We headed inland after Napier, intent on checking out the warmer climate in Taupo and Rotorua. More specifically, the many hot springs and geothermal areas operating there. Our introduction was Tarawera Springs. This is a hot springs spot with a couple of old tubs in the side of the mountain. There used to be more till the landslide covered a couple more. The site is behind a gate and plenty of signs try to warn you off. The story we heard was someone tried to make a go of the place commercially over a hundred years ago but the locals wouldn’t allow it. The DOC would like to get rid of it but they can’t because it’s considered historic. So now it’s just a private, picturesque spot for those in the know. The water was a bit too cold for us though.
Just down the road was the Waipunga Waterfall. So we stopped for a look.
After a rather bizarre overnight at the National Equestrian Center which we spent camped across from the power plant with huge clouds of steam billowing from the ground, we hit four cool spots in one day. Aratiatia Rapids used to be all natural, now there is a dam that is opened three times a day to the delight of tourists and the occasional local. What an awesome spectacle.
Continuing on, we hit up Craters of the Moon next. This is a geothermal walking path along a wooden walkway that takes you past craters, fumaroles and boiling mud pits. It’s kind of wild to be walking along and suddenly be enveloped in a cloud of sulphurous steam and actually hear steam hissing from vents in the ground. What’s even more amazing is that none of this was here before 1950 or so.
Huka Falls was another amazing stop that day. These falls guide the Waikato river into the damned lake behind Aratiatia Rapids. The noise is deafening and the energy amazing as enough water to fill five Olympic sized swimming pools flows over the falls every second.
Just before the sun set we found our next to last destination. Spa Park Hot Springs is a natural hot springs in a neighborhood of Taupo. Really neat to walk through a park like the one in my moms backyard, go over a bridge and look down to see people enjoying the warm water. If it had been a little earlier, I might have had a really good time!
We ended up with a good soak that night anyway as Marc drove us to Waikite Valley Thermal Pools for the night. I think they have one of THE best deals going for folks in camper vans. Pay the price for parking up and entrance to the pools are free. They also have a check out time of noon which means you can even soak after breakfast. I think we closed them down that night. We left at quarter till and we were the last two out. They also had a nice little eco tour we took the next day that educates folks on where the water comes from, neat geological formations and how it gets to the pools. Marc and I both would love to come here again.
New day, new wonders. We pushed onwards towards Rotorua and a meeting with new friends. Along the way though we did stop to check out the mud pools. The mud makes the most disgustingly amusing sounds as it bursts from the watery mud and the smell of sulphur is strong. I think our guide Scott Cook had a happy hour here. I wish we could have but it was too early that day. Maybe for movie night?
We had one more stop to make before returning to civilization again. The Cook book has an entry for a hot water waterfall the location for which is a secret. Scott says he doesn’t want to see it overrun by tourists so he wrote a little poem with clues inside for those stubborn enough to try to solve it. It wasn’t easy, but we did find it. For anyone else reading that book and wanting to follow the clues, I can tell you the pine trees are dead but still standing. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring towels or suits, but we did bring a sense of adventure. What a blast!
We headed into Rotorua after that. Our friend Debs in Auckland had given us the info for some friends of hers in Rotorua and told us to look them up. We arrived a bit disheveled from our afternoon to their house and just squeezed down their drive in the camper van. They turned out to be an amazing couple and I’ll like to tell you more about them next post. In the meantime, the rain has stopped and I hope everyone is having a great evening!