could have a spa in the mineral waters. One thing we have noticed since being here is that most of the natural attractions are owned
by the Maori people who then lease them out to private operators. Cost of entry to a lot of these places is therefore higher than you would expect, the northern hemisphere tourist beimg the main target.
We didn't stay in Rotorua much longer, having visited it before, so we headed off to Taupo, on the banks of the lake by the same name. This lake is the largest in New Zealand covering over 600 square kms, fed by over 20 streams. A very impressive expanse of water!
Here we stayed at the Astro Motel, a new place opened in June 2008. We found it on the Net, it was reasonably priced for what it was. The room was tiny but it had cooking facilities and was comfortable for an overnight stay. We had intended staying there for 3 nights but after seeing it decided to take our chances further south.
Taupo as a town didn't impress us much, it was very commercialised and catered mainly for the adventure/exteme type activities such as parachuting etc. Many of the activities were water based and these were not up and running yet due to the cold. Saturday 20th September
The Waikato River enters a narrow ravine of volcanic rock and crash and tumble through it before bursting out over Huka Falls.
After packing we made an early start, stopping at the lake to take photos, especially of the snow-topped Mounts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe visible on the other side. We reached Turangi just before 1000 and were dismayed to see No Vacancies signs on nearly all accommodation. After a drive through town we did find that the Parklands Motorlodge had rooms. We were pleasantly surprised when we enquired, the host was most pleasant, the room was far better than what we had last night and the price reasonable.
The National Trout Centre was the first stop, just a few kms out of town. Here you guided yourself around the complex where you could see how the trout were caught as they made their way upstream to spawn, how the eggs were obtained, the raising of the trout to fingerlings and finally the larger trout in a large pond. The centre was set up originally to breed trout, today they only take the eggs from one female, breed about 5000 fingerlings from these eggs, and the large juveniles in the large pond are sold during a 'Childrens' fishing day', where for a cost children can catch a fish. After watching a group
feeding these fish it would be hard to imagine any child not catching one as they are ferocious in the way they attack food!
The main reason the hatchery continues is in case there is ever a calamity such as disease or an earthquake which killed the wildstock, they would have the start to regenerate them.
On the way to the Wakapapa Village snowfield we turned off the main road just before it and walked for about 30 mins to Mangatepopo Hut at an elevation of 1190m. Fairly cool here but with our faithful Gortex jackets we were comfortable. The hut was well set up with gas heating and running water, the bunks looked comfortable enough for other people! The Mt Ruapeha snowfield looked as if it had quiet a few people on it, we only went up part of the way where we found a place to observe and enjoy. The Visitor Centre was excellent and gave much information on the area. Sunday 21st September
A visit to the Thermal Pools just outside of town was our first stop, unfortunately they were closed for another hour. Instead, we walked around the public self-guided section
where we saw where the locals steamed their meals in large, tin-covered holes then ate at normal wooden picnic tables, saw mud holes close-up, and imagined how the early discoverers felt when they saw the eery vapour covered hotpools.
It was our intention to drive down to Ohakune and go on one of the many available walks there. Rags then noticed how little petrol was left in the tank and after assessing it we decided we had enough fuel to get to the National Park township. We made it, the empty light being on for only a short time before getting there.
Continuing on to Ohakune, where we stopped for the necessary and, as we were hungry, had a pie from the local Scottish baker, we finally reached the lower carpark of the Mt Ruapeha snowfield. As the upper carpark was full all cars were being directed in there. We explained we were only having a look, were allowed to continue on where we found a spot right at the top carpark.
The snowfield had us gobsmacked. We have been on them before overseas, but never with so many people around and in such bright sunny conditions. For
the first 30 mins or so we were content to just soak in the atmosphere, watch people on skis, boards, toboggans and dishes, all having a wow of a time. Later, back in town we did see several people on crutches or their arm in sling!
We took the chairlift up one of the levels as spectators and even from that height you felt the fun and excitement.
Te Kuiti was where we headed after the snow, here finding the Waitomo Lodge. Lyall, the manager, was very chatty and Rags egged him on a bit, he then giving us the nicest room we have had this trip! The room was new, large, huge picture window overlooking a field, king bed, plasma screen tv, etc. Monday 22nd September
Judy had read that there was a park over the road from the lodge where there were mini conifers grown. Off we went at 0730, into a park with 3 designated tracks which rambled through the hills and paddocks. Ewes and lambs were everywhere, we noticed that twins were quite common. Somehow we came to spot where we couldn't see the route marker, but we did see one of
National Trout Hatchery
Tourists feeding the trout in the Children's Pool. They have regular events where children are invited to fish for these trout.
a different colour. Ended up our short walk ended as a much longer one with many steep slopes. Great views and a good workout!
On the way out of town we stopped to look at the Maori meeting place, the statue of a shearer, saw 'the' conifer display and a few other features of the town.
The only real stop from there was at Otorohanga, a well presented town, hanging baskets of flowers edging the road giving a welcoming effect. We had lunch here in a food-hall, one of their all-day breakfasts.
A visit to the Native Bird Park followed, a good-value place with kiwis on display and a large range of birds. We spent an enjoyable hour or so finding out more of the wildlife in New Zealand, in particular learning more of the damage and threat to wildlife by introduced animals and birds.
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