Arriving in Auckland we quickly noticed the hills, there are a hell of a lot of them! At one point they nearly actually killed me. This incident occurred as I tried to keep fit whilst house sitting. Off on a hill training run, I proceeded to sprint up and walk back down one of these steep hills. Panting for breath at the end, clearly slightly red in the face, an old lady drove past only to stop 100 meters down the road. I didn’t really notice her (I was searching for the oxygen) until she did a U turn and drove back towards me. She pulled up and said she had to check that I was actually okay and not suffering from an asthma attack or something else that turns you bright red and breathless. Well that is enough about my lack of fitness. In a bid to remain a travel blog (for the time being) I will digress to the actual travel bits of this story.
Exploring smelly Rotorua
Pinion insists on the windows always being down, despite NZ experiencing a heat wave I am still freezing most of the time and especially in the car. I blame her for filling the car with the sulphurous egg smell – no not like that – instead we had entered Rotorua. This sulphurous lake side town is a little bit smelly due to the volcanic activity in the area.
The lake in Rotorua:
Our whistle stop tour involved us making a visit to Te Puia, a park that combines Maori culture with kiwis (who were asleep) and throws in an active Geyser just for fun. Roti, our guide, was good fun and managed to time the tour impeccably well by finishing it just as the main Geyser started to spout out some steaming hot water. Apparently Rotorua’s geysers have become more active recently since the local council stopped using them as the hot water supply for the town.
Pinion with one of the carvings:
The big geyser:
Free hot springs
After our quick pit stop in Rotorua, we made our way down towards Taupo. We had heard that there were two places on route that we could stop off at and go for a swim. The first is Kerosene Creek, it comes with a reputation for car break-ins and meningitis but we didn’t let that put us off. Turns out that its a massive tourist draw and the place was pretty busy when we visited. I’m still not entirely sure how so many people were able to sit and look completely relaxed whilst their feet essentially cooked in the very warm water of the river. Needless to say Pinion and I chickened out of fully submerging after just dipping our toes in. We left feeling a bit disappointed but still hoped the next option would prove more fruitful. Following the Wai-o-tapu loop off the main road we stopped where we saw other cars ( the lemming effect is strong amongst backpackers). This swimming spot was the confluence of 2 rivers, one with a pretty hot temperature, and it was perfect for splashing around and cooling off. It also had the advantage of being less busy than Kerosene creek.
Wine and the Moon in Taupo
Following our efforts to ensure that our swimming stuff will always smell like sulphur (delicious) we set off to Taupo. Where we would proceed to consume far too much Australian wine, camp for free and explore even more geothermal wonders. Waking up with ‘fluffy’ heads, we thought it best to head out as quick as possible before the fact that there were no showers in our campsite became apparent to people other than us. We have no shame in admitting our first stop was McD’s.
The McDonald’s in Taupo is pretty unusual:
After carb recovery we visited ‘the craters of the moon’, which is basically a geothermally active area that you could walk around. It was lots of fun to watch the steam rising out of holes in the ground (my sense of fun may be somewhat altered to the norm).
The craters of the moon:
We spent the rest of the day walking around the awesomely powerful Huka falls, being annoyed at the traffic in Taupo and driving to Whakapapa after finding out that the Tongariro crossing would be open the following day.