We have had a hugely enjoyable and action-packed week. We were very sad to leave the Coromandel and Jae last Monday, but we have had a pretty busy schedule this week. After leaving Ann and Brian’s we headed south to Rotorua, which lies on a large thermal area, meaning that it stinks of rotten eggs! The sulphur rich smell lingers everywhere and the town is quite weird to walk around as it has spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and exploding mud pools on every street. There is also a large Maori population in Rotorua (around 35%), so there was a lot to keep us busy for a few days!
We stayed in the sulphur city (also known as Rottenrua) for 3 nights. On our first full day there (Tuesday) we hired mountain bikes and went for a hell-bent ride through the Redwood forests. They have a great set-up for mountain biking with heaps of great tracks which are colour coded depending on distance, severity, their difficulty etc. We had the bikes for around 3 hours and it was real proof of how unfit we are! We were seriously exhausted by the time we handed them back. However, it was great fun and a wonderful first experience of proper mountain biking.
That evening (after resting our weary muscles in the hot pools) we went to a cultural Maori evening. There was a performance by the local people, which included dancing and singing in their traditional costume, and we also had a meal cooked in the hangi style (in the ground). The best part of the evening however, was when Phil was called on stage to perform the Haka! He did really well and provided me with a lot of laughs! (see facebook for the video)
On Wednesday we went Zorbing, which is essentially being pushed down a hill in a hamster ball full of water. AWESOME! It was sooo much fun and we couldn’t stop laughing. Afterwards we went to the wildlife centre as we had been given free tickets, so we walked around the park and saw lions and other cool animals. It was a bit tame, but pretty good for a freebie!
On Thursday we continued south to Taupo, which sits on the north-eastern shores of Lake Taupo, NZ’s biggest lake. The lake sits in the caldera of a volcano which began erupting about 300,000 years ago. Today it is a spectacular place to drive around! Unfortunately the weather was bad and it rained a lot on our first day there. We didn’t let it stop us though, and we visited many a waterfall, damn and even a ‘honey hive’ where we saw lots of bees and ate lots of honey! We did a ‘craters of the moon’ walk which was great as it really showed the effect of the thermal area bubbling beneath the ground. We were also highly cultured and went to the cinema to see the Hangover 2...great film!!
Yesterday morning we left Taupo and drove around the lake and into the Tongariro National Park (NZ’s first national park). It is high in the mountains and shadowed by active volcanoes and show covered peaks. It is probably best known for being ‘Mordor’ and other locations in Lord of the Rings. We stayed in the village of Whakapappa, which was near the ski-fields. It absolutely POURED when we arrived at lunchtime so we couldn’t see much of the surrounding area. Nonetheless, we put our waterproofs on and went for a 2 hour stomp through the forests to see a waterfall. Luckily, there was a large chateau in the village so there was a warm drinking waiting for us on our return!
This morning we woke up to a gloriously sunny day. We stepped out of our van and were met with the sight of a snow covered mountain and a large river tumbling its way through the forest beneath us. We couldn’t believe that we hadn’t seen it yesterday!
We had a spectacular drive back towards Taupo this morning, and then we headed east towards Napier, which is on the east coast of the north island. I was interested to come here because it is the art-deco capital of the world. Following a devastating earthquake in 1931 the town had to be rebuilt and was done so in the art deco style. We were keen to do a tour around the place and check out some cool architecture but it became obvious after a while that art-deco really isn’t my thing. Oh well...you win some, you lose some! Anyway, we had a nice walk in the sun this afternoon and planned our day tomorrow- we are hiring bikes and cycling around the Hawkes Bay wine region (hopefully incorporating the vineyards and doing some tasting). I will let you know how we get on in due course.
So...that has been our exciting and busy week! We absolutely love NZ and are enjoying every second, despite the occasional downpour! It has now turned very cold, especially at night. We are making our way towards the depths of winter!
I hope everything at home is well. Please stay in touch.
Loads of love,
Hana and Phil xxx