Finally, we drove into sunshine! However, the sunshine was partnered with an overwhelming smell of rotten eggs that hangs in the air of Rotorua, coming from the massive thermal fields that surround the town. We chose a campsite in the centre of town so we had easy access to the city, and eventually we did get used to the smell!! After checking out the different thermal parks, we settled on Te Whakarewarewa which had the biggest geyser in the area and a Maori cultural show to boot! We got a $5 discount by booking with the i-site (tourist office) and headed over to the park. First up was the cultural show, where the staff demonstrated several different traditional dances and songs in the meeting house. Probably the most impressive was the famous haka dance - the war dance!
45 minutes later we ventured out into the thermal fields, where we saw pools of boiling mud and water and steam seeping out of every crack around us. Apparently, all this thermal activity is a good thing…it is the earth releasing the pressure underneath the crust. It's when the steam and boiling water disappears that you have to worry! The treasure of the park is the 30m high geyser that goes off once or twice an hour. It is an impressive display of boiling water shooting up into the air, with plumes of steam following it, which blows all over the audience watching it! Obviously, we took 100s of photos trying to capture this spectacle, but as usual they really don't do it justice! The park also has a little kiwi house, home to 2 of the native birds, but try as we might to see them, they remained hidden…and we still haven't seen one!
The whole town of Rotorua has thermal areas, where steam billows out of unseen crevices, so that afternoon, we took a walk around some of the areas ourselves. In the centre of town, right next to our campsite, is Kaikera park….in amongst the boiling pools, they actually have some slightly tamer ones, where you can sit and soak your feet! Back in the day, all the pools were open to the public…but of course, you had to take the risk yourself with the ever changing water temperature!
A visit to Rotorua wouldn't be complete with out a trip to one of the many thermal spas around town, so we settled on the 'adult pools' at the Polynesian Spa. For little over £5 we got to lie around in deliciously luxurious pools, ranging from 38 - 42 degrees, this time underneath the glorious sunshine overlooking Lake Rotorua! As we were in the adult only section, there were no holidaying families so we literally had the place to ourselves! Although now neither of us felt like driving the 100km to Lake Taupo, as we were so utterly relaxed!
After tossing a coin, I ended up driving and we ended up in Lake Taupo - the biggest lake in Australasia. The town has lots of 'extreme' sports on offer as well as their own set of thermal fields and spas. The beauty of the campervan is the ability to stop and have dinner whenever and wherever we fancy! So we got to watch the sunset over the lake, whilst we had a full cooked meal with a glass of wine!
The next morning we took a lake cruise to see the modern day Maori carvings that are only accessible by boat. Standing at about 10m tall in the rock is the face of the Maori leader who first discovered Taupo. Several smaller carvings are dotted around the face, where the clear blue water laps up against the cliff. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and soaking up the rays at one of the bays on the lake. All in all a relaxing time for us, with neither of us daring any of the extreme sports on offer!