A Travellerspoint blog

Mount Ruapehu to Arohena - Day 63

Cloudy Mount Doom and a crystal clear lake

20 °C

This morning we drove up two mountain roads in the Tongariro National Park for some good views and to see Mount Ruapheu better. The first went straight up Mount Ruapehu to a closed ski resort, which looks really odd in the off season but I bet is beautiful in the snow. There was no view of the top of though because if the cloud.

The next was up to another ski resort through Whakapapa village (which is funny, as 'wh' in Moari is sometimes pronounced as an f), and the view from there was lovely. Mount Ruapheu's peak was still covered in cloud though :(

We had lunch in a car park at the bottom of the road, we made soup and decided there and then making hot food from the tiny camper was too much effort at lunch. After we took a trail to see another waterfall in the National Park, which was pretty with crystal clear waters again.

Back in the car again, we drove a few hours to a DOC campsite as close to Waitomo Caves as possible in a place called Arohena. We were the only ones there, and it stayed that way all night. It was lovely and warm, so we got changed and Andrew had a swim in a lake while I chased butterflies (new obsession of mine) and I got these pics.

Andrew making us dinner at the lake

At the site they had brick BBQs so Andrew collected wood and when it went dark, made our first camp fire. We played cards by firelight and used head torches when it got difficult to see!

Posted by staceywaugh 01:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains lakes views butterflies bees camp_fire Comments (0)

Lake Taupo to Mount Ruapehu - Day 62

Journey to Mount Doom

18 °C

After 9 weeks away we needed a hair cut so we went to a little place in Lake Taupo and my hairdresser was from near Leeds! She had quite a strong accent and said the people there didn't understand her. She'd been in New Zealand for 6 months with her husband and young daughter and they'd just bought a house with a view of the lake in a month. Real estate obviously moves a lot faster here in New Zealand. Once we'd been trimmed, we went to around 5 charity shops to try and find a camp table - again - and we got one! Well, an old wooden cards table but with folding legs and a wipe-able top it was perfect.

Then we were back on the road again, driving around Lake Taupo, which is even prettier when you're not looking at it from the town.

We stopped for lunch on the lake and then again in a small town called Turangi, for the isite (the visitors centres they have across New Zealand, so handy and helpful) to book a trip to Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms in a couple of days. The woman was lovely and really helpful but had a very strange accent. She told us a drive we wanted to do up Mount Ruapehu - Mount Doom to Lord of the Rings fans - was very 'shen-ic' and it would take about 'fefttein minits' to drive it.

Mount Ruapehu is in Tongariro National Park and we saw a few of the beautiful, big mountains on our way to the campsite.

We stayed at Mangawhero, in the national park, which is on the flanks of Mount Ruapehu and we could see it in the background. We got some pictures of our new table at the campground. We're pretty smug about it, as you can see :)

Also, because I missed a fantastic picture opportunity in Bolivia, of Andrew in his shorts and leg warmers, here is a picture of him wearing them with his trousers. Much colder here than in north Bolivia!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains lakes leg_warmers camp_table Comments (0)

Rotorua & Lake Taupo - Day 61

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, Rapids Jet, Huka Falls & Aratiatia Dam

24 °C

This morning we went to Wai-O-Tapu thermal park in Rotorua. Walking around the park we got to see craters, boiling mud pools, unnaturally (although of course they were) colourful lakes and steaming vents. I had never seen anything like it before, it was amazing! I'm not the best at geography, but Andrew tells me it's all to do with magma being closer to the earths surface here. I didn't even mind the continuing stench of sulphur too much because it was so interesting! We spent a an hour or two walking around the area...

In between, we watched a geyser blow, as they stimulate it at 10.15am every day to show you one erupting. The story goes that it was discovered by prisoners many, many years ago who were planting forests in the area. They found this hot water and decided, as they didn't have hot water in the prison, to bring their clothes down to wash them. They put the clothes in the water - all fine - they put soap on the clothes and put it in the water, and the geyser blew water in every direction sending the clothes and the prisoners flying! This is how they discovered soap can stimulate a reaction and apparently they did it often afterwards for entertain. Now the people at the park use some Eco friendly stuff that's similar to soap. (NB We'll upload a video of this, and other videos, when we get home and post, post-trip)

After the park we drove to Lake Taupo, which isn't very far from Rotorua. We had lunch at a lookout point over the town - apparently LakeTaupo (the lake itself) is the size of Singapore?! Singapore must be small! I'll let you know in a couple of months. We booked ourselves onto a jet boat ride this afternoon, as we needed to move on tomorrow - we have a very tight schedule here in New Zealand as Andrew's mum will be here soon and we want to meet her in the Bay of Islands on 1st March (today is 24th March) then get on the ferry at Wellington on 3rd April.

Before the boat, we stopped off to see Huka Falls on the way. It was a nice waterfall, with crystal clear blue water.

The rapids jet took us down Aratiatia River, which is now controlled by the dam there. I think the flood gates open twice a day normally but the amount of water let through and the time of day can be changed, which is why Peter Jackson used this river for The Hobbit. Apparently there is a scene in the film with barrels tumbling down a river and it was here! Unfortunately we couldn't take our camera with us as the company wouldn't allow it due to water damage or loss and, of course, they sold pictures on the way out. We didn't get them though because they were just of us in the boat, not of the scenery around, so it seemed a waste. Check it out here though - http://www.rapidsjet.com/

The jet boat was awesome though. There's only 12 people inside the tiny boat including the driver, whose girlfriend was on the boat with us so he was totally showing off. We did 360 spins, jumped the rapids and, as it only needs 4 inches of water to sail on, the driver whizzed us so close to the bank of river underneath a bent tree! It was so quick. The river is beautiful too, very 'Yogi Bear', if that's makes any sense to anyone else? The water was so clear you could see right to the bottom, the trees lined the bank and rocks and boulders were scattered down it. There was a section of the river bank where you could see old, dead trees in the mud that had been covered in ash from the last volcano, which was thousands of years ago. The clear water was also thanks to the volcano, as it was being filtered through volcanic rock from the eruption.

Exhilarated, we left and Andrew wanted to see the Aratiatia Dam in action. Sounds a little boring - I definitely thought it was going to be - but it was actually cool as it replenished the river to what it used to be. We stood (with lots of other people) on one side of the bridge to watch the flood gates open, ran across the road to see the river start to fill and then ran down a track to see it from another angle further down the river. We must have had lots of energy from the rapid boat!

We stayed close to Lake Taupo on a free campsite called Riley's Farm. The long drop toilets weren't the best kept but it was next to a river so after dinner we went and fed the ducks.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls lakes birds rivers geothermal geysers Comments (2)

Coromandel to Rotorua - Day 60

Cool cars & Thermal Parks, Views, Luge & Lakes!

21 °C

It rained last night and the awning pooled with water. Andrew pushed it up to get rid of the water and it went everywhere, including some inside the van! We managed to get a hot shower using the coin machine, which wasn't bad at all except having to shower in flip flops and get dressed straight away inside the cubicle.

Today we had a long drive down to Rotorua, but we thought we'd have a look at the Beach Hop while we were here. There were so many cool cars there and we both said we'd love to have an old car like that to drive around in on weekends.

We saw lots of similar cars on the drive too and eventually we got to Rotorua. It was another lovely sunny day, which was only slightly tainted by the smell of sulphur (if you're not sure what this smells like, think sour,rotten eggs). Rotorua is a town based on top of an old erupted volcano and is an area of geothermal activity. We we walked around the town, looking at the lovely museum and lake, then of all a sudden the smell became stronger and we saw the 'thermal area' signs. There were bubbling mud pools and steaming vents on the side of the lake, which were like nothing I'd seen before in such a residential area. We're going to the big geothermal park tomorrow so we'll see much more like this then.

Late afternoon we took the Skyline gondola up to the top of a hill - hanging from a string up high is always my favourite place to spend my time! - to see the view and also have a go on the luge. Rotorua looked really pretty from up there (plus the smell didn't reach here!). The town itself is a bit industrial and not much to write home about. So I won't.

We had an delicious ice cream (hokey pokey is honeycomb/cinder toffee out here and boysenberry is pretty much blackberry), watched two girls go on the swing ride off the mountain and then went on the luge. It was fun going down the track in the little kart, but a bit like on Death Road I took it steady and Andrew had time to get to the bottom and take a picture of me before I got there.

Andrew had said we could get out of the park at the bottom of the luge, but that wasn't true. I had to get on a ski lift chair all the way back to the top!! I've never liked this things since I was a child and they used to have one at Frontierland going across the promenade in Morecambe. Needless to say though, I survived! Check out the helmets too ;)

It was time to head to tonights campsite, but we saw some steam rising from a park and decided to have a look. More mud pools and steaming lakes in a public area! The weird thing about this area was that it had park benches, like you'd want to stop and have your lunch here with the smell?!

As you might have gathered from previous posts, I like street art, and I saw my first (nice) piece in New Zealand on the way out of town.

We camped by Lake Rerewhakaaitu (try and pronounce that!) tonight, a peaceful place with only three other campers on there. We cooked in the dark for the first time and ate by torchlight, which isn't the easiest thing to do. We plan to try and get places before dark as often as possible.

Posted by staceywaugh 05:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lakes art birds views geothermal luge Comments (0)

Coromandel - Day 59

24 °C

The first night in the van was a success! With team work, we managed to cook, wash up, put away everything we'd used, turn the back into a bed, brush our teeth and wash our faces - in cold water! You have to work together to do everything as the space is so small. Andrew being tall is handy to put the tent on the back and sort the awning velcro out and me being small means I can make the bed even with little space and move things around inside the van without injuring myself! Perfect! And we slept well too. We were warm, especially with the extra quilt, and the bed was comfy enough too.

We drove up to Coromandel Town, on the western side of the peninsula, via a little town called Thames. The roads were so windy and relatively narrow in places too, we had to concentrate on every turn to make sure we didn't drive off into the sea! It was a very pretty drive though, with sea, beach and hill views along the way.

Both Thames and Coromandel Town are small with, to me, a 'small town' America feel to the towns and houses, which are made out of wood. We kept a look out for camp tables in the charity and camping shops, but there was either none to be seen or they were very expensive.

Andrew wanted to travel down the 309 road, as apparently it was a scenic drive, but there wasn't much there! There was a waterfall we could have walked to see, but Iguassu Falls has spoilt us for waterfalls and everything seems tiny now, and there was a walk to see their native kauri tree but we weren't sure we'd know what one looked like if we saw it, so we decided to research that and try and see one later! What is interesting down here is the vegetation, that we also saw a bit of yesterday and this morning too, which is much more tropical than I had expected. It reminds me a little of Brazil.

Once we got the end of that road we headed north to somewhere I wanted to see - Cathedral Cove. After parking the spaceship, around about 20 other campers and caravans, we walked the 45 minute track to get to the cove. The day had turned out lovely and warm, so lots of people were on the beach enjoying the weather. We had to run through the cove to get to the beach on the other side, trying to time it right so we didn't get soaked by the waves. I still got wet! The beach, cove and rocks were really beautiful and I could have stayed their all day.

But we had to carry on! It gets dark about 8pm here so we need to be at our campsite before then to cook in the light. We drove down the eastern coast, stopping at a few beaches along the way, including hot water beach, where you can make your own hot spring pool in the sand, but it wasn't the right time of day that.

We arrived at Wentworth River campsite in Whangamata, which is a big place with good facilities and even hot (outdoor!) showers that you put a two dollar coin in for 4 minutes of water. The woman at reception asked us whether we'd booked as their little town of 4,000 people was being taken over this weekend by another 80,000 people attending the Beach Hop - a 50s/60s festival with music, stalls and classic cars. luckily they still had space for us, but I did wonder where this town had put 80,000 people up?!

Everything was a bit easier tonight as we're starting to learn where we can put things! To think I thought we lived in a small place in London?! Here is our home and bed!

We're already jealous of the some of the other campers here though, they seem to have every luxury...separate tents for cooking and sleeping, a gazebo for relaxing under, full size caravans with head height and a real bed. A middle aged couple next to us popped open a bottle of champagne under their canopy! What's worse, everyone has a table to eat from but us!!

Posted by staceywaugh 05:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trees views seaside campsite campervans Comments (0)

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