Its been a while since our last update so hope you haven't put your lives on hold too much waiting for our next installment!
After recovering from the Mt Ruapehu climb we drove the short distance to Lake Taupo which is the largest lake in the country - and it is huge!Here we visited the Huka Falls which was billed as New Zealand's Niagara Falls.When we arrived however we thought that either Niagara Falls isn't as high as we though or this is a major overstatement!After the reading the information however we found out that there are waterfalls within the massive raging rapids, its just that the water is flowing that fast through the gorge that the drops are cover over by the large volume of water.This is because the river goes from 100m wide and 4m deep to 15m wide and 10m deep.After a walk around we then drove down the road to check out 'The Craters of the Moon', which is a therma park.When we turnt up though we found out that they were now charging for people to look around when the book said it was free, and after a cheeky look over the fence we decided that it didn't look worth paying to enter, and we were going to a better therma perk tomorrow so we gave it a miss.With that we carried on down the road to The Honey Hive and Prawn Farm.The Honey Hive sold everything there was to do with Bee's and Honey, but they did have tester pots to try things and a cool see-through hive so you could see the bees at work which was interesting.The Prawn Farm was, as you'd expect it, a farm that breeds prawns.Here you can go for a tour, but the thing we were interested in was fishing for them and then the kitchen cooking them up for us but we'd arrived late in the day so didn't have long enough to catch enough prawns to satisfy Helen's demand!With that we found a nice little campsite by the River Waikato up stream from the falls and went for a dip which was lovely and refreshing.The problem was we couldn't go out of the tiny little bay we'd found as the current was that strong that it'd take you.
The following day we set out to Orakei Koraka Therma Park which is apparently the best therma park left in New Zealand.Here we saw loads of bubbling pools of water & mud, a couple of geezers, craters and various therma plant life.These parks are all around because the earth crust is much thinner at this part of the tectonic plate so the heat from the core warms and boils the water on the surface.It was interesting to walk around & see as this was something else we'd never seen before, unfortunately though we didn't see a geezer blow - it decided to do it when we were on the other side of the park, typical!Once we'd finished we drove to Napier which is halfway up the north island on the east side, ready to drive the East Cape.
We spent the morning in Napier which is the self proclaimed 'Art Deco Capital of the World'.The whole city was flattened many years ago by an earthquake so when they rebuilt the place they decided to build it with a style and every building has to conform within the city.It was kind of strange at first as it was almost as though we were going back in time but it was quite a quirky city.Around lunchtime we set off on our trip around the Cape and the road gave fantastic views as it hugged the coastline.However after an hour or so it cut inland and we didn't really get the views we thought we were going to.We ended up getting as far as Gisborne, we didn't think we'd get this far but we couldn't find anywhere to set up for the night as everywhere had no camping signs so we had to keep on going.
After finally escaping the very friendly but VERY nutty people at the holiday park we continued on our drive the next day. Unfortunately the 'coastal road' we were driving along wasn't very coastal and again continued to take us through the country side which unfortunately wasn't that spectacular, although I think we are very picky now after being spoilt with views for the past 4 weeks!We arrived at the Cape early afternoon so drove alone to the lighthouse that sits on the most easterly point of the mainland so we could get an idea of how long it would take us to get there for sunrise tomorrow.The walk up to the lighthouse was a killer but the views were great out to the ocean.From here we drove back along to a camping ground we'd spotted on our way through, after we'd taken a quick trip down to the beach that was absolutely covered in driftwood.We walked a long for a bit and I went in for a swim only to find jellyfish littered over the beach when I'd got out - close! I also became very grateful that we were in New Zealand as Helen would have cleared the beach and we'd have had a house of driftwood if we were in England!At the campground we met the owner of the land and got talking to him, it turnt out that he was a member of the local Maori tribe.It was really interesting to learn a lot more about the local area and people.After setting up we went down to the beach at the front of the ground and had a wander around before an early night ready for sunrise tomorrow.
The alarm went off at 4:30am for us to get up but luckily it was still dark so we snoozed for another couple of hours.The plan was for us to go back up to the light house but Helen was too snuggled in her sleeping bag and didn't want to get out and pack up so we just walked down to the beach.The sun finally made it up around 6:30 and it was fantastic!The colours were awesome, as you'll see in the photos, and well worth the early morning.We also figured that we were the first people to see the sun rise from a beach that particular day which was cool (well maybe apart from the small island that's the first to see in the new day each day!), and we also guessed we were the first to go back to sleep afterwards as well!!!!When we re-awoke we headed into Rotoura…
Hello Helen taking over now, we thought we'd share this one... Our arrival in Rotorua was a smelly one! There is so much thermal activity here that the sulphur creates a very eggy smell! Mmmm mmm! We stayed just outside the town and spent the first day catching up on little jobs namely laundry!
The next day we had a quick scoot round the shops and then spent the afternoon walking around Kuirau Park which was free!!! We like free! This was more thermal and mud pools and was was very steamy as you can see from the photos. The next day we set off to 'Hell's Gate' which was suppose to have the most thermal activity in NZ, we also paid for a mud bath and spa package which included entrance to the park itself. We decided to walk round the park first and we got to see amud volcanoe and some hot water pools that reached 143 degrees - hot! The best part was jumping into our private mud bath for 20 mins and covering ourselves with mud. After this we hosed down and jumped into the sulphue pool next for another half an hour. We felt really clean afterwards and very chilled! But we weren't keen on the hint of egg that was left on our skin! WE headed off towards 'The Buried Village' for tomorrows activity and scrubbed ourselves in the showers at the campsite to get rid of the smell.
Last night we had a thunderstorm and had to pack away the awning wet which we knew wouldn't smell too nice later. We took a short drive down the road to 'The Buried Village of Te Wairo' which was submerged dirong te eruption of Mt Tarawere in 1886. Bascially we thought it was NZ's version of Pompeii but we were sadly disappointed. The musuem was good and really interesting it even had preserved items such as a bowler hat and shoes they had salvaged from the mud. Then you walked around the village itsself but to be honest there wasn't any remains to see really. So we though that was a waste of money! We decided we had enough and were ready to move on.
From Rotorua we drove to the Coromandel Peninsula and camped next to Hot Water Beach where we wanted to go the following day for low tide. We had a quiet morning waiting for the tide to go out so we could dig ourselves a bath! Yep that's right at Hot Water Beach you can dig your own sauna when the tide is out but you have to be quick as the beach gets really crowded with tourists and their shovels. We waited and waited but the tide didn't seem to be going any further out, so Gav went and asked in the local café and they explained that there was a large swell and that we might not get to dig our hole! It turned out they were right, we did go down and sink our feet into the sand to fell the boiling hot water but the tide kept coming in and ruined any attempts to dig a hole. Gavin was disappointed as he wasn't going to get a spade and dig his hole - what is it with men (or is it just Gav???) and digging holes on the beach??? We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along Catherdral Cove which had some spectacular coastal erosion including a huge limestone arch- it took us back to our Geography days at Ramsay with Mr Cambers! Ha! We reached our campsite just above Auckland and were given half price tickets to the Thermal Park next door, we spent the evening relaxing in the movie pool while watching 'Dude, Where's my car?' in water that was 38 degrees - lovely!
We continued north the next day at our leisurely campervan pace past Auckland to the Bay of Islands stopping along the way for lunch and petrol. We reached the Bay of Islands late afternoon and booked ourselves onto a dolphin tour for the following day hoping that we might get the chance to swim with them.
We woke up reasonably early o pack up the campervan and get to the jetty to catch the boat. It was the only catamaran that has special permission by the Department of Conservation to find and follow pods of dolphins in the area. We soon set sail and weren't disappointed! We couldn't believe how many dolphins there were, it was an absolutely awesome sight. They seemed to be following the boats out of the bay and swam right next to us, so we could see them looking at us. Ahead they were jumping out of the water and playing by the boats, they just looked like they were having a fun time. They really seemed to like our boat and you could see them having a good old scratch against the bottom of the boat or following the slipstream of the rudder and banging it. Unfortunately we didn't get to swim with them as there were a few babies around and that's one of the conditions where your not allowed, but we weren't disappointed because it was great to see them playing in their natural environment. We spent some time just before lunch on one of the islands. Gavin did some snorkelling while I chilled out on the beach. We walked up to the lookout and had spectacular views of the bay we had just come from. Back on the boat we scoffed down some hot dogs and then sailed back to the town. That evening we drove across to the West coast to start making our way back down to Auckland.
The following day we drove south and stopped off at the Waipora Kauri Forest. It's really special forest as it has the biggest and oldest Kauri trees in NZ. The first tree that we stopped to look at was called 'Tane Mahuta' which is named after the Maori God of the forest. It is estimated to be about 2000 years old and stands at 51.5m and has a girth of 13.8m!!!! It was really impressive sight! While we were here there was a large Maori guide there who was singing about the tree in Maori, He had the most amazing voice, bit like an opera singer, and you felt really moved by it listening to his singing. We drove further down the road and stopped off to look at a few more of these trees which weren't quite as impressive as the first one but still huge in size. After we carried on south stopping at for a picnic and then headed to Baylis Bay before crossing to the east coast again and stopping of the night.
We have now made our way south back to Auckland dropping off dear 'Old Smokey' our campervan and checking into the YHA for our last 4 nights in NZ. I think we are both looking forward to sleeping in a bed tonight. Tomorrow we will be off to explore the city. So I'll leave it there!
Hope everyone is well at home!
Love Helen and Gavin x