Odyssey Down Under Central North Island

March 2nd 2017
Published: March 4th 2017
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Think Sue's hair took on another shade of grey with the explosion behind her...
" Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one's lifetime." Mark Twain

" Kia ora tatou" (Hello everyone) from New Zealand. Necessary to embrace the Maori thing given that our onward journey from Tauranga takes us along the East Coast to Whakatane before then going in a south westerly direction to Rotorua. Another bit of Maori stuff to mention is that whenever a word has "wh" in it , the phonetic is "f"....so we were headed for Fakatane. A fairly short drive of 92kms through endless rolling hills and bright green pastures dotted with thousands of milk producing cows brought us to Whakatane, a beautiful small town boasting some of NZ's best beaches (just got to say it....SA has stunning beaches and to date we have seen nothing to compare with the Cape St Francis beach). On an offshore island one has a view of NZ's only active marine volcano. An impressive river of the same name as the town supports a busy marina once again jampacked with boats of all types. Not owning a boat in NZ must cause raised eyebrows as it clearly

Fly fishing heaven....must be
looks like there are more boats than people wherever one travels. A beach by name of Ohope was proclaimed by some Governor way back when to be NZ's best but I fear travel limitations in his time may have prevented him seeing others which are way better.

The Happy Black Sheep campervan seems content and with Sue using all of her navigational skills (map still spins around wildly but Google Maps saves the day), we then headed onto Highway 5 pointing in the direction of Rotorua which one of the numerous brochures we have proclaims as "NZ's coolest spot". Only one way to check it out..go there! Leaving the coastal plains one soon starts the climb up spectacular mountain passes not forgetting that Rotorua is a spot in the mountains where active volcanoes still strut their awesome power unleashing their underground fury via geothermal geyser blasts of steam and boiling hot water. As we wound our way along roads which must have given the road builders some serious challenges, numerous geothermal steam eruptions could be seen on mountainsides. Entry into this town confirmed it's "coolest spot" label with endless thrills on offer for adventure junkies. By way of example

Late summer and still snow on Mt Ruapehu
you can raft, jet boat, tumble downhill in a plastic bubble (called a Zorb) and do lots of other stuff so the town has a real holiday feel to it. Unfortunately the Rotorua Museum was closed due to assessments in progress for earthquakes....not sure what this meant other than it is an old Victorian structure so may have been precautionary. Having taken in the ambience with a walk around some geothermal steam and mud baths in the center of town, it was late afternoon as we drifted into yet another camping park. This one by name of Whaiteti. For those who just may plan a campervan trip in Oz or NZ there is no need to book ahead. All we do as we travel is study the map, figure out where we want to go (not forgetting that our brains are spinning with all manner of ideas and suggestions from fellow travellers) and then on the internet do a search of camping accommodation in the area. A quick check on TravelAdvisor to ensure it is not "dodge" and the booking is made online. Average cost is $44 (R430) per night for a powered campsite and all the amenities one needs

This is a town that punches way above it's weight...enchanting
are provided including free wi-fi. I chose Whaiteti Park as it is located on a small river which flows into Lake Rotorua. Finally the prospect of fishing! My freshwater fly fishing stuff came out and after a quick chat to a local , I made my way late afternoon to the river mouth to try and seduce a trout or two. Well, they duly obliged and in an hour I landed and released five beautiful rainbow trout, the biggest weighing about 4lbs. I drifted off to sleep with a myriad of thoughts about fly fishing prospects ahead over the next month of travels. Everyone I spoke to raved about the fishing on the South Island which we will get to.

Not far from Rotorua is Lake Taupo, NZ's largest inland lake covering some 619 sq kms. This is the mecca of trout fishing in NZ with all signage into every little adjoining suburb adorned by giant leaping trout. On the short trip to Taupo we felt it opportune to get up close and personal to these geothermal geysers and also soak up some Maori culture. We managed to tick both boxes at the Te Puia Crafts Center and Pohutu

A fiery sunset in the Tongariro National Park
geyser. Both are located in an impressive mountainside location and walkways and indigenous forest put one close to these impressive (and scary) spouting geysers. Standing alongside them one is caused to wonder what is going on deep in the bowels of the earth below. The enormous pressures built up by tons of water boiled by molten lava which then forces it's way through porous rock before finally blasting free is mind boggling. The Maori cultural performance in one of their traditional and sacred meeting halls was very moving and performed with deep spiritual intent.

Taupo is a beautiful and very modern town catering again for holiday makers from all over the World. It is clearly for the adventure junkies who may tire of Rotorua and the magnetic force which drew us there was the prospect of fishing in one of NZ's most highly regarded trout waters....the Rongariro River. We crossed this river after leaving Taupo and I salivated at the prospect of getting back there a day later as we had decided to head up into the Tongariro National Park ( a World Heritage site) for a night at a fairly high altitude camping park. This scenic drive took us about 40kms past Turangi and positioned us below a snow covered Mt Ruapehu and alongside it a perfectly formed volcanic mountain cone.In the adjoining craters and valleys are the locations for Middle Earth (Mordor) from the "Lord of the Rings". So.... it's impressive scenery to say the least. We had a fiery red sunset as the backdrop to cooking fresh water prawns bought from Huka Falls followed by seared tuna washed down by chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Easy to fall into the Happy Black Sheep and bunker down for the night.

Retracing our steps the next morning on a slightly different, but equally impressive scenic route, brought us to the mighty Tongariro River. After checking facts and stuff at an impressive trout center and hatchery, I donned my kit and with Sue in tow, headed for this famous river. What was impressive was the easy access and to my huge relief, a distinct lack of other fishermen. A stunning walkway in natural forest puts a flyfisher onto numerous pools. It is a fast flowing river and a real test of one's fishing skills. Large trout can be seen cruising off the rapids and if there is a fly fishing heaven, this must come very close. Let me cut to the chase. Fished for hours and managed one small trout and then a similar small fish the next morning. But for those who flyfish..it's not always about catching the damn things but the simple joy of the surroundings and the tranquility. In our camp park at Motuoapa (spent two nights), we befriended our camping neighbours Chris and Di. Interesting couple. Chris is a passionate fly fisher and spent two full days on the Tongariro. Caught two fish which says it all...tough fishing. Di goes with him and videos his fishing outings which are then edited before being uploaded on "Youtube". They live on the West Coast at Otaki near Wellington. Both are self employed and in our chats with them we established that the younger generation in NZ are finding it increasingly expensive and difficult to buy a home. Appears that the "baby boomer" generation (that's us older folks) are alright as they have have accumulated wealth primarily through property values exploding in recent times.

We spent our last late afternoon exploring Taupo which I am convinced has more motels and eateries than any town on planet Earth. Mind boggling options. The motels are plentiful wherever one goes in NZ and seem to attract customers by the number of TV channels they offer....this is always prominent on their advertising signage. A sundowner at the Pub & Grub rubbing shoulders with the locals and fellow travellers was a delightful way to conclude our time in Taupo although I felt as though I had been mugged paying NZ$18.00 (R180.00) a draft beer and glass of wine. Well, we do have a currency that has gone down the tubes so one just takes the pain.

Then back to the camp park and a review of the map and options facing us as we look to head further south. Need at some point to get to Wellington for the ferry crossing to South Island. But as they say in NZ..."no worries mate". For the time being..."haere ra" (goodbye).


5th March 2017

Have fun!
Hi Tim and Sue. Sounds like you're having so much fun. Hope you climbed to the top of Mt Ruapehu 😊 Thanks for sharing your travels. We enjoy it very much. HAVE FUN!

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