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Day 4 – Rotorua and Taupo

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Categories: New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , , ,

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Today we woke again at 8:15am but this time due to the noise being made by kids down in front of our townhouse.  It took a while to get ready with showers and nappy changes, however by 9:45am we were all fed, dressed, packed and ready to go.  The weather continues to be a random variable, making it hard to figure out an itinerary!

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The morning’s weather, greeting us

We needed to get fuel and some snacks for the boys, so our first destination was the Te Ngae shopping centre which is just after the Rotorua airport, to the south of Mourea.  The options weren’t expansive, but we bought what we could and fuelled up the car, ready for the next part  of the day.

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Te Ngae Shopping Centre / Jake bored

Here’s what the road looked like as we headed south:

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Given the uncertainty, we took a defensive plan and headed south, beyond Kerosene Creek to another thermal experience.

Orakei Korako/Hidden Valley

Orakei Korako is a geo-thermal park located 45 minutes south of Rotorua along state highway 5.  The landscape is quite remarkable and there is a lot of dairy farming along the way, including a milk processing facility just north of Golden Sands.  We exited the highway and continued for another 19kms before we turned onto the road leading to the facility.

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There’s a gift shop and café attached to a jetty from which you travel by ferry across to the action.  At NZD $36 per adult (kids under 6 free), which included use of the kiddie backpacks, which you can see in the photos, it wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t awfully expensive either.

[ Official Site ]

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Once across on the ferry, you proceed on a wooden walkway across thermal hot springs and sulphur, taking in the rainbow of different colours.  It starts on low land, and as you climb, you encounter more and more geysers and hot streams which are clear as crystal but at super heated to boiling point.

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Despite all that, It was not actually all that hot!  The sun had been kept at bay by clouds, keeping the ambient temperature low which was a blessing as we lugged the kids around like Luke Skywalker with Yoda on Dagobah.  As you can see, the paths were in excellent condition, although there was a lot of steps and uphill climbing.  The payoff was quite worthwhile though, as we were rewarded with stellar views across the area.

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Jake was handing out plenty of high fives from his executive position as we continued further uphill.  We had a great view down to volcanic mud traps and steam.  The route through the park at one point becomes a loop, this is framed by a geothermal cave called “Aladdin’s Cave”, which features a 35m drop to a pool of acid water!

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We’re half way!

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Stunning views / boiling mud

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Returning the other direction

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Once we had completed the loop it was time to head back.  We retraced some of the path which we had ascended earlier, and I took the opportunity to attempt another panorama of the main area of the sulpher steam:

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Here’s another looking across to not far up from where we started the trek:

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It wasn’t long before the return ferry was on its way to pick us up for the very brief ride back.  Damian did NOT like the noise of the ferry’s engine, on across or back.

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The whole excursion took over an hour, although it really didn’t feel like it.  If anything, it was an exceptional workout and we felt quite accomplished at the end of the visit.  We didn’t hang around too long because the sun had finally arrived.  It was time to get the crappy Holden Cruze into gear and take off south to our next destination.

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Where are we heading?

Huka Falls

Just as you enter the lake town of Taupo, there’s a road which provides access to a lookout for a stunning waterfall known as ‘Huka Falls’.  We stopped at the lookout first, before heading down to the proper lookout area further below.

[ Official Site ]

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Taupo/Lake Taupo

After Huka Falls, we drove into Taupo. The first thing you notice upon arriving is just how massive the lake really is.  It’s huge.

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Lake side

We parked at the visitor’s centre, and I obtained some maps and local guides before we walked to a nearby café for a late lunch with the boys.  We then walked down to the lake side, and then made a circuit back to the car park.  Jake and Damian played on the playground equipment for a while before we got back into the car.

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iPhone panorama

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Lake Taupo

Our next destination was in keeping with our recent theme…

Otumuheke Spa Thermal Park

Not far up the road from the visitor’s centre is this badly kept secret – a free hot springs, running into the Waikato river.  It’s inside a fairly large park which consists of an oval and some decent looking play equipment.  We got the kids changed down by the thermal springs, and walked in to refresh.  The river was stone cold, but when mixed with the thermal spring, made for an interesting experience.

[ Basic Information ]

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Kids playing / The approach

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A little further… / A little further still

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After about twenty minutes or maybe more (no watch) we got out and picked up our belongings, and made our way back to the car.  We changed the boys first, and then took care of ourselves.  It was a long hours’ drive from here back to Rotorua.

Back to Rotorua

The sky did not look promising, but by the time we had reached Rotorua Central, the sun had come out here too.  At Central, we checked out ‘The Warehouse’ which is a bit like Big W and then we hit the local equivalent of Woolworths (‘Countdown’) yet again, as we didn’t have enough food for dinner. 

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Once done, we pretty much loaded the car, and returned directly to the resort to begin on dinner.  Phew!

Here’s a map of our journey today:

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Tomorrow is our last full day in Rotorua for a while.  It’s likely that we’ll stay local so that we have enough time to start packing and preparing for Sunday’s departure. 

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Rotorua Lake by night

Check back tomorrow night for more.

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