Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Catching up- Opotiki to Taupo

Written 9:33 AM, Oct. 27th, 2010
Harbourside Holiday Park, Whitianga

(Posted same afternoon, free interwebs at the Whitianga Library! )

With a place to charge the computer and a leisurely morning to write, I am endeavoring to post about all that we’ve seen and done in the past week- I’ll try not to make it too much of a novel, and do most of it in pictures.

Let’s see. We left Opotiki last Wednesday morning (a week ago today), loaded down with bags of citrus and avocados and a dozen homegrown eggs. We had a hatching of chicks right before we left:
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Could I be making more of an "awww" face?

We also made a few modifications to the van. I think I already showed you that we gave Lucy a snazzy new paintjob- Matt sanded out the rust in the dent, and we decided to make her into even more of a surfmobile than she already was. Kate had offered up her sanding materials and automotive spraypaint that she had, and it was a pretty fun job:

 We also made a custom sill for the passenger side dashboard, so we could actually keep items there. I did the scrounging of scrap wood, Matt did the measuring and cutting and caulking, and I did the sanding:

 Matt also spent the previous weeks putting together a surfboard bag from a poncho and two small fleece blankets that came with the van. This enables us to store the board under the van at night, poncho-side-down and protect it from scratches.

 We reprovisioned in Whakatane, then headed back to Rotorua, where we had been wanting to visit the bathhouse museum, which turned out to be very well done. The building was historically a set of baths and various treatments of questionable origin, where people came from all over the world to “take the cure” in Rotorua’s geothermally heated waters. The museum building was amazing, with a rooftop balcony and a cinema about the history of Rotorua, complete with shaking and rattling seats to simulate the 1886 earthquake and eruption of Mt. Tarawera, which destroyed the famous pink and white silica terraces and killed 120 people.

 The Government Gardens in front of the Bathhouse

From the roof of the bathhouse

We camped south of Rotorua, then drove to Taupo on Thursday. We went via some backroads at Lyn’s suggestion, to see Orakei Korako, another thermal area that is more off the beaten track. We didn’t pay to go in, since we had already done that at Waiotapu, but had a coffee and checked out the views from across the lake.

Taupo is a huge tourist area in New Zealand, and we hit it just forward of Labour weekend, but managed to avoid most of the masses, and we only spent money on a few big activities that really meant a lot to us. Other than that, we stuck to the free and cheap. On arrival in Taupo, we went to see Huka Falls, where the Waikato River (biggest drainage/river system in NZ) funnels itself through a 10-metre deep rock gorge ¼ the width of the previous riverbed, and goes barreling out over an 11-metre falls at a tremendous rate. It is really awe-inspiring, and has been done up with a nice overlook and then a walking path along the river and falls.

 A view of the Waikato just upstream of the falls.

The Waikarei Geothermal Powerplant, just outside of Taupo. NOT a nuclear reactor! NZ is strictly anti-nuclear.

The weather gods were sending us sudden rain and hail and wind gales, so we opted for the indoor activity of honey and mead tasting in the afternoon J New Zealand is famous for its many types of honey (Manuka is the most famous), and near the falls there was a place with about 15 different flavours of honey to sample, plus a million kinds of mead and honey liqueurs, and Pohutukawa honey ice cream. So we got a little bit honey-high, mostly for free, and also learned a lot about beekeeping and honey-producing, as the site had loads of exhibits about those processes.

We camped at Reid’s Farm, a designated free camping ground on the Waikato River, just out of town, where we whiled away the evening with a few games of cribbage, and woke up to a gorgeous, cloudless morning with very little wind, which was a welcome change from the stormy conditions of the previous week:

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