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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...
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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)
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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.
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Before the boat, we stopped off to see Huka Falls on the way. It was a nice waterfall, with crystal clear blue water.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 ;)
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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?!
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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.
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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.
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Posted by staceywaugh 05:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lakes art birds views geothermal luge Comments (0)

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