Our row of cabins looked a bit like a cell block, and the town we were in felt like a redneck town. But we were close to Rotorua and Taupo and it was cheap, so that was the main thing.
Rotorua is a nice town, clearly set up for tourism, the first thing you notice is the smell of sulpher here and there, and then the steam venting up from everywhere, the side of the road, peoples gardens, the car park, it is clear that this is in the centre of a volcanic area.
We took a walk around the lake, which is beautiful, round to the thermal area where the lake chnged colour to a light blue, and the cracks in the ground spew out foul smelling steam. Just in front of here are the Government gardens, a beautiful park, with a bowls lawn, very reminiscent of a British park, but with a very harsh sun (we were on the factor 50 again).
Enjoying a game of bowls (very popular here and Australia)
After a very nice turkish lunch we went to the church, a wooden church that inside was decorated with Mauri designs and symbols, certainly not church you are likely to see outside New Zealand, and opposite that a beautiful Mauri meeting house. a short drive from town we went on a walk to the neary redwood forest, with it’s amazing trees, a popular spot, we did a short walk through these spectacular trees.
Late afternoon we went for a walk around the Blue lake (lake Tikitapu) where after a long climb you can get a great view of it and the next door Green lake (lake Rotokakahi), once at the viewpoint we found a car park and we could have driven straight there (didn’t mention that in the tourist information).
There a 3 thermal parks around Roturoa (all of which you have to pay for), and we chose Wai-O-Tapo, or “Thermal Land”, their big thing is the Lady Knox geyser,that erupts every day at 10:15 without fail. What we didn’t realise is that they stick soap powder down the spout to set it off (the powder breaks the surface tension of the water below causing it to erupt). A reasonable show, but a bit dissapointing that they set it off (Iceland has better geysers and it’s a bit closer to home). However the rest of the park was fascinating, with all sorts of different pools of water coloured in different ways by a volcanic chemicals. We spent a good few hours there, then retired back to cell block H to get ready for our drive to Taupo and the Tongariro national park the next day.
On the way out the next day we stopped at Aratiata Rapids, where they open the gates from the resurvoir 3 times a day and you can watch millions of litres of water fill up the valley over 20 minutes. Then a very quick stop at Huka falls (though they’re rapids really).
Taupo is a nice town, but its big draw is that it is on the banks of Lake Taupo, a beautiful massive lake with great views of the mountains in the distance.
We spent some time wandering around the lake and checking out the gardens, then we grabbed some takeaway pies for lunch and set off for Turangi, looking for somewhere nice to stop and have the pies, luckily we found a place right on the lake. Not the best pies weve ever had (still good though), but a great spot for lunch.
We spent the night in a town called Turangi in a very nice motel, and fitted in a walk by the river in the evening.
Next day we set of for the Tongariro national park, a long drive and only one stop as we had to be in Napier in the west coast that evening. So we chose to go up Mount Ruapehu. But we didn’t have time to climb it, so we took the chair lift (it’s a ski resort in the winter). There was hardly anyone there, but the views were breathtaking.
We grabbed a coffee at the cafe at 2200 metres, then back down to the car to finish the day on the west coast.