Written 9:30 AM, Wendesday 29th September
Posted 2:45 PM, Thursday, 30th September
Monday morning found us at Lake Rerewhakaaitu, where we both slept incredibly soundly. When camping, we basically keep daylight hours, which means waking up at 6:30 or 7 AM, and going to bed around 8 or 9. At Lake R, I woke up at 6 AM, just as the sun was rising, to a clamour of birdsong, and opened the curtains of the van to see this:
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Totally awake, I got up and went for a walk through the muddy campingground, and down the road a bit to the next farm. The sky, lake, and birds were all fantastic.
The lake was in high water, and covered in ducks, ducklings, geese, herons, and the trees full of songbirds. All over the campsite were pukekos, the long-legged iridescent blue birds that I had thought were takahe. I was wrong, as the bird guide I purchased yesterday told me- Takahe are incredibly rare and live only on the south island, but look like huge pukekos. Dad, here’s a good photo for you:
I learned the name of them from our friendly neighbor at the campsite, who was fishing at the lake from sunup that morning.
The dishwashing setup I've devised for our vancamping: Wash in the dishpan, rinse under the waterjug propped on the stool, and dry in the sun in the dishrack.
I set up our camp kitchen outside the van and cooked up some eggs and toast and tea for breakfast as the sun came up, warming everything, with the scenery absolutely fantastic all around. It was an absolutely incredible way to start the morning. We helped some other campers get their big heavy campervan unstuck from the mud, with some other campers as well- a great example of the Kiwi spirit.
We spent the first half of Monday at Waiotapu, an area advertised as a “thermal wonderland.” It is leased by private owners from the DOC, and was well worth the $30 entrance fee. Here it is in some pictures:
Lady Knox Geyser
The bubbling mud pools may have been my favorite. *blorp*
The color of this pool absolutely blew our minds!
Yellow algae on everything from the thermal gases.
Manuka plant and flowers. They grow back first in places that have been burned or destroyed, so were the first thing to take over after the giant Mt. Taupo eruption that caused this area.
And last but not least, the cat of Waiotapu.
The whole place was absolutely fantastic, and I feel very grateful to have seen it, and to Matt for doing the research to find out which of the many thermal sites would be the best investment.
We had a picnic lunch at Waiotapu, and then went back into Rotorua town for showers at the visitors information center (best business planning ever!), and internet at the library shop while we ran a load of laundry (MUCH needed) at the local Laundromat, which was run by possibly the sweetest lady in existence. Daylight savings had happened the day before and we forgot about it (we have been terrible about keeping track of time), so had an hour less than we thought, and she kept the place open a few extra minutes so we could get our clothes dried.
Rotorua is a really touristy, expensive town, but gorgeous and so insanely geothermal- I’ve never seen anything like it. Steam comes out of the sewer vents in the middle of downtown, and the city park is full of steam vents and bubbling places surrounded by little fences, and has little developed pools everywhere where locals and tourists alike stick their feet in the hot water for a soak.
Steam vents between homes.
It sits on Lake Rotorua, which is lovely, and we went down to the waterfront to St. Faith’s Anglican Church, which is at the edge of a little Maori settlement and across a carpark from a gorgeous Marae (interesting contrast). The entire cemetery at the church is above ground, because if anyone was buried there, they would be cooked by the thermal activity in the ground. Ew.
The Tiki that guards the graveyard.
Amazing artwork on the ceiling of the Marae.
I really look forward to going back to Rotorua and seeing more of the town, visiting some of the gardens there, and spending a bit more time getting to know the place and the surrounding area.
Matt at Lake Rotorua. Note the steam coming out of the ground to his right.
Black swans on Lake Rotorua.