(February 15th 2007)
We left Rotorua early-ish this morning so we could get to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (good name eh?) in time to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupting at 10:15am. The guide books said that this thermal area was the best one around and as it’s on the way to Taupo (our next stop) it seemed like a good idea. It was an easy drive and we got there at around 9:00am. It turned out that the geyser was a short drive away and so we grabbed a cup of coffee and chilled for a while enjoying the gorgeous smells that we have grown to love over the past few days…yeah right. At about 9:45 we headed back to the car to head towards the geyser site only to find ourselves blocked in by three coaches that parked over the disabled parking bays. I managed to reverse out and wound my window down to ask the driver of the front coach, very politely, if he could just close his door for a moment so we could get out. Very untypically for New Zealand hospitality he said, point blank, no. Must have been Australian. So swearing and muttering under my breath we waited. Once the lucky passengers of this luxury motor vehicle with the charming driver had departed we drove the short distance to the geyser site, grabbed a seat and waited until 10:15am when a ranger type man appeared and emptied a small packet of soap powder into the hole. He explained that it broke the surface tension of the water underneath and kick-started the eruption. It was pretty spectacular even if it was cheating a bit.
That done, we I made sure I beat that nasty coach driver out of the car park and went back to the main entrance. It was a hot, slow walk around the track that took in the various smelly but colourful and interesting thermal caves, holes and lakes. At Wai-O-Tapu we also spotted a new breed of tourist that we are calling ‘tick boxers’. They race around stopping briefly to look, take a photo, and mentally tick the box saying that this site was visited. This breed isn’t very rare and in fact is a pain in the ass as they whoosh by you regardless of the speed at which you are travelling or indeed if you are at the front taking your own photos. They also hunt in packs, probably originating from cruise ships, and can be identified by the colourful patches (or badges as we know them) on their chests. They should be avoided at all costs.
Once again the Lonely Planet guide done good, as this was a nice side trip on the road to Taupo despite the tick boxers.
It’s only about an hour or so to Taupo from there and as we couldn’t check in until 2pm we stopped off at the Huka Falls. I was expecting some dramatic waterfall, but I should have read my guide book better. The falls are only about 5m high (best guess) but what they lacked in height they made up for in quality. The speed of the water and the colour of it was amazing. I’m not sure the photo will do it justice but take a look anyway. Lake Taupo is the source of the Waikato river which is the longest in NZ and I’m not sure it looks as spectacular anywhere as they do at Huka Falls.
Just down the road from the falls is Taupo where we stay for two nights. We are right on the lake front and the view from the balcony is lovely (see the photo at the beginning of this entry). Tomorrow we drive to Napier, art deco capital of NZ, for the day which is about 2 hours drive, and is supposed to very nice, so nice we couldn’t get a bed for the night there when I tried. They are having a special art deco weekend and it’s very popular. Napier is also in Hawkes Bay, very famous for it’s delicious wines, such a shame I’m driving…hey, wait a minute, Amanda can drive…result. I’ll let you all know tomorrow what it’s like.