We finally left our journey around the coast of the North Island and headed into the centre. We aimed for Rotorua but stopped along the way at the delightful Edwardian town of Te Aroha that was built up around spas. We enjoyed the 50cm high soda spring geyser, walked to some waterfalls and a view and finished with a free foot bath in the park. After Te Aroha we found the not very well advertised Wairere Falls. These are 153m high and were roaring when we saw them – very impressive.
Rotorua was the next stopping point and we visited a spring with clear, blue water emerging from the depths of the ground amongst Californian Redwood trees. We also went to Kaituna River, flowing from the lakes with a great volume of water and descending over a couple of falls just made for thrilling paying customers in rafts. It also thrilled the watching photographers who had waited 15 minutes before we knew we were there at the right time when the official photographer arrived.
The weather gods finally caught up with us after two and a half months of mostly good weather. We spent a day in the library at Rotorua hiding from the rain and then went on a tour of waterfalls in the showery weather. Whirinaki forest gave us the delightful Waiatiu Falls and eerie Te-Whaiti-Nui-A-Tui Canyon before finally depositing us at Mangamate Falls with its welcome shelter and fire to dry us out. We then went to Tarawera Falls where the river found its own way through the volcanic rock after the eruption of Mt Tarawera.
The completion of our circle brought us back to Rotorua to catch up with my brother and partner in better weather and see some more sights. We walked around Blue Lake and climbed Rainbow Mountain which is still steaming. We also visited the local hangout of Kerosene Creek with its warm flowing water enjoyed by many.
Our one paid excursion (and yes Ray came too!) was to Wai-O-Tapu billed as the most colourful thermal park and it lived up to its billing. We had yellow, blue and green pools and the star attraction, the Champagne Pool, a clear blue surrounded by a red-brown ochre edge. We went mad with the cameras. It also had the added attraction of a geyser that performed on cue ( with a little help) and boiling mud pools.
We moved on down to the Taupo area where the attractions were all centred on water from Huka Falls-an amazing amount of water gushing out from a narrow canyon, Aratiatia rapids-that same amount of water going down through a gorge but only 3 or 4 times a day when it is released from the hydro dam upstream and Lake Taupo itself as seen from a nearby mountain where an amazing amount of locals do their exercise walking and running up and down.
The southern end of the lake was the end point of the Tongariro River, a haven for fly fishermen and rafters. We did some walks along the river and drove further upstream to where the river carved amazing deep gorges through the lava fields. It was beautiful to see and very hard to capture. We didn’t see any rafters there but kayakers have conquered the depths of Tree Trunk Gorge. A walk in the drizzle around Rotopounamu was very lovely and relaxing.
Then it was back to the non-touristy parts of New Zealand by heading to Pureora Forest Park with walks in the forest and a chance to get up with the birds by climbing a tower above the canopy. Unfortunately the birds still stayed out of sight but within hearing for us to enjoy their songs and calls. We saw a large totara tree that rivalled the big kauris and another lovely waterfall that we would celebrate in Australia but is tucked away out of sight here.