Rotorua, Waitomo and New Plymouth
11.05.2009 - 18.05.2009
Hi there everyone, we hope you're okay and that life in the UK is treating you well. Have you remembered to get your expenses claims in on time like those loveable MPs who 'run' our country?!
Anyway, we've been a busy pair of bees here in New Zealand, so we're sending you this update from coastal New Plymouth on a damp Monday afternoon.
We're now sipping mochas on comfy sofas while using the wifi in a coffee shop to send you this - it's a hard life!
Since our last update, we left Hamilton and drove south to the geo-thermal area that surrounds the touristy town of Roturua - the smell of rotten eggs greeting us as we found our accommodation and decided what to see in the district.
Interestingly, the area sits on a volcanic fault-line that stretches all the way to the alps - once there was an eruption in the area that wasn't recorded by New Zealanders, as nobody lived here at the time, but it was recorded in Rome and China due to the huge dust clouds that could be seen!
Luckily, nothing quite so dramatic happened while we were there.
We did however visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, we saw a mini-explosion in the form to the Lady Knox geyser, which erupts with the help of a few soap flakes poured into the top every morning at 10.15am. It's a real sight to behold, first it foams at the mouth then the water really starts to jet out reaching a good 10 metres high!! we stayed down wind and dry thankfully!!
After the excitement we drove back to the park itself to take in the sights and smells that were on offer! As we drove through the bush we could see steam rising around us, it was a cooler morning which made it seem all the more dramatic! We saw so many different brightly coloured pools and heard the hubble-bubble of the mud pools, the Champagne pool was probably the most dramatic with its boiling turquoise waters surrounded by a bright orange encrusted rim steaming in the sun! The finale was the devils pool set in a white ash crater, where even the surrounding trees have been bleached by the fluorescent green waters. We visited the boiling mud pools on the outer road and giggle at the spurting pools and the noises that we're treated to!
The following day we visited Whakarewarewa, a Maori settlement set in some highly active land, we took a guided tour by Paola a former resident whose family still live in the village and where he still enjoys his early morning al fresco bathe in the hot waters. We also got to see a cultural performance which included some really beautiful songs and of course the Haka! It is extremely intimidating when seen up close, you can really understand why the Maori people would use it as a way of discouraging the enemy from battle!
Leaving Rotorua and it's lovely aroma behind us we drove to Waitomo to get a glimpse of the wonderful caves in this area and their curious inhabitants - the Glow Worms, known to most of us as maggots!
Our hostel was a couple of wooden cabins set on the top of a hill, we enjoyed fabulously clear nights and saw so many stars due to the remoteness and lack of any light pollution.
We drove out to see the Mangapohue Natural Bridge, accessible via a boardwalk through a tropical gorge. The bridge is actually an old cave which has gradually eroded over time, leaving a stunning archway which you can walk over and watch the river flow through below.
Passing through the bridge, we came across a field with large rock formations which held fossils of giant oysters (the size of dinner plates) from when the whole area was actually a sea-bed, around 30 million years ago!
With the afternoon light fading, we jumped back in Sherona and nipped down to the Marokopa Falls, widely regarded as one of the most stunning falls in the country with a multi-tiered fall where waters cascade 30 metres down before thundering into a large pool below - the lush vegetation around these falls shake and sway as the spray from the falls throws them around.
The next morning we departed early to join our tour guide Norm to begin our 'Spellbound' glow-worm and cave tour in Waitomo.
After being bounced about in the back of our minibus along rugged countryside and rolling hills into a farmers field, we descended a cliff on foot to arrive at the entrance to the first cave to be explored.
Jumping in a large dinghy, all lights were turned off so that we could experience total darkness and our night vision could kick in, meaning that the glow-worms would be much more visible to the naked eye.
We slowly floated through the underground cave, silently gliding along - the drips from overhead the only sound as the glow from above became brighter until it seemed we were staring at a starry night sky.
The second cave we visited on foot, walking through as sections were beautifully lit by Norm as he talked us through the geology and history of the caves. We arrived in one particularly dark area where the lights were then turned on to reveal a huge cavern called the 'Cathedral', where the ceiling displayed huge stalactites high above our heads and the echo was a fitting tribute to the cavern's name!
After visiting the local museum of caves we drove out to see the Ruakuri Natural Tunnel, this track and canopy boardwalk takes you on a fantastic bushwalk through some spectacular short tunnels, eventually leading to an impressive and huge cave where the Waitomo Stream appears to gain momentum as it thunders through beneath your feet.
Having exhausted all the attractions in Waitomo, we headed south-west to the city of New Plymouth, situated on the coast and next to the imposing (or so we've been told when the weather is clear!) Mount Taranaki!
We attempted one of the many walks around the mountain this morning, but were put off by the torrential rain and warnings that the little streams on the maps might now be raging torrents but 'probably passable'! Okaaaaay.
Yesterday we walked around the lovely Pukekura Park near our hostel, which even has a well-kept petting zoo including monkeys, tropical birds, alpacas, lemurs and of course a glum-faced donkey!
Wandering onto the waterfront, we watched waves crashing in while taking a look at the 'Wind Wand', a huge work of art by Len Lye which is essentially a ball on the end of huge stick which bends to the wind as it roars in off the Tasman Sea.
We're moving on to Lake Taupo and hoping to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this week, weather-permitting of course!
Take care for now and hope to hear from you all soon!
Lucy and Richard
PS Better late than never, here are the videos from our sand-sledging adventures up at 90 Mile Beach for your viewing pleasure!