Vern: The closest town with a tyre-shop was Taupo and we pulled in there to get our two punctured tyres patched. Thirty bucks per puncture plus two bucks per each new valve. Hmm, okay fine. Balancing? No thanks, it's not OUR car. But it'll be bumpy. Don't care. (I don't know why people would ever buy ex-rental cars).
The mechanics hoisted the car up and got started and we set out to empty the waiting-room coffee machine to get our money's worth. Then one of the mechanics walked in: one of the tyres is legally irreparable. The jagged edges around the puncture will just rip up a new tube. Blast! The petrol price in New Zealand had already blown the budget so the cost of a new tyre wouldn't help things. Andrea called Jucy Rentals who confirmed what we already knew - we were on the "Risk Taker" Insurance Plan (i.e. the no insurance plan) and that this was an example of the risk materialising into a problem. But Andrea steamrolled the guy, "We were happy to pay for puncture repair, but your crappy old tyres just disintegrated," and eventually he caved. They'd cover the new tyre and the puncture repair. That's my girl! I was very proud. The head mechanic looked relieved, and now that he was sure he was getting paid, he was full of stories about motorbiking around the USA. We chatted with him for ages, taking turns to slip back to his coffee machine and refill our cups with the now FREE hazelnut lattés.
We left with black tyre rub smeared over all four tyres (a value-add, I guess) so the Green Eyed Monster looked all fancied up. Admin done, without spending a dime, it was back to sightseeing and on the way out of Taupo, we pulled up at the Huka Falls, some impressive rapids rushing out of Lake Taupo and down a small waterfall.
A while before Rotorua we turned off to Kerosene Creek, a warm water volcanic spring. Splashing around in the steamy pool and in the bubbles churned up by a small waterfall was lovely, and sort of counted as a bath. Right? No? Well, we think so.
Rotorua is Maori heartland and is full of geothermal activity. Whisps of steam rise out of the earth's thin crust all over the place and eggy sulphur hangs in the air. We visited the city park, Kuirau Park, which is full of bubbling mud pools belching up gasses and it all feels quite prehistoric. Well, other than the safety railings and warning signs. There's a real risk that if you leave the walkways you might bash through a new crater.
Not yet satisfied with our sulphur consumption, we headed up to the top of town to the shore of Lake Rotorua where the boiling hot volcanic water bubbles up underneath the cool lake water. We took a short walk along the water where yellow sulphur residue glistens on the lake side rocks. Then it was time to find somewhere to sleep. We'd seen and heard several crime warnings and weren't keen to camp anywhere near town. Fifteen minutes out of town we found a very nice campsite on the shore of a pretty lake and were treated to a glorious sunset. After dark, and some rich tomato soup for dinner, I found the Southern Cross (the star constellation which appears on the New Zealand and Australian flags) which had proven elusive when Andrea asked after it the previous evening. And after stargazing, it was bedtime.