They say you smell Rotorua before you see it, and that was certainly true for us. Before we checked into the Holiday Inn (one of the few hotels we actually paid for – the rest were either paid for by IHG points or BA points), we decided to go to the Whakarewarewa Forest. Planted in 1901, the Redwoods were an introduced species from California, where they can grow as tall as 110 metres. The largest Redwood in Whakarewarewa is only a baby in comparison at approximately 72 metres tall.
We walked around the forest, following the red trail, giant ferns grew among the redwoods and we saw a pond that clearly had some naturally occurring chemicals killing all the pond life. There was a tree walk we could have paid for, but we were recommended to come back and do it at night.
We checked into the hotel, and Eleanor went for a swim in the outdoor geothermally heated pool. I watched, with my hat and coat on. My swimming costume was still sandy.
Back at the Redwoods, we went for our nighttime tree walk. This was worth the wait. We had been told that there were lights in the trees, and for some reason, I thought it would be just be fairy lights… how wrong can you get. The tree walk is made up of 21 suspension bridges between 22 redwoods at up to 12 meters above the forest floor. It is lit at night by 30 suspended lanterns designed by David Trubridge. These lanterns are massive, and some are wrapped around the tree while others hang from branches. It was so quiet as each bridge and platform was limited to 8 people so it was never noisy as everyone just took in the stillness of the forest. No one used their phones as torches (well maybe we did to read the information on the platforms). It was beautiful. And it seemed to go on forever.
The next day, after a broken night’s sleep, we went to another ethereal spot, Wai-O-Tapu. Throughout the night, the smell of sulphur pervaded my sleep, though the second night we hardly noticed it. Probably because we spent the day at Wai-O-Tapu.
We left the hotel about 9.10am, we knew that Lady Knox geyser (pronounced guyser in NZ) was “set off” at 10.15. We got to the ticket desk, bought the tickets and then drove back to the geyser. A bit faffy, but we got there before the queue for tickets. We waited in the amphiteatre around the geyser for about 15 minutes, but we got a good seat – right on the front row.
The geyser is set off by organic soap being dropped into the mouth of the geyser by an informative guide. The guides have clearly timed their speech to perfection as it does take a while to get going. But once it erupts, it reaches heights of 10 to 20 metres. Was it a cheat that it erupts on time everyday? Maybe, but actually it goes to show what can happen when outside forces mix with nature. Just a little catalyst shows nature in action.
Apparently, convicts found out about this reaction when they washed their clothing in the waters using soap powder. The resulting explosions blew the clothing up into the air!
The eruption lasts much longer than I expected so there was plenty of time to get a picture.
We then spent 2 hours in the main park. We didn’t do the longer loop of 3kms as the loop we did was long enough and we were able to see all the differing coloured landscapes during the shorter loop. The three of us took photographs captivated by the colours due to the minerals, I wasn’t the one to keep us back this time!!!
The breeze would blow the steam right at you, and so we found that our camera lenses steamed up. We got quite a few photos when the wind changed direction, with the scenery changing as the wind direction changed. Just outside the park, check out the mud pool it is free to see, but don’t bathe – it is boiling hot!!!
The road that Wai-O-Tapu is on, is actually a loop road. On the road, you will come to a bridge, stop there for the Hot n’ Colds. The two rivers that meet. This popular spot will allow you to have another mini spa experience for free, with nature as your backdrop. There is a warning for Amoebic Meningitis, and you have to be careful as it is gritty, and some people have treated it as a rubbish dump, but this is not a commercial place and you bathe at your own risk. There were other families there, which gave us confidence in being mad, and we had my friend Heather to tell us where to go. We might not have been so brave on our own!
We had lunch at the Waiotapu Tavern on the main road, opposite the junction for Wai-O-Tapu coming from Rotorua. The food is home cooked with generous portions and cheaper than expected!
This was a fantastic day which was topped off by the Maori experience. Our time in New Zealand was nearly over, but we still had dates with glowworms, kiwis and a hobbit.