said our goodbyes to Steph and Duncan in Wellington and drove north to
explore a couple of the top tourist destinations of the North Island:
Lake Taupo and Rotorua.
As well as being NZ's largest lake, Lake Taupo is proclaimed as
the world's trout fishing capital....although this was not to be added
to our list of "extreme" activities for the trip. We were staying
at a place right beside the lake and Sarah took this sunset snap
(right) while Ian took to some of the ducks hanging out on the shore.
The following morning we went along to see the Huka Falls (below), which was an incredible sight of vast volumes of water forcing its way through
the narrow canyon. The photo probably doesn't show this
particularly well (not helped by the heavy rain) but the water was a
bright turquoise colour.
next stop was "Sulphur City" - Rotorua, which is by far the most
tourist-orientated place we have been in NZ so far. If your
vision of New Zealand is bubbling mud, you are thinking of Rotorua.
In fact, Rotorua has been a top tourist destination for well over
a hundred years when people came to the town to take the waters
for their various ailments. NZ's answer to Bath but with more
spectacular scenery and no Roman remnants....although ever so slightly
more smelly (the thermal springs leave an air of rotten eggs in the
atmosphere). With Ian complaining about a sore back, it seemed
like we had come to the right place!
throwing ourselves into the whole thermal experience of Rotorua, we
spent an afternoon at a Kiwi bird reserve. Sadly, no snaps of
fluffy Kiwis for our blog as they are in fact nocturnal.
However, the place we visited runs a hatchery for Kiwis chicks and we
were privileged to see a two hour old Kiwi chick, which was very cute.
Eventually the chicks are released back into the wild.
We were quite surprised to learn that the bird that has given its name
to all things New Zealand is in severe danger of becoming extinct as a
result of introduced predators. (For chicks born in the wild, only 5%
make it through their first six months alive.) Arch-enemy number
one is the Possum: protected animal in Australia, "noxious predator"
(government wording) in New Zealand. In fact, most of the tourist
shops here sell various Possum "products" - from jumpers containing
Possum fur to a whole Possum skin complete with some bad taste tyre
marks on the back (it's common roadkill here). They usually come
with a label containing wording along the lines of "In purchasing this
product you are helping in the cause to eradicate this destructive predator"....could you imagine something like that appearing in UK shops?? The animal rights people would have a brick through the window! Still, the inventive uses they have found for Possum fur has been most amusing...say no more!
highlight of Rotorua for us was definitely visiting a couple of the
thermal areas. The Wai-O-Tapu site was particularly impressive -
the range of colours and rock formations was unlike anything either of
us have seen before. Some areas looked like the moon with little
puffs of steam emanating from holes in the rocks. Other areas were more
definite pools of steaming water or mud. The photo on the left is one of the more famous thermal pools called "Champagne Lake". The range of colours
within this one pool alone was incredible. Here (right) is a
close up at the edge of the lake, when the steam momentarily subsided.
One of the other thermal areas up the road is called "Hell's Gate" and
we could see why when we went along to visit - deep, dark pools of
smoking mud. It wasn't all hell at this place as
they have an attaching spa, where we decided to indulge in a couple of
treatments. One them, obviously, being a mud bath using the mud
from the thermal areas.
It was incredibly relaxing and no after-effects from the mud so
far...although we were wondering how many people had been using the
same mud before us. Apologies if the photo on the left puts you
off your lunch.
As well as the thermal areas, Rotorua is also a large centre for traditional Maori activities with various symbols dotted around the town (right).
Next stop: the Bay of Islands right up in the northern tip of the North Island.
Lake Taupo and "taking the waters" at Rotorua