Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Oct 06, 2013
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Where I stayed
Waitai Trout Stream Camp
That said, Rotorua was the one must-dos for me when we planned our trip to Kiwiland. The gods of scheduling put us on the doorstep of Rotorua for the Easter weekend which meant sharing the sights and activities with more local families than normal but it was manageable (I've since discovered that I have a lot of poignant advice to offer parents of out-of-control, riotous urchins)
First item on the agenda was a needed dose of culture, specifically a deeper look into the Maori of New Zealand. Although far from authentic, there are a number of packaged options available and we picked the Mitai Maori Village. The entertainment value was pretty good with a traditional Maori meal dug up from a buried ‘oven’, a war canoe welcome, and a stage show that walked us through the ancient life of the first people of New Zealand with a heavy application of humour. They wrapped the show up with an extended version of the famous Hakka which made DH go all weak in the knees (prior to this I had only seen this reaction when I had applied the barbed wire stick-on tattoos to my arms). After dining we wandered next door for a night safari which centered around the antics of the nocturnal kiwi bird- strange but adorable flightless creature and very much endangered. We did see a number of additional critters including glow worms (Kiwi’s- the people- are either fixated by these worms or they think the rest of us are- there all kinds of glow worm viewing tour options- you can see them in caves, in ditches, along riverbanks, probably in frying pans, etc.).
Having addressed the cerebral to at least a small extent, the next day called for another physical challenge. And what better way to do that then to try something we had never heard of before- sledging!! For the uninitiated a sledge is a grown-up flutter board but instead of doing laps in a pool, you ride these plastic tubs down a series of white water rapids and waterfalls (while saner people go cruising by you inside a raft)
Now one of the more unique features of our Rotorua campsite is that it is also home to Harold ‘The Trout Guy’ probably the most enthusiastic fly fisherman in NZ. Learning fly fishing was never on our agenda for this trip, or any other trip for that matter, but when Harold is constructing his own flies in the camper-van next door, it just seemed to make sense to sign up for lessons. We spent an intense morning learning three different casting methods (all of which involved the 10 o’clock and 1 o’clock positions- Harold was very disappointed in my constant need to go to the 2:30 position) in a grass field adjacent to the trout stream. We managed to terrorize dogs, small children, and passing pedestrians with our errant casts but it wasn’t until we met Harold’s tough standards that he armed us with flies/hooks and allowed us to try out our new skills in the stream itself. We had purchased the required 24 hour NZ fishing licenses but truth be told, neither one of us really wanted to catch a fish (super hypocritical I know since we both enjoy our share of fish dinners but the idea of dragging ashore some poor little fish who was just innocently swimming around looking for something to eat, then bashing him over the head just didn’t sit right), but apparently the fish populace of Rotorua had little to fear from the freshly graduated fly fishermen from Canada (although a bush in behind DH took a bit of beating). Instead of trout for Easter dinner we had to settle for beans on toast, DH’s most elaborate dinner creation yet on this camping tour.
After the adrenalin rush of fly fishing wore off we were back at the river rapids looking to try and tame the river from the inside a raft
From there we got as far as securing our Zorb licenses before we realized that Zorbing was effectively a kids ride (think Spinning Teacups at Canada’s Wonderland)- everyone else in the line-up being under 3 feet should have been a clue. Very disappointing as we had seen a couple of TV travel shows that had made this made-in-New-Zealand sport seem much more exciting than it really is. DH kept her Zorbonaut license just in case NASA calls.
After that we toned it down a bit and visited a couple of ‘must-see’ local national parks. Hamurana Springs was first up and was probably as interesting for what you couldn’t see as opposed to what you could see. Although it wasn’t a dramatic visual, over 1 million gallons of water flow out of these natural springs every minute. Water from the Mamaku Plateau travels underground for 70 years in order to reach Hamurana Springs. People love throwing coins into the springs to watch them swirl and dance to the bottom- 50,000 pennies dating back to 1860 taken out by volunteer divers and given to children charities. Hamurana Springs also has a surrounding redwoods grove planted alongside the river in 1919 by a local farmer. With the tallest redwood in Hamurana Springs being around 55 metres, it only has another 300 years to reach its maximum height of 120m. Nice trees!
We also did a four hour hike through Whakarewarewa Forest (say that three times fast). A massive growth of Redwoods. Nice trees!
We definitely saved the best for our last day here- the thermal fields south of Rotorua
Thanks again to Judy S. and hubby Greg W. for their email suggesting Waimangu Volcanic Valley as we ended up wandering this prehistoric area as well. It was very different from Wai-O-Tapu but no less dramatic. A line of craters formed from the last and most violent eruptions in 1886 line the valley. Bubbling pools of hydrothermal activity are interlaced with small lakes with hues of blue, brown, and emerald. The spectacular colours depend on the water levels, mineral content, and the state of the plant life. This area was my New Zealand WOW! I’m not sure I’d be making any long term investments if I was living near this boiling cauldron of hellish activity but it is truly a one-of-a-kind feast for the senses.