I left the Bay of Islands area on Thursday 15th December, departing from Hahei. Thursday was a total wash out day, absolutely poured ALL day (yuk) so thankfully it was a travel/on the bus day so it didnt matter too much. The bus left Hahei and arrived in Tauranga at 4pm. I stayed in a fab hostel in Tauranga, called 'Harbourside City Backpackrs' which was right on Stand Road, along the water front, with amazing open plan kitchen with stunning views over the water. Unfortuntely Thursday it rained all day so I wasnt able to do or see much, so just went to a cheap Turkish place for some tea and stayed inside well out of the rain!! Friday 18th was a stunning day thankfully so I headed over on the bus to Mount Maunganui which was just amazing and so so beautiful. Its known as 'The mount' and has a 232m hill set right by georgeous sandy beaches with an array of nice cafes and bars etc. You can walk around the entire mount, (or up it if you are feeling energetic!!)...i opted for a leisurely stroll around it! I bumped into a fella I had met back in the north, in coromandel, so we spent a few hours toegther walking around and enjoying the scenery. Around the mount you get fantastic views over the Bay of Plenty and can see some wee hidden away beaches etc, really lovely. Unfortuntely there was a bad oil spill here about 3 weeks ago and so there were lots of workers doing a clean up mission around the beaches and rocks etc. After getting the bus back to Tauaranga from the Mount, I took a walk to 'Elms Mission Station' buildings and gardens. It is the oldest building in the bay of plenty and has a lot of Mauri history.
On Saturday 17th Dec I had a bus booked to head on south to Rotorua, the geothermal area I have been really looking forward to seeing. Bus was booked for 11.30am but it never turned up, so 13 of us had to wait around until 4pm for another bus! Not impressed!! Thankfully it was a georgeous day and so I left my rucksack with the I site (great tourist info sites here in N.Z) and just walked around, exploring, looking in the shops and generally anjoying the sun...while trying to not get too angry at the bus company for yet another problem! ERR!! Advice for anyone travelling new zealand by bus...avoid naked bus AT ALL COSTS! Intercity bus are much more reliable and I dont think are that much more pricey, definitely worth it for buses that actually show up when they are supposed to!! So anyway I got to Rotorua Sat tea time, its only 1.5 hours from Tauarnga there, so nice short journey. Arrived to the pouring rain yet again which was wearing think in what is supposed to be the start of their summer here! Walked to a hostel I had pre booked (have been pre booking here over the christmas and new year period as places are filling up). The 'Spa Lodge Backpackers' hostel was really nice and has its own natural spa pool out the back in the garden which is pretty cool. Really sociable wee hostel with decent enough cooking facilities so quite liked it here. Went to the 'Pak n Save' (cheap supermarket here) and got supplies to cook lunch and dinner for next 2 days and nights and again stayed in tonight, out of the rain!!
Thankfully Sun 18th December it stopped raining by 1pm, so I headed out to explore what geothermal activity Rotorua has to offer!!! You can pay to go on organised trips and see some really impressive places but I decided to explore myself and see what free acitivty I could see...I was not disappointed!!! Literally in their town park, 'Kuirau Park' you can walk around and see lots of signs saying 'Danger:Thermal Area' and there are steaming pools, bubbling mud pools, steam rising from lakes etc, totally fascinating!!Lots of smelly sulphur whiffs as you walk around too! I spent about 3 hours walking around, fascinated by all this thermal activity...how amazing to have all this happenning in a regular public park! From the park I walked on to the town of 'Ohinemutu' where the people in the village here have geothermal pools etc in their back gardens!! There is a lovely historic church here in the village called 'St Faiths Anglican Church' which has lots of Mauri carvings and stained glass windows inside, rally beautiful wee place. In this town even the man holes have steam rising out of them, just bizarre!! From here I walked around Lake Rotorua which has a spent volcano under the water there. The lake is heaving with thermal activity...espcially at 'sulphur bay'...if you stand there you can literally hear the water bubbling. There is an area called 'The laughing gas pool' where people used to come to bathe years ago and ended up feeling hyper and giggly due to the sulphur smells! Rotorua Museum is a massive and very impressive museum near the lake, very impressive 'government gardens' by the building too, with lots of rose beds etc. On Sunday night I had had a long day with lots of walking and so cooked some nice food and chilled out in the hostel and made use of their natural spa pool in the garden...had to shower thoroughly afterwards though as I came out smelling of sulphur..not pleasant smell!!
Tomorrow I move onto Taupo, Rotorua has been absolutely fascinating. The geothermal activity is just so surreal here to see and so so interesting. I have really enjoyed seeing it all.