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2020 - SNZA - Day 13

Today was yet another relaxed start to the day. We had been told that our booking included the hot buffet breakfast so we went and availed ourselves of that. It wasn’t great but it was acceptable and not bad for a small motel.

We then packed the car up and checked out of the Motel. The weather was gorgeous so we left the car at the motel and walked along the promenade into Taupo. We actually went past the main town and down to the boat harbour to have a look around. It was quiet. At the harbour we could have taken various boat trips on the lake or a scenic flight but decided to walk back to the town to The Coffee Club for a drink. It was lovely just sitting there drinking and chilling out. For a moment it almost felt as though we were on holiday again.

Walking back to the car we paused again at the Golf game on the shoreline. This time there were 4 guys attempting to hit the balls onto the offshore pontoon. These were obviously good golfers as whilst we were watching they managed to get at least 6 balls to land onto the pontoon only for them to bounce off again. It was very impressive, as they were loading them high in the sky and letting the wind take them.

It was time for us to get back to the car and drive to our first destination today which was only a few miles outside of Taupo, called Craters of the Moon. This is a geo thermal walkway on boardwalks and trails taking about a hour to complete. We were greeted at the ticket desk by an ex pat volunteer from Nottingham who had emigrated 57 years ago. He asked if we were Seniors? Suspecting a discount was on offer I confirmed we were and we got a $3 reduction each down to $5. I have no shame in claiming any discount whenever we can.

The walkway was rather good. There was lots of steam and gurgling alongside at times quite an overpowering smell of Sulphur. At first I just accused Karen the originating of the smell before she realised what it was. It did have us wondering as to what was actually happening underground all around us and whether anyone was actually monitoring how safe it all was. Some of the craters did have a look and feel of the moon about them and it was all felt rather eerie. To see the largest and most violent crater we had to walk up a very steep boardwalk off the main trail. The power of the steam coming out of the ground was extraordinary and apparently incredibly hot. It is no wonder they harness it whenever they can.

Our plan was to then find one of the many lovely NZ picnic spots that seem to alongside every road we had driven on so far. Today though was different. Eventually we came across one. It was OK but nothing special. We made our picnic lunch but didn’t stay long as there was nothing really to look at and despite the lovely weather it seemed to be in a wind tunnel.

As we carried onto Rotorua we saw signs to a Thermal Wonderland. We turned off the road to take a look. Compared to the Craters of the Moon, this was an enormous commercial enterprise of what appeared to be a similar natural attraction. Nevertheless we went in but almost fell over when we were told the admission fee was $32 each. Instead we just asked where the toilet was and then looked round the gift shop to find the guide book to see if we thought it was worth going in. We concluded that it was almost identical to what we had already seen and so just went to the very nice cafe that the admission money must have been spent on instead. We shared a pot of tea.

Whilst enjoying our tea, Karen decided that I needed to do something about my hair and beard. I haven’t cut my hair or shaved/trimmed my beard since New Years Eve. My hair is now rather fluffy whilst my beard is rather full and bushy. I thought that I had a backpacker hipster vibe going on. Karen thought it was more Captain Birdseye than anything else. I agreed to have a barbering session the following morning to appease her.

We then drove on for a few minutes to find the mud pools which were free. Once we arrived there we realised that we had actually stopped here 2 years ago but had driven in from the opposite direction. Last time it was raining when we walked to the mud pools and so we rushed the visit. This time the weather was great as were the mud pools. Its amazing how they keep erupting sometimes quite violently. The mud temperature is apparently at least 60c and so you wouldn’t want to get that blown onto you. I found the bubbling fascinating and could have stayed and watched for hours. Karen however was keen to get moving and so after a while we went and finished the journey to the Holiday Inn in Rotorua.

After sorting ourselves out we went to try out the Hotel’s geo thermally heated pool and spa. Well actually I tried the spa whilst Karen sat in the sun. The water was very hot. It was also very soft and very smelly. It is supposed to be really good for you and your skin. Like everyone who tried getting in the I could only stand the heat in the spa for so long before I went and dried out in the sun with Karen.

Back in the room, there was a note in the bathroom which said that as the Hotels normal hot water is heated by the thermals that you had to careful of the water temperature as it was much hotter than you would normally expect. We had to check it out and can confirm it was exceptionally hot.

For our evening meal tonight we selected a NZ chain called Cobb & Co as it seemed to offer a Roast Dinneroption. We drove there and as soon as we walked in we realised we had made a mistake and should have walked straight out but we didn’t and allowed ourselves to be shown to a table. Neither of us felt comfortable. I’m not sure if it was the decor, smell, clientele or staff but something put us off. I knew without saying anything that whatever Karen ordered would not be good enough. Yet we still did not leave. Instead we both played it safe and ordered the Chicken Caesar salad. Actually although it was not fantastic it was fine and very edible. Predictably though Karen was not happy with hers as there was not enough lettuce apparently.

We left quickly after finishing the meal and went back to the Hotel. It was strange seeing big plumes of steam coming out of the ground as we drove along and the sun went down. We went and looked at some of the steam coming out of holes behind the Hotel in a living Maori village.

Back in the room Karen disappeared for 40 minutes in the laundry to do a white wash before retiring for the night.

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