On the Road South

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Jan 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
On the Beach Backpackers Lodge

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Sunday, April 1, 2007

After being stuck in 3 days of torrential rain, hanging out with cool folks at the On the Beach Hostel in Whitianga (pronounced Fitianga) meeting a guy from Maine, and getting my hair cut, I hit the road once again, this time heading south to Rotorua and Taupo. Rotorua is famous for volcanic hot springs and bubbling sulfur mud pools, and Taupo is famous for its incredible lake of the same name, which is bigger than the city country of Singapore. The funny thing about traveling the world is that you run into people in the same country a fair bit. You might meet them at a hostel, at a bar, or on the bus, say farewell and then a few days later, there they are. This is a very cool thing when traveling alone. NZ is so small, and the bus routes laid out pretty similarly that you run into folks all the time. I met a girl named Mimi from Sweden on my first stop in Opanoni, and I've run into her 3 times since, lastly in Rotorua. I can't tell you how awesome it is to be in a country halfway around the world and have somebody call out your name. This has also happened to me on a larger scale, with months in between meeting the people. I met a girl named Sarah on the "Moose Bus" back in Canada, and she lives in Australia. My first night in Melbourne, I'm in line waiting for my veggie burger when I hear "Dawn! is that you?" And it was and we set up a time to meet for dinner. So very cool. And a few days ago, I ran into a couple I met my last night in Kathmandu, Nepal. Traveling the world you are acutely aware how very large the world is, and so it is absolutely remarkable that these kind of meetups happen. People had told me that they would occur, but when it happens to you it really leaves you kind of awestruck. So back to the travels. Rotorua smells like sulfur. It's a nice town, with beautiful lakes and some nice buildings but until you get used to the smell and the idea of being on top of a very active volcanic area, you may want to move on. I had to because for the first time in quite a while I am limited by time, so I press on after seeing the red hot bubbling mud pools and the greenish yellowish waters. A stop in Waitomo to see the furry bunny rabbits that are shaved because they get too hot - originally from the Pyrenees mountains in France, then bred in Germany, and later perfected here in NZ, these bunnies are prized for their angora fur. Whereas other rabbits are shot on sight (Easter Sunday here has an annual bunny hunt as opposed to the Easter bunny coming to your house - because rabbits are an introduced species and have caused chaos on the landscape) the angora rabbits are treated like royalty. They have a huge farm, range free and go to the bunny spa to get sheared every 3 months of their life. It is hilarious to watch, and good to know at least some bunnies have a good life south of the equator. Taupo is a place where I would have liked to spend a little more time, because the Maouris had created huge carvings into the stone ledges along the Lake Taupo, and the pictures I saw looked magnificent. Instead, I chose to do the 8 hour Tongarrirro Crossing, an all-day hike across volcanic fields and active volcanoes. Yes, I said active volcanoes, with steam and heat and thoughts of death and hot boiling lava. This is where I chose to spend my day, rather than on a tranquil blue lake. This is also where Peter Jackson filmed "The Lord of the Rings", and Mt. Nagahoe (not the right spelling) is better known worldwide as Mt. Doom. And it looks it. Dark, forboding and most definitely a volcano. This was an incredible hike, and well worth getting up before daylight to catch the bus that would take me to the trail head. I thoroughly enjoyed this walk, although the Devil's Staircase up lava rock with a heavy pack was a bit of torture. But the pain was well worth it, as the view into a volcanic crater is nothing I had ever seen before. You become acutely aware that death is a very real possibility, and that "only by the grace of God" am I able to witness this incredible earthly wonder. Fantastic.
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