Saturday 7th November
Whirinaki Forest and Taupo.
A lie in today after our late expedition in the forest!
We woke to the sound of our tinkling stream and birdsong. We opened the blinds to look up through the tree tops to a clear deep blue sky.
The other small tent had vanished so we had our perfect little forest clearing all to ourselves.
Whilst Bill prepared breakfast, I went back to nature and rinsed out all our whiffy sulphur impregnated swimwear in the crystal clear stream and hung it all in a tree to dry. Next to the stream was a convenient picnic bench where we sat and roasted in the sun and enjoyed another three course breakfast a la Billy. Heaven.
The list of camp site facilities began and ended with the picnic bench and a long drop toilet (the latter being discreetly positioned behind a stand of trees a good distance away!) Forget New Zealand being the 'Land of the Long White Cloud' as far as we are concerned it is the 'Land of the Long Drop Toilet'. Thank goodness we are a self contained vehicle!
After breakfast we drove back to the forest road and then further along the track to the Whirinaki Forest Park.
We walked to the Waiatiu Falls and Te Whaiti nui-a-toi Canyon.
It was a really hot and sunny day and the parking area smelt of hot wood and resin, like a sauna. Inside the forest was cool and green, very quiet at first , and then, as we made our way further in along winding paths covered in soft leaf litter, the birdsong became louder, and our footsteps seemed quieter.
Although we could hear bellbirds, tuis, pigeons and long tailed cuckoos we saw very few birds. It seemed as if there was a whole separate eco-system of plants, birds and insects going on in the sunshine at the canopy level, way above our heads.
The trees around us were podocarps, they are slow growing and many had been there for over 1000 years. They formed an almost perfect canopy overhead, and there were lots of tree ferns 5-10 feet high lower down that gave a lovely green dappled light.
The waterfall was beautiful, rushing through a cleft in the rocks above snd crashing into a beautiful pool. The canyon was very striking - a deep and narrow between rocks with the water rushing through.
It was such a peaceful way to spend a morning that we felt reluctant to return to the bus and re-engage with the human race. As we stepped out into the parking area a cheery man with a minibus was sitting waiting at a picnic table with a jug of squash and a stack of paper cups, presumably waiting for his passengers to return from their hike.
We had tuna wraps for lunch and set off for Lake Taupo.
As always in New Zealand, the journey takes longer than either you or the sat nav predict. We arrived opposite the i-site at exactly 5pm I leapt out at the traffic lights and ran the last few yards looking helpless and needy but the doors were locked. I managed to find the staff entrance round the back and sneaked in, but after hanging me a map of the town the rather grumpy Saturday staff shooed me back out into the car park again. Humph!
We sat on a bench to make a plan. The sun was still really hot despite it being late in the day. Ice cream was the answer, and we found it at the kiosk in the Huka Falls car park. Not only was Huka Falls a most impressive cascade, but it's visitors' kiosk was run by two of the most friendly and helpful gents that one could hope to meet. For the price of two macadamia nut Magnums, we received more helpful advice than the i-site office had on all their shelves! And a few gardening tips thrown in for free!
Before we knew it we were booked onto tomorrow's jet boat trip up the Aratiatia falls at 10.30. Eeek!!
As we drive out of the Huka Falls car park, who should be driving in but Mark and Cat, fresh out of Kerosene Creek and already booked into tomorrow's 10.30 jet boat!
Tonight we decided that it was time to find a campsite with facilities. We needed laundry and an electrical hookup and hopefully some wifi.
We found just the place at DeBretts campsite in Taupo. All mod cons and a private pitch overlooking Lake Taupo and the distant snow covered Tongariro mountains. Better still, it had its own spa with hot mineral pools at varying temperatures.
The hottest pools were an eerie pale green, straight out of the mountain river - one was at 40 degrees and the cooler at 37. There were also cooler chlorinated swimming pools, an elaborate water park for kids and some jacuzzis at 35-40 degrees. We lay in the bubbling water as the sun faded away and gradually coloured lights came on in the trees.
Back in the motor home, housekeeping sorted, we barbecued some steak for dinner, battled with the temperamental 'free unlimited wifi' and finally turned in, in anticipation of our jet boating tomorrow morning.