It's been another cracker day, with hot sunshine and no clouds. No alarm clock, either, this morning, so a little lie-in. We'd bought bread and marmalade and fresh fruit for breakfast, so we had that and then planned what we were going to do. 'Waiotapu Wonderland', despite its dreadful name, sounded like a good first stop; we couldn't come to Rotoua and not check out the geothermal stuff.
Apparently, George Bernard Shaw visited New Zealand in 1934 and wished he hadn't seen the volcanic mud pools as it reminded him too much of what 'theologians promised lay ahead for him'! Ooh er.
At Waiotapu Wonderland they've laid out paths to take you to the best bits - apparently, the public only gets to see a very small portion of what's there. The area is associated with volcanic activity dating back about 160,000 years! There are terrace formations, craters and mud pools to see there. The Champagne Pool is a huge hot spring fed with water rising from a depth of 400 metres. It's the largest hot spring in the district, being 65 metres in diameter and 62 metres deep. Its surface temperature is 74 degrees and the bubbles are due to carbon dioxide.
The land is patently unstable, with the last crater collapsing and forming in 1968. Once the crater is formed, the rising steam erodes the sides still further.
The Sulphur Mounds are fun. They look like big ant hills and were formed underwater and then exposed when the area was drained for road formation in the 1950's.
The whole place was really interesting. All the rising steam made taking photographs difficult - except when you wanted one of your steamed-up glasses!
We'd brought our lunch, so we sat in the sun to eat that and just enjoyed the heat.
We hadn't had a real look around Rotorua, so we headed back to check it out. We drove down to the water's edge and then walked. It's pretty quiet now, as it's autumn here, but I imagine in Summer it must get a bit hectic. Certainly, they're very geared-up commercially.
There were sea plane and helicopter rides available and I saw a board advertising helicopter rides for 70 dollars, or about £28.00, and I thought that would a great way to end our holiday. Turned out that that was for a six-minute circle of the lake!! Ah. The 'Volcanic Tour' would have been 304 dollars, so we thought that was a bit steep, even for a climactic finish!! So, we took a picture of the helicopters, instead.
There were so many birds in the water and on the shore. Ducks by the hundred, it looked like. And black swans, which came up really close to you. Iain put his hand down to one and it obviously thought he had food for it and went to peck at the food. We later saw a notice saying not to feed the swans, as they could attack you! Looks like someone's feeding them as they were looking for snacks! At one point, the traffic stopped to let a small contingent of about twenty geese stroll across the road in procession. They weren't going to be rushed, and just took their time moseying across.
It was lovely not to be either in the car or rushing because we had a journey ahead; nice to just chill. We checked out the route to Auckland - and particularly how to get the hired car back! Seems pretty straightforward (easy to say now!). I think I've found my navigational home in New Zealand; I've found reading the map book really easy and uncomplicated. My kind of place, I think!
We found a restaurant that cooks your steak / meat on a hot stone and, if the aromas emanating from the place are anything to go by, they're going to taste fabulous. So, it's steak tonight.
And then one more day on the road and one last night before home. Well, the actual last night will be on a plane, but you can't count that!
We hit the steak restaurant and it was quite interesting. They bring you a hot stone (it's 400 degrees!) with your raw steak on it - you choose from a 250g or a 400g steak - and then you slice pieces off the steak and cook it to your liking on the stone. It was good fun, but you're concentrating on the piece of meat cooking away on the stone that you forget about your [very few] vegetables (we asked for more!) and it all seemed a bit rushed. We thought it would be better if you had one stone thing in the middle of the table to cook both pieces of meat (or possibly just the one!) and a plate each, so that you could have your meat cooking and then move it on to your plate with the vegetables. It was a great taste but you couldn't really take the time to savour it and enjoy it property. But it was good to have tried it, even if we're a bit critical!