Trip South - Turangi, Taupo, Rotorua and Napier
Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
105Trip End Ongoing
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After loading up everything required for four days away we headed south towards Hamilton. We had never been to Hamilton, so it was a new experience for us too! We timed landing in Hamilton with lunch, well coffee and icecream, followed by sandwiches kindly made by Grandma.
Hamilton was a much nicer place than I imagined it would be. The square in the centre of town was busy but clean and tidy and fairly picturesque! Perhaps it was helped by the beautiful sunshine, so intense, it quickly burnt fair skins. Before leaving Hamilton we drove around, and took in the views by the river
Next we set the sat nav towards Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. A thermal park which the Lonely Planet Guide described as 'the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world.' It was a thermal park that we had not visited before and it caught my eye in a guide book when we visited New Zealand in August 2008.
It certainly was a great thermal area, if a little pricey. It had the usual geysers, hot mud, silica terraces and squirting steam, however, what made it so special was the amazing cave (one of only two geo-thermal caves in the world) and the setting. The whole park was accessible, only by catching a boat and was set amongst the New Zealand rainforest. It felt even more special because there were not the usual hordes of visitors wandering aimlessly around, that you find in Rotorua. We had a great time and took some fab photos.
Afterwards, it was on the road again to Huka Falls to view the immense power of gallons and gallons of water spilling over the rock face. This is the third time that I have visited the falls, and they still have the wow factor
As the sun set, we made our way towards Turangi where we had rented a bach, stopping off in Lake Taupo for dinner. Taupo was a hive of industry as always, lots of tourists enjoying the beauty as well as Iron men and women preparing themselves for an international competition in Taupo on Saturday.
Saturday was another good day, bright sunshine pushing through the clouds. The weather forecast for Sunday was not looking good. Jeff and I were concerned that our attempt at the Tongariro Crossing with Jacquie and Scott may have to be cancelled, and at this point we were thinking what a shame we couldn't do it today. We decided to make the 2 hour journey to Napier. A place that we wanted to visit on our 2008 trip, however, we had run out of time. We drove through the cycle stage of the Ironman competition. It felt very strange driving at a snails pace down the road, with lots of supporters stood at the sides of the road cheering on the competitors. It really felt like they were cheering us! It felt so good, we had to do it all again, when we decided that in fact we didn't have enough fuel to get us across the hills and into Napier where the next fuel station could be found
The drive was stunning, however, the weather was not! The road wound around the mountainside through bushland covered with trees, however the types of trees seemed to be very different to those found in the Waitakeres. Eventually we arrived on the otherside and drove into Napier which was by now dry. Once again, we were in time for lunch, which we enjoyed in a cafe in one of the main streets. We enjoyed a wander through the shops and while Grandma and I wandered to the visitor's centre to learn more about the art deco, the children, Jeff and Grandpa explored the park. Afterwards, we drank more coffee and ate more cake before wandering around the streets, trying to pick out the art deco architecture. We then made our way over to the beach to witness a very wild sea, slamming down with such force onto a shingle beach. It was absolutely stunning to watch, so wild and free. I enjoyed taking photos before Jeff, Dan and Grandpa joined me. We headed towards a huge tree, which had been swept up on to the beach and enjoyed the spectacle from up here. Napier was a good experience, another place ticked off on our tour of the country. However, we were a little disappointed that it didn't live up to the Napier we had experienced while watching Billy Conolly back in the UK.
We were very late back from Napier, not making it back to the bach until after 8pm. Soon afterwards, Jacquie and Scott arrived, ready for the big walk on Sunday, which I will write about in a separate entry.
Sunday for Grandma, Papa, Lucy and Daniel was spent at some thermal pools in Turangi, as well as some down time, relaxing at the bach as well as getting to know the locals
Monday saw us up very early again, to ensure that we had cleaned the bach and vacated the property in time for us to make our Lake Taupo cruise booking at 10.30am. We were extremely lucky because the boat that we had chosen was the quietest of them all! There were basically the six of us plus two other passengers, bad news for the company, who apparently would only just about break even based on those numbers, but great for us. We listened intently to the history provided by the captain and got to see the modern Maori carvings and learn how they were crafted in such an unusual place. It was amazing to see just how many carvings there were. At first I could only see one large one facing out at the lake. More seemed to 'pop' out once given an indication of their location by the captain. We were also entertained by some rather hungry ducks. Lucy and Dan had great fun feeding them as the boat moved away from the carvings, the ducks would fly then dive bomb to land near the boat. As there were so few folk on the boat, Lucy and Daniel were invited up to see the captain and were allowed to steer the boat
On the road to Rotorua we stopped off at the fantastic Kerosene Creek. A little known about creek that is not sign posted just outside of Rotorua. Jeff had visited it with work colleagues while on a visit to Rotorua way back in November and had had a great time. There were just a few other folk there, and it was a case of stripping off under a towel on the grass at the side of the stream and carefully negotiating yourself down some rocks into the steaming hot water. It was amazing, a sandy bed which you had to be really careful that you didn't dig your feet too deep into, as the water then became extremely hot. There was a waterfall which you could swim to, the water pouring over was lovely and warm, and it felt like a massage as the water pounded down on your shoulders
Next we headed into Rotorua to drop off Grandma and Papa at Mitai so that they could have their Maori experience and dinner. This event started at 6pm and wasn't due to finish until 9.30pm. After dropping them off we first went to a playground where the kids had played on our trip in 2008. It was a playground which had stuck in our memories, partly due to the great climbing pyramid, but also due to the number of well behaved teenagers who hung out there. Last time they were playing basketball, today they had moved on to skateboarding - obviously the newest craze in Rotorua. After tiring out the kids we headed down into downtown Rotorua to re-visit Fat Dog - a rather funky cafe where we had enjoyed food previously. After filling ourselves to the brim we headed back to the car to get Lucy and Daniel ready for bed. After settling them down with blankets and sleeping bags in their car seats we headed back to pick up Grandma and Papa. By the time we had arrived the children were already asleep, so at least they would not be tired on their return to school in the morning.
Grandma and Papa seemed to have enjoyed the Maori event and had learnt a great deal as well as having an opportunity to socialise with other tourists from the UK. We then headed back north towards Auckland, a difficult journey as we were all tired, finally arriving back home at nearly 1am! To be followed yet again by a very early morning start :-)