Whoops, we missed a day. We got caught up hiking and enjoying the area. Rotorua has some pretty good restaurants and street food, not to mention plenty of the great outdoors.
We spent our second day on the North Island traveling down to Taupo. The road connecting the two towns is known as the Thermal Explorer Highway. There are several geothermal hot spots all over the area and a major power plant. We stopped in to a place called “The Craters of the Moon”. The fumaroles were steaming across the mossy land scape. No major geysers or mud pots but a very strange environment nonetheless.
Taupo seems like a nice place. It felt a bit like Queenstown, in that there were tons of extreme sports and adventure tours that start from the visitor center. Unfortunately we got bad news about one of our hikes. The trailhead was further away than expected and the weather was expected to be foul. Disheartened we decided to find another walk. We found a walk along the major river through town and walked to the falls at the end.
We finished up the day at the Rotorua night market and with a variety show. The market was really just some food trucks and produce, but the food was delicious.
The next day we went hiking amongst the redwood trees. The Redwoods Forest was started as an experimental logging forest to deteremine what trees might grow well in NZ. California redwoods were amongst the specemines they selected. Instead of felling them after they were found to be commercially useless, they turned the area into a park. We had a great hike with sweeping views of the town. Hiking in a mature forest like this one is something we had definitely been missing. It was peaceful and quiet and wonderful for the most part. The other part involved runners, horses, and mountain bikers – the area is very much mixed use. Fortunately, everyone seemed to coexist very well, and many of the trails are designated specifically for one activity or another. On one section of the hiking trail, we were only a few feet away from the parallel biking track.
We wrapped the day at the Whakarewarewa Maori village. February 6th is Waitangi day, celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British and the Maori. The village is a tourist attraction and cultural center, as well as the permanent residence of about 25 Maori families. In addition to opening up their town to visitors, they also still follow traditional practices such as cooking and bathing in the hot springs. The village (and really, the whole area) also sits on an incredibly thin section of the earths crust, which is why the geothermal activity is so high.
Tomorrow we’re finally going to see the Hobbits, but first, more pictures of our Rotorua adventures are here.