What we did during our first road trip around central north island
12.12.2011 - 15.12.2011 18 °C
Day 49 (Mon 12/12/2011)
Today we were moving to our next stop following our short stay at Waitomo. We were heading for Rotorua, the country’s geothermic and cultural centre. The bus was pretty much driving straight there with a few small stops along the way.
The first stop was a short walk over the cave system we went down the previous day. The weather was pretty awful, raining a fair bit and forecast to continue for a few days, not shaping up too good for the main part of the north island circuit.
When we arrived in Rotarua I sat down with Jan and we made a complete plan for the rest of the north island tour including how many days we were staying in each place, hiring cars etc. We booked all our buses with KiwiEx then headed into town to rent a car which we arranged to pick up the following morning.
Random shooting range
After a random stop at a shooting range we spent the rest of the afternoon doing a walk around lake Rotarua and some of the towns thermally active parks. We saw a lot of bubbling mud, steaming pits and endured a continuous stench of the towns sulphurous eggy smell.
So much geothermic energy
That evening a group of us cooked a pasta feast followed by a swim in the hostels geothermically heated pool; it was about 35 degrees. Later that night the hostel hosted their weekly quiz; our team from Paihia reformed. This was the worst organised quiz I’ve ever had the misfortune of being involved in; it started 3 hours late and the host was a total idiot.
The shittest quiz ever
After the quiz I made some rough plans with a party girl called Laura from the KiwiEx to join our group in the south island and then come onto Asia with me. Whether this will actually happen is another matter.
Day 50 (Tue 13/12/2011)
We had to watch the big group of about 20 people we’d made good friends with over the past week leave. I was actually pretty sad, you make good friends pretty quick when you are spending 24 hours a day with everyone. We were alone again, checked out of the hostel and picked up car. We only had 2 days so we headed straight out of Rotarua on our first road trip in NZ.
Our first main stop was a huge 100 year old redwood grove; here we did a 12km hike around the park with views over Rotarua and the thermal park of Te Puia. We continued on to the blue and green lakes, walking 4km around the blue lake.
A big redwood
Weird coloured swamp
Looks like a tall tree...
...and that's only half of it
Te Puia geothermal park from a scenic lookout on our redwoods walk
Someone water skiing on the blue lake
After seeing some more breathtaking scenery we carried on, stopping at a tourist attraction called Buried Village. It was 19:00 and the placed was closed with no one about. After a short investigation I climbed the fence and opened the gate from the inside to let Jan in. We headed down a short track to see some beautiful waterfalls in the forest valley. Seeing the attractions after closing time was so much better and more exciting; it became a theme of the rest of the trip.
Peeing into the lake, the weather was so bad
The entrance to the closed burried village tourist attraction
The waterfalls at buried village
The previous night, I’d had a tip off about a place south of Rotarua near some geothermal parks. It was a hot stream that met a cold stream to make a shallow pool, hot on 1 side and cold on the other so you could adjust your temperature. This was in the middle of nowhere and seemed like a good place to camp that night.
A huge hot lake
This stream coming out of the lake was really hot
We took the scenic route, passing one of the best geothermic parks in the area, Volcano Valley. It was now 20:30 and this was also completely closed. It was an easy gate climb to get in, leading onto a 3km track down the valley through some amazing sights. We didn’t have much light left so we had to run the whole way, it was so amazing in there, even better having it all to ourselves; we even saw 2 kiwis!
A small geyser thing
This lake ranged in size and temperature over a 25 day cycle
From here we carried on to ‘hot n cold’. My instructions were to drive down this tiny road until you come the a wooden bridge, the pool is just under the bridge. It was 22:00 now and pitch black but Sure enough we found the bridge, a car load of locals had just turned up; we joined them and they showed us the way down, put on a light from a phone, some music and lit a load of candles around the lake. You couldn’t see what you were walking into but it was so nice and hot.
We stayed in the hot pool for ages, it was so surreal and had been one of the best evenings ever, Once we got out we found a lay by to sleep in which happened to be a bubbling mud pool tourist attraction; you could hear it from the car.
The mud pool we camped by
Day 51 (Wed 14/12/2011)
It wasn’t too cold in the geothermic area and we actually slept in, when we woke up there were loads of tourists that had turned up in coaches to look at the mud pools. We wanted to see the big geyser at Wai-o-tapu at 10:15 but we didn’t want to pay; we tried to get in for free but it didn’t work so went to ‘hot n cold’ again to see it in the light. On the way we found another hot pool with a waterfall flowing into it; these natural hot springs are so good.
The hot waterfall into the spring
'Hot n cold' bathing area - so good
We didn’t really know what to do with the day so we drove north through the middle of nowhere, some sort of massive logging area following a river valley that included a pretty impressive dam; apparently NZ get 50% of their power from hydro.
A random river in the middle of nowhere
The backside of a dam we drove over
The road headed out to the north coast, we picked up some cheap food on the way and eventually made it to a huge, very windy beach where we played in the decent sized waves. We headed most of the way back to Rotarua that evening via another geothermal spa park. We climbed the fence and looked round, we could have gone in the spa pools if we wanted but security looked a bit tighter here so we didn’t stay long.
We found a decent place to stay at the side of a dead end road in the middle of nowhere; the weather was still dreadful and it rained all night.
Day 52 (Thu 15/12/2011)
We got up early in the morning and it was still raining, we drove back to rental place via a covered petrol station to sort out our stuff and clean up the car in the dry. We made it back to the pick up point, got on the bus onward to Taupo.
Just outside Rotarua we stopped to look round the Te Puia geothermic park where the main attraction was a continuously erupting geyser.
The geyser continuously erupting
The guide at Te Puia cooking eggs in a boiling hot pool