Turangi to Rotorua

Trip Start Jan 22, 2013
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Left Turangi after gassing up and getting Karen's coffee to go. Stopped at the I-Site to get some ideas on what to see on the way along Lake Taupo, NZ’s largest lake and then in Taupo.  Taupo has about 70,000 people living there.  We had lunch at one of the many beaches on Lake Taupo but this one was in Taupo itself.  It was at the only river outlet for the huge lake.   They have a marina just down the river, and then it flows thru a narrow channel to Huka Falls.  Then it flows further and forms a lake of sorts, but every 2 hours they open the dam.  After lunch we drove to the Craters of the Moon geothermal area.  Kind of like Yellowstone but not quite as dramatic.  They did build the first geothermal power station here in 1958 however.  In one area they have steel pipe running above ground to capture the steam.  From there we stopped at another geothermal site and guess who we ran into, our Dutch friends.  They didn’t go on the walk because there hasn’t been much rain so the mudpots weren’t happening.  So we had ice cream and no walk.  We headed north towards Rotarua, but our last stop before was to watch the dam released.  It didn’t sound like a big deal, and we missed the turnoff, but turned around and found it.  Driving down to the dam they had a timer sign showing there was about 3 minutes until the release.  We parked, I ran to the overlook while Karen stood on the road over the outfall.  I got to the overlook just in time.  There were about 20 people already there.  The siren had already gone off signaling the release.  We waited and saw some water coming across the dam, but it took a while for the river bed to fill, and then eventually pour down thru the narrow canyon creating a pretty dramatic set of rapids.  The whole process took about 30 minutes, including shutting the overflow.  When they did that of course the river downstream receded and you could see the small river flowing again.  It turned out to be an interesting show….for free!

We drove north to Rotorua and along the way we saw references to probably 10 geothermal sites.  This is why people come here, to see the plant life that thrives on the hot water and earth, the colors of the earth, and the therapeutic qualities.  There’s also a lot of Maori history in the area.  They used the steam to cook on.

As we drove into Rotorua we noticed mud pools and steam vents along the road, along a golfcourse fairway, and in their city park.  The smell in the air is of sulphur, and they warned us about that.  Our campground has its own thermal pool.  We took a walk to the beach, where they provide shovels to dig pits in the sand to lay in, and then back to take a dip in the pool.  Had a nice chat with a couple from England who are here for 5 weeks.  We’ve been to most of the same places on the south and north islands.  While I was washing dishes there was a guy speaking what I thought was Dutch to a young couple who were cooking their dinner.  Turns out they were from the same town, Amisvoort, in Holland as a woman we met today, and I think where our other friends are from.   At first we ran into a number of Germans, but now it seems like everyone is Dutch.  Works for me.
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