Yet another day without internet access! We arrived rather late to this camp, here in Otahu on the north coast of the Bay of Plenty, so we couldn’t ask about internet availability. Never mind; just means this blog entry will be the longest one ever!
Today has been a real volcano-fest. We started our day by looking around Rotorua, the main tourist hub of New Zealand. Rotorua is the remains of an ancient volcano, and sports a huge volcanic lake and steam plumes everywhere. Ness parked up and we wandered to get brunch. Despite the many choices around the lake we plumped for Pizza Hut. Awful I know, but we knew we could stock up on heavy foods to save getting much dinner-wise later on!
Rotorua seems a nice town, we wandered into some of the arty/crafty shops that were around (NZ has a lot of them) but we still haven’t bought anything notable as a souvenir. We’d like to get something to remind us of our trip — Ness is also interested in getting a piece of jade jewellery. But so far, nothing’s seemed quite right. While in Rotorua we popped to a visitors’ centre and booked our tour to White Island (more on that later.)
After our cursory tour of the town we headed for Wai-o-Tapu, a large volcanic crater containing many hot springs and volcanic plumes. We spent a few hours wandering around, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (rotten eggs, yes) of the place. Some of the areas were so colourful with various mineral deposits and sulphurous salts lining collapsed craters. We have lots of pictures and even a few video clips of the bubbling cauldrons of hot water and mud. At points you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped onto an alien planet!
After Wai-o-Tapu we drove back through Rotorua and then out northeast to Hells (sic) Gate. Yes, missing an apostrophe. Apparently it was named by George Bernard Shaw, so you’d think the grammar would be correct, but no. Though I’d rather bet on it being a Kiwi misspelling along the way — Kiwi grammar and spelling is truly awful. As Ness pointed out, maybe it’s not their first language, but the abuse of the apostrophe here seems by far the worst I’ve seen in the English-speaking world. So many “it’s” instead of “its” for impersonal possessive indications and worse of all, so many apostrophed plurals! Terrible, but I digress: Hells Gate is another large set of steaming sulphurous lakes and mud pools. Not as colourful as Wai-o-Tapu, but far more vigorous — a lot of the pools were superheated water and mud and bubbled away something chronic. Again the stink was quite something; though you really do get used to it pretty quickly.
Attached to Hells Gate is a spa — our combi ticket got us into both. As they were closing up their cheapy public spa we were ushered into the private area — which was far nicer! We had a 20 minute mud bath (mmm), followed by a cold shower (aargh) then finally a volcanic spa (mmm again). I’m not exactly the kind of bloke who’d ever consider a mud mask or anything of that persuasion, but I must say my skin feels ‘nice’ now. Though I made the mistake of ignoring the safety rules about not getting the spa water in my eyes which rather proved the point of it being a sulphurous spa…ouch!
By now it was just getting past 7pm so we made haste towards Whakatane, or rather a small village outside where there’s a camp site. A note on pronunciation here — we’ve been here 6 days now and we’re only just getting the hang of it. Despite whatever you might think, Whakatane is pronounced “Fak-a-tan-nee”. Yes, “wh” is an “f”. What logic that stems from I have no idea, but it turns out we’ve been mispronouncing almost every place name here so far!
Anyway, as mentioned earlier tomorrow we’re off to White Island for a day trip on a boat. White Island is a live volcano poking out of the sea some 50km off the coast. Our boat leaves early (for us!) tomorrow, so we’ve camped nearby and we’re setting the alarm clock to get up and ready in time. Or so we hope; we’ve set the alarm clock every day so far without much success — hopefully the added compunction of having to get up will help us tomorrow! We’ll see!