We had a sunny drive from Waitomo to Rotorua. Along the way we saw a farmer moving his cows for milking. Not the usual 50 cows you get in an English country lane. This was nearer 600 head kicking up a dust storm like you see in cowboy movies. The farmer was droving them on a trials bike.
On the subject of cows we've seen thousands of them. They pack them into fields almost to the point you cant see grass. It would not be very pleasant for walkers as cows can be a bit s***ty when there are only 20 of them but 200 in a field !! I'll go the long way round thanks.
As for sheep I was always led to believe that there were more of them here than people. There are 4 million people in NZ and we've seen about 50 sheep......Oh and 4 of them were pink. Yep, pink.....stood in a field presumably as an advertising gimmick for the farm shop etc. Maybe all the sheep are on the south island.
We had booked our accommodation for Rotorua in Waitomo at the isite. The adverts for motels and camp sites say close to Rotorua but 'no smell'. We knew that Rotorua was the big visit for Geo thermal geysers and that they produce sulphur gas, but surely it couldn't warrant a unique selling point of 'no smell'.
Anyway we drove merrily along the way. No kidding the moment we passed the sign 'Rotorua' Jill looked at me and I looked at her. 'It wasn't me' I said. 'Nor me' came the reply. Yep it was that smell. If you have ever been to Horley and smelt the Avgas from Gatwick airport you'll have some idea what we mean.
This was Sulphur, Bad Egg gas, eggy farts call it what you will but it was strong.
As we drove in through the main street we could see the sulphur clouds billowing up . Our camp site was near a park and as we drove past it, it looked like parts of the park were on fire.
We booked in. The site was nice with good facilities and no smell.
We had a wander around the town which is quite large and has presumably grown on the back of the geysers.
Next day we drove up to the biggest and most famous of the geysers. I'm sure you will not be surprised that the Maoris claimed it as theirs, put a fence around it and charge admission. On a trip like this you always have to make a choice. Because you are not entirely sure whats the other side of the ticket booth you ask 'is it worth it'. Well we have decided that we didn't come all this way to miss something so we stumped up and went in.
Im not saying it was expensive but Jill and I once paid for a tour to see the Lakes of Madeira. Even the tour guide agreed Puddles of Madeira would have been more apt !!
So far on our trip we've not been let down. This did not spoil that run. The site was huge. It took us a couple of hours to walk around it. Te Puia is the site and the main geyser is Pohotu. If you have ever wondered what Earth looked like a billion years ago this is it. Large sulphur saturated lakes bubbling from the heat. Huge mud lakes steaming and spitting boiling mud. In the centre is Pohotu. A massive rock landscape with water and sulphur clouds pumping out of it. It erupts 2 or 3 times an hour and is spectacular.
I'm going to digress for a second. What is it with Japanese tourists? As we sat in awe at the geyser 5 coach loads appeared from nowhere. Out came every top of the range digital SLR camera imaginable. All 300 were snapped sat, stood, laying ,in groups and on their own by the geyser. 10 minutes later they were all gone. It was like locust destroying a field . Suddenly it was quiet and only about 6 people were in the site.
Ok back to the business. The main geyser is the centre piece of the site. However as you walk around there are lots and lots of small mud pools and bubbling water holes. It really is prehistoric. After a while even the smell becomes less pungent. We had an amazing time there. Once again we've seen something special that is so different from anything else we've seen so far.
On the way back to our camp site we walked around the park. There were the usual swings etc and sports pitches. However scattered all around were geo thermal mud pools belching out sulphur clouds.
In the evening we booked to go to the Matai Maori experience. It was as you may expect a large gathering of people being entertained by local Maoris. Whilst Im not a fan of being herded about it was a good presentation with lots of information about customs and rituals. They also included song and dance and demonstrations of weapon handling etc.
We were given a meal which was cooked by placing dozens of chickens ,lamb shoulders, sweet potatoes and potatoes into large trays. These are covered with sacking and then placed on top of one of the geo thermal springs. The heat and steam cook the food.
I was invited into the cooking area (women are not allowed...so no change there for Jill!!) to unwrap the food before it was taken for carving and serving.
Its fair to say there was masses of food and it was very nice.
After a couple of hours of Maori ritual we ended the day with our own. A nice glass of Merlot before bed.
Next leg was a drive to Whakapapa village. On route we had lunch by Lake Taupo. I say lake, it's the size of Singapore apparently. I'll confirm the accuracy of that claim when we reach Singapore. We are in Whakapapa because we aregoing to Traverse the Tongariro alpine crossing on foot. I'm writing this in the camper van on our site for the next two nights. It is in the middle of nowhere. No wifi hence no blog post. We are surrounded by countryside and the mist is starting to come down.The weather forecast for tomorrow is not great but that's mountains for you. They've been here a lot longer than us and you can't tell them what to do.
Early start in the morning so best get some rest.