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that morning, we had breakfast, packed our smaller bags into companion #2 and left the bigger ones at diman’s house. we left at 9:30 am and drove through the waikato region, again using sh1 towards the south, the heartland of maori culture and volcanic activities! the weather was cloudy with a hint of rain, the temp was quite mild, about 12°c. we passed through the town of cambridge, with trees lining the streets, and after tirau, we exited sh1 into sh5, known as thermal and explorer highway that brought us to rotorua. the distance between hamilton and rotorua is only 110 km, we took an hour to have our first glimpse of lake rotorua and when we entered the town centre, the sweet smell of sulphur invaded our nostrils almost immediately!
the smell. the moment i inhaled it, i knew that i was falling in love with the place. it’s unique odor closely resembled the smell of rotten eggs, but with an added sweetener and dry coconut gravy. our first stop of the day was at kuirau park, a public park in the centre of rotorua town. it’s also the best place to see geothermal pool for free, though not as magnificent as the others, it was ample enough for us to get the requisite feel of what a geothermal activity was all about. the stench was intense, all the more for me to love it. we walked along the dotted smoky pools for 30 minutes before we continued to the lakefront drive, fronting the massive lake rotorua. by the time we arrived, it started to rain and we got back inside the car and moved along the lakeside park for 5 km towards the south east, skirting a pine forest until we stopped at another smaller lake with a bbq shelter for our lunch break.
▼ arriving at kuirau park, rotorua
▼ our first geothermal pool
▼▼ more hissing and bubbling pools
▼ yomi with her favourite leaf
▼ a small lake at the park
▼ more autumn leaves
▼ the only flowers in winter
▼ lake rotorua
the lake is tikitapu (or blue lake) and we had our packed fried rice specially prepared by chef maz of hamilton that morning. the rain was getting heavier and we had to run to the nearest toilet some 100m away along the edge of the lake. the climate was getting colder, about 8°c and with much haste, off we went to our next destination, about 3 km from the lake, whakarewarewa forest.
▼ the greenish lake tikitapu (blue lake), note the public toilet on the left
▼▼ having fried rice for lunch
▼ our lunch shelter, photo taken from the public toilet
the main reason we went there was because of my fascination with the californian coastal redwoods, ever since i watched the landspeeder scene where luke tried to outrun the imperial stormtroopers in return of the jedi. and the forest happened to be teeming with redwoods. although they were still young by redwoods standards (planted in 1901), they were quite big for our eyes. the rain was already slowing down into a light shower and we chose the waitawa track, a 1 hour walk through redwoods, douglas firs, silver ferns and the giant mamaku ferns. it was truly a breathtaking experience of walking and talking among us among the giants of nature. once completed, we went to the redwoods gift shop & information centre where zack, alif, ija and aina went inside to pick up some items while yomi and i waited outside. it was here also that we first sampled the famous local tiptop ice-cream.
▼ the redwoods entrance
▼ the empty carpark
◄ entering the track
at quarry road ►
▼ surrounded by redwoods
◄ one of the oldest ►
▼ alif with his usual schtick
◄ a lost hobbit in the land of elves
finally with mama hobbit ►
▼ phooning among the giants
▼▼ completing the walk
it was 2:10 pm when we decided to leave the redwoods and moved on to our next stop. by the time we left the suburbs of rotorua, we were presented with countless geothermal pools and lakes on each side of the highway but we were not swayed by the temptations. most of them had expensive admission fees and not worth dropping by for a short period of time. we, on the other hand, had detailed itineraries of where to stop and what to do and our next destination was some 100 km to the south. and the adorable stench gradually grew weaker until it was lost, much to the chagrinned of my addictive mind.
later when the highway (sh5) merged back with sh1, i knew that we were entering taupo. 2 km before taupo town, we pulled into a parking area next to huka falls. it was raining quite heavily and we had to use umbrellas to scuttle about 50m to the famous waterfall bridge over the waikato river. it drains from lake taupo 3 km upstream and narrows into a canyon 15m wide for 100m. by the time we reached the other side of the river, the rain stopped and we had a memorable moment watching the waterfall and jetboats from the east side.
▼ huka falls with water flowing from lake taupo
▼ still raining
▼ laden with info
▼▼ brimming with smiles
▼ bridge from carpark
▼ watching the 11m drop final stage of the falls
▼ yomi at huka falls
▼▼ stunt display by hukafalls jets
▼ final photo before leaving
we stayed there for half an hour and continued our drive later for another 10 minutes before we entered taupo. taupo lies next to lake taupo, the largest lake in north island. it was also the place where alif had been dying to see, namely the mcdonald’s in the town centre. why? let the pictures do the talking.
▼▼ alif and his reason #1 for visiting new zealand
alif was so happy upon seeing the place that all i could capture was blurry images of him running around the dc-3, and the cloudy weather didn’t help either. that plane was his only motive of visiting new zealand and we had to make sure we had ample time to slot our time to visit taupo during daytime in our itineraries. he was inspired by abah long’s photo/video of the plane when he and mama long (aina’s parents) visited the place the previous winter. we spent time eating fish fillets and fries while the kids were passionately playing at the restaurant’s playground near the plane and climbing the stairs into the plane (which was converted into an extension of the restaurant with dining tables). later when we left, we bought some kebabs at jabies doner kebabs. it tasted ok.
▼ inside taupo’s mcdonald’s
▼ having an early dinner
▼ getting dark
it was almost dark when we parked our car at tiki lodge. our companion #2 still seemed tough after travelling 190 km that day. the backpacker’s room was ok, a queen size bed, 2 bunk beds with a bathroom. after eating all the kebabs and finally taking a proper bath (since tullamarine), i went outside for a smoke. it was quite cold, 5°c. i looked into the sky and could see some stars, the cloud was clearing, and i was excited and hoped that mount doom was thinking the same in welcoming us the next morning!
next» soul searching road trip oznz – day 6 (11/06/2010)