Rotorua To Auckland

We are in Auckland at a holiday park close to the motor home rental company and the airport.  This campground has a guest sign in book and almost everyone that has stayed here the past week is from  Europe. We were the first from the US in six days.  Our flight is not until tomorrow but we want to pack this evening and get a good night’s sleep.  Now that we are leaving the weather is becoming nice enough not to wear a jacket and rain gear all the time.

Our traveling has been rather slow this past week, with four days of it being spent in and around Rotorua.  Rotorua is in the volcanic region and central to many tourist attractions.  It’s also a base for hundreds of backpackers and young people visiting New Zealand and therefore has a lot of support for them in the way of backpacker hotels and I would bet a few hundred eateries.  It is a great place to eat cheap and healthy and also to try many nationalities of food. We happily took advantage.  

Our Top 10 Campground was walking distance to the center of town and also next door to Kuirau Park, one of the few free attractions in the area.  Entrance fees are pretty high everywhere but most give a 10% discount with a Top 10 membership.

Rotorua Lumix 4The park had many thermal pools but none with the colors that you saw in my previous post.

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There are hundreds of thermal pools in this volcanic region. Hotels and motels often have mineral pools and naturally there are quite a few spas in the area.

Rotorua Lumix 19Rotorua is an artsy town with many galleries and displays of creativity. This covering was in front of a secondary iSite visitor center.  I failed to take a picture of the beautiful main iSite that is similar in style to the museum pictured farther below.

Rotorua Lumix 25This is a long covered walkway with nothing but restaurants on either side. The end of the walkway ends at Lake Rotorua.

Rotorua Lumix 21Every server in Australia and in New Zealand places a bottle of water just like the one on the left on the table without us having to ask. When I told the server at this establishment that the servers in the US almost always ask “what can I get you besides water,” he was shocked and thought that was rude.  The servers never ever ask if you want an appetizer or dessert or another drink.  In fact, most of the time you go to a counter, order, pay, find your own table, and the food is brought to your table.  You are then left alone to eat at your leisure. It is so much more relaxed than the constant interruptions and attempts to up-sell in US places.  

Rotorua Lumix 28Lake Rotorua is circular and has an island in the middle. There are boat, helicopter, and float plane trips available.

Rotorua Lumix 135The Rotorua Museum of Art and History claims to be the most photographed building in New Zealand.  The railroad station in Dunedin makes the same claim.  

P1020348 The Government Gardens are adjacent to the museum.

We took a drive to Lake Taupo one day to see the volcanos across the lake from downtown Taupo.  The sun was shining everywhere but not at that end of the lake. So we sat and waited for the clouds to leave but we were not bored because next to us was a golf tee where people buy golf balls for $1 each and try to hit a green out in the lake. The prize is $10,000 for a hole in one.

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Steve talked to the man running the game and he said there has been 899 holes in one since 1993.  That is a payout of roughly $35,000 per week if he is correct.

P1020361We finally got a peak of the two volcanos, Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu. There is a parking lot on the lake nearby that allows self contained campers to stay free for 48 hours.  We missed out on that because of paying in advance for our site in Rotorua and having to drive back.  

P1020370We haven’t seen any flat land yet for the cows to graze on.  Some of the hills are much steeper and higher than this one.

P1020384This is the visitor center in Matamata where Hobbiton is located.  Most towns of any size have a visitor center with free wifi whereas the campgrounds all charge for it. 

P1020385Next we went to the Coromandel Peninsula not too far from Auckland.  We only had one day and didn’t drive to the end of the peninsula but what little we did see made us wish we had come here sooner.  

P1020393Mountains in the Coromandel are the biggest we have seen yet

P1020394We stayed in a cozy campground in Tararu with a Butterfly Garden.  It is in an old plastic barn-like building and from the outside doesn’t look like much but the inside is awesome.  The man who owns it  maintains a tropical garden inside with orchids, ponds, and a waterfall.  There are beautiful butterflies flying everywhere but I won’t bore you with my many pictures of them.

P1020415Owl Butterfly

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P1020437Our camp site backed up to the creek and there were also hikes to take right out of the campground. 

P1020155 Auckland 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

The most active volcanic zone in the world is in the central part of the North Island of New Zealand.  The Wai-O-Tapu thermal area has the largest area of surface thermal activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.  There are many thermal pools in the Rotorua area and we wanted to see the best.  This one was recommended and it was a huge WOW!

There are three walks that total 3 km however we walked 4 km because we did one stretch three times due a misunderstanding as to who was the map reader.  It turned out to be a fortunate mistake because when we erroneously took the wrong path and passed by this thermal pool too early, the sun was shining on all of it.  Later it was half shaded:

P1020272The Devils Bath color is the result of excess water from the Champagne Pool (shown later) mixing with sulphur and ferrous salts.  The color changes from green to yellow depending on the amount of reflected light and cloud cover.

P1020226The Devil’s Ink Pots’ color is due to small amounts of graphite and crude oil brought to the surface by the water forcing it’s way up.

DSC 6193The Champagne Pool is the largest in the district with a surface temperature of 74C/165F and was formed only 700 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption.  The steam has a strong sulphur smell.

DSC 6227The Sulphur Cave is undisturbed crystallized sulphur formed as hot sulphur gases have cooled in the overhanging cliff.

P1020263P1020296Opal Pool

P1020309The Champagne Pool from another side

P1020278Steve is walking towards a sinter ledge. Sinter ledges are caused by dissolving silica that evaporates.

P1020232The Artist’s Palette was the biggest wow of all. Everyone that came up to the overlook erupted in either superlatives or expletives.  This pool was caused by overflowing water from the Champagne Pool mixing with minerals from below the surface that show themselves depending on wind direction and the atmosphere.  We purposely waited for the only day that didn’t call for rain (out of 8) to come here.

P1020241P1020304Sulphur Mounds

P1020221I see a face in the boiling mud

P1020220A collapsed crater called Devil’s Home make sounds like a washing machine from way deep.

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This spot is popular for posing in the steam as it sometimes gets pretty thick. The third time we passed by, a group of young women were posing for pictures in various stages of undress.

Rotorua Canon 20The temperature here is 100C/212F with temperatures in some spots recorded up to 300C/572.

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Bridal Veil Falls has been partially colored by the overflow from the Opal Pool while the green color is attributable to microbial mats.

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 Old Grey Haired One is caused by the pigment in the hair follicles gradually dying. When there are fewer pigmented cells in a follicle, that strand will no longer contain as much melanin and will become a more transparent color.  

Katai to Kauri Coast to Orewa, New Zealand

Our drive to Cape Reinga was followed by four days of rain and wind and we adjusted our plans accordingly.  As I write this several days later, the motor home is rocking from high winds again along with a downpour : >(  After leaving Cape Reinga we stayed one night in Katai at a small motel that had a few camping spots in the back and the next morning took off for a rain forest on the west coast.

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The shortest distance from Kaitai to the Kauri Coast and Waipoua Forest required a ferry ride across Hokianga Harbour.  Evidently this route is not very popular as the ferry goes once an hour and in that hour only 8 vehicles showed up to take the ferry with us.  Our route took us up and over the mountains in the distance.

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 There is a little store and visitor center in Omapere at the mouth of the harbour. The guy in the small motor boat was having some fun in the rough water spinning his boat around.  The bad weather doesn’t stop the kiwi’s from having fun or else they would be sitting inside most of the time.  Many go barefooted, even older people, no matter the weather.  Lawn bowling is popular here and the people are out in every kind of weather.

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There are a lot of Apollo RV rentals on the road and this one probably does not have a bathroom. I should mention that we see many more young people from all over the world in motor homes than we do oldsters.

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 This mural that tells some early history with many scenes and stretching for 100 feet is worth seeing next to the visitor center

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Kauri Forest and a rare bit of sun between squalls.

Kauri 31We are taking this walkway to see a 1500 year old Kauri tree named Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest).

Kauri 36It is not possible to get a picture of the whole tree at once but I can say it was a shock to see it compared to all the other smaller trees in the forest. There was a German tour bus stopped here and the Maori tour guide (dark hair) sang a beautiful song to the tree. We were so lucky to stop here at the same time.

DSC 6185After spending a night in Dargaville at another small motel/camground with hardly any sleep because the wind and rain was so strong all night, we decided it was time for a two day break and set our sights on Orewa. Orewa is about 15 miles north of Auckland on a loop road around a toll portion of Highway One that we avoided having to pay.  At first glance Steve said if he worked in Auckland that he would live in Orewa.

P1020141We stayed at a Top 10 Campground with a beach front site.

P1020150Jucy has a good reputation and we would have rented from them but their website only showed various small campers such as this one. However, we have seen a few new ones very similar to ours on the road. They also rent cars where you can sleep in the back.

There were many permanent trailers in the campground – probably Auckland weekenders.  One person at another campground told us that school would be out soon and then the campgrounds will be very crowded.  We haven’t seen any children and so far the places we have stayed in are less than 1/2 full.

You might be interested to know what we are preparing for our meals in the motor home. Since we are only here for two weeks we naturally did not want to stock up too much.  While in Australia we discovered the most delicious soups I have ever had that are made in Thailand and come in pouches.  This concoction is our lunch and dinner every single day except for two when we had lunch out:

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The internet has recipes for these soups.

P1020138When we can’t find these mixtures, we use brown rice that also comes in pouches.

I cook about a cup of frozen vegetables on the stove but would use a microwave if we had one. Drain the water off. Add a pouch of soup and 1/2 pouch of rice. Heat, top with optional cubed avocado, and eat. Delish, easy, cheap and nutritious.  It is a pain to wash lettuce in an RV and takes too much water so we have salads made from cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and a tiny bit of dressing.

When I lived in Germany, I bought 1 liter cartons of thin vanilla pudding which I have missed.  It is available here and so we just cut up a kiwi or strawberries or mandarin and add some pudding for our dessert.

Breakfast is instant coffee (the only yuk) and muesli mixed with yogurt.  Every other day we have eggs with the muesli.  Our pantry (actually the top of the refrigerator) is pretty sparse but we eat well and  are saving the lives of a few animals.

We easily ate these exact same meals while traveling around Australia last month by car.  By having a small collapsible canvas insulated cooler and a freezer pack along with some little square plastic containers with lids, we could carry along leftovers and whatever frozen veggies and yogurt we might have.  Every room has a refrigerator and if they don’t have a microwave there is a community kitchen to prepare food.

Cape Reinga

With our three days in Russell at an end we took the short ferry ride to the mainland and drove to Kerikeri to a Vodafone store.  The internet dongle that the motor home rental place sold us didn’t work and the only store in what is referred to as the “Far North” was in Kerikeri.  The 1GB SIM card turned out to be obsolete and so the manager exchanged it at no charge for 5GB, worth $80NZ.  For the first time since the end of August, we have steady internet.

Kerikeri has many fruit orchards and sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of how the small orchards are surrounded on all sides by yew hedges as tall as telephone polls.  On the same subject (produce); it is much cheaper here than in Australia.  We are once again eating unlimited cucumbers at $1NZ/80 cents US for the big English ones.  Locally grown cucumbers in Australia were $9.98AU a kilo/$9.00US.  All the way around, food prices, as well as fuel, restaurants, camping, motels, are less here.  But if you ask which country I prefer, I would have to say Australia which is funny because I never had a desire to go there and always wanted to see New Zealand.

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After we got the internet business done we headed for Cape Reinga.  We took some little detours along the way including this gravel road to Matai Beach.

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Cape Reinga is the farthest point north in New Zealand that we can drive to and is about 60 miles from the nearest town.  We drove highway 1 to the cape but there is another route. 90 Mile Beach, actually 88km/55 miles, is officially a highway and can be driven by 4WD vehicles and special tour dune busses.

The Tasmanian Sea on the left collides with the Pacific Ocean on the right causing Tidal Races and very treacherous waters.

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You can faintly see a line where the two oceans meet

DSC 6046Cape Reinga is the most sacred place in New Zealand for the Maori. They call this the “place of leaping” where Maori spirits begin their final journey.  Since this is a sacred site, no eating is allowed here.

DSC 6049The lighthouse is electric and remotely controlled from Wellington.  The signal can be seen 50kms/30 miles out.

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Here are a few scenes from the road driving back down the cape

DSC 6064Driving 150 miles in one day is a hard day because the going is slow. Roads wind quite a bit and go up and down hills and even small mountains.  Our motorhome rental has a buzzer than sounds if Steve goes over 90km’s/55mph and I love it because he doesn’t talk back like he does if I tell him to slow down.

DSC 6071DSC 6083Sheep normally have a lot of grazing area so these must be getting ready to be sheared or something else (gulp)!