So we had a chilled evening in Taupo, the weather was rather pleasant so we sat in the sun, had a few beers and a bbq and then crashed in the van with a movie. The next morning we were still unsure of our plans, we were in two minds whether to spend a day chilling around Taupo or drive out to the east coast, we decided to do some sight seeing and see how we felt at lunch time. We started our sight seeing with an area called the Moon Craters, a natural volcanic spring, there were several different pools, bubbling mud pools and steaming hot water pools, and hundreds of steam vents, it stunk like rotten eggs but was pretty impressive. Apparently formed from red hot "magma" spiking up near the surface and causing the water in the ground to heat, then when the pressure gets too much it finds its way to the surface. We pottered around for an hour or so then headed off to Bee World!! It wasnt as exacting as it sounded, basically a big shop selling honey products, but we made the most of the free tastings and left feeling rather sick after tasting around 30 different types of honey, we also picked up a tub of our favourite taster to try and spice up our breakfasts. Next stop was a waterfall, which was fairly attractive, though only around 5 feet high so not as dramatic as most we've seen. We stopped for some lunch by the lake and decided we would push on for the east coast that afternoon.
We headed for Napier and arrived a couple of hours later, it was a lovely day still so we took a stroll along the seafront, had some amazing Banoffee icecreams, then picked up a few essentials from the Town centre. We headed out to a campsite just out of town which was advertised as beachfront, although it turned out it wasnt, and it also turned out to be one of our most expensive nights and worst campsites we've been too. Bit miffed we just had some dinner and got in the van for a film and an early night. We got up early the next day and left the campsite behind us and headed off on up the east coast, the first couple of hours was a pretty average drive, but then the road hit the coast again and we passed through several small bays and Maori Towns, we took a detour off onto Mahia Peninsular, stopping on a little bay for lunch, and then headed on up to Gisborne where we planned to stay the night. There wasnt alot to see or do in Gisborne, so we decided to head further up the east coast and find somewhere to stop on the way, and it turned out to be the right decision, we ended up staying on some old guys farm which was set right on one of the best beaches we'd seen, and we were parked right up next to it. The evening sun was rather pleasant so we chilled with a couple of beers and had some tucker over looking the beach, then fell asleep to the sound of the waves.
The following morning was another early start, we planned on driving around the whole of the east cape, which was going to take 6 hours of driving, and thats without stopping. The drive is billed as one of the best in NZ, and it was awesome, the sun was out again for us, and I lost count of the number of small bays and towns we trotted through, although i wouldnt count it as the best drive we've done in NZ, it was a great day. We made several stops on the way and arrived at our designated campsite with a couple of hours of sun left. Money was becoming a bit of an issue so we had planned to spend the next 5-6 in the free or very cheap DOC sites, we have a DOC guidebook but the directions are extremely bad, and in some cases completely wrong, in this instance a 2km drive was actually nearer 25km, and when we reached a junction it told us to turn right....we finally realised it should have read left, it also failed to mention the 3 rivers we would have to drive through, and the almost impossible muddy slope at the end, but we arrived safe and sat down by a quaint river, got a fire started and took the chance to relax properly for a few hours. Chloe also attempted to wash her hair in the freezing river, which ended up with her having a freezing cold head and hair full of shampoo. We have since decided we much prefer staying in the DOC sites rather than the big holiday camps, apart from a huge difference in price, the sites are in much better locations, although very remote, and they are much more fun, no kitchen, no real toilets, just you and the wilderness...and the mozzies but they are a small price to pay.
Rotorua was the next destination on the hit list, we took a slow drive across via the coastline of the Bay of Plenty, and we arrived mid afternoon, Rotorua is famous for its natural springs and geothermal hotspots, and we'd been told that the whole town stunk like rotten eggs... it really does, the whole place stinks!! On the drive up Chloe had requested we do some horse riding, so we stopped at the information site and booked up for an late afternoon ride, we also booked up a few more activites for the following days. The horseriding was good fun, we met one of the horses used as Gandalfs horse in Lord of the Rings, and then headed off on an hours ride through some farm land, through some sacred Maori lands, and up and down some fairly steep hills. Chloe's horse wasn't playing ball, and i kept looking back over my shoulder to find her several hundred metres back trying to pull her horse off a nice path of grass, and then trying to slow the horse which would run to catch back up with us, her horse had also obviously eaten some bad hay as whenever she took on a hill it would be farting with each step, this had Chloe giggling for most the trip. After the riding we grabbed a few supplies and found our DOC site for the night, again the instructions were wrong, but we stumbled upon the campsite and settled down near a lake for the night.
Next day we had a whole 3 activites booked, so we had a good breakfast to set us up and headed off for our first stop. First up was a gondola ride up a near mountain with views over the town, and we had also booked on for 5 rides on the luge tracks, exactly what we had done in Queenstown, but the tracks here were longer and faster. We spent a couple of hours zipping down the mountain on our luges before heading back down on the Gondola and headed off to our next stop; Hells Gate. This was very similar to the Moon Craters which we had seen in Taupo though more dramatic and impressive, again we walked around for about 90mins, checking out the different pools and steaming vents, untill the eggy smell got too bad and we had to leave. We had now gone three days without a shower, and anyone who knows Chloe will know she showers 3 times a day when she can, and with the constant eggy stench we felt it was time for us to find some public showers and clean up. Chloe was now much happier, and with us both now fresh and clean we headed off to our final activity of the day, a Maori experience at one of the nearby Maori villages. We were first greeted outside the entrance by a tribal ritual, where the village Chief and his warriors came out spinning spears and bulging their eyes out and finally presented our Chiefs (3 randomly chosen guys from the group) with a token of peace then invited us into the village. Over the next hour we walked around the village being told about the history of the Maori's and shown several of their rituals and ways, and we were then sat down while they performed several songs and of course the Haka. It was all interesting and enjoyable but we then came to the bit I'd been waiting for....dinner!!! A traditional Hangi (a meal cooked in a big oven in the ground basically) which was an all you can eat buffet of roast chicken, roast beef, spuds, stuffing, veg and gravy... could be the best meal we've had since we've been away, it felt especially good after 5 nights on the trot of instant noodles for dinner!!
After a few more songs and some pudding (pavlova and sponge cake and custard!) we somehow made it back to the van, found the DOC campsite we stayed at the night before and passed out with very full bellies.