Tuesday 28th May, 2013
Wednesday 29th May, 2013
Thursday 30th May, 2013
Friday 31st May, 2013
Saturday 1st June, 2013
Sunday 2nd June, 2013

Tuesday 28th May, 2013

Volcanic Motel photograph

Lounge at Ann's Volcanic Motel

Drop Cap e took our time this morning, packing and tidying, leaving about 10 a.m. It isn't far from Whakatane to Rotorua so we went on a couple of mystery tours around picturesque country and lakes before arriving at Ann's Volcanic Motel at about 12:30. Ann was very welcoming, she upgraded us to a spa unit (because she "liked our emails"). She loaded us up with info and brochures and confirmed our booking with Railcruising and the Te Puia Hangi for tonight.

Volcanic Motel photograph

Our Bedroom, Ann's Volcanic Motel

Drop Cap he unit is quite small, although we have two bedrooms and two bathrooms there are no wardrobes. There is a cupboard with washing machine and dryer and a quite well-equipped kitchen

Rotorua Gardens photograph

Bubbling Pool in Rotorua Gardens

Drop Cap e walked out to the town centre to find it was a lot further than we had thought. Had lunch at a little café then walked down to the Government Gardens and the Museum, which were very picturesque with steam venting in odd spots.

Rotorua Museum

Rotorua's Picturesque Museum

Te Puia photograph

Entrance to Te Puia, Rotorua

Drop Cap hen we walked back, having done seven km already to be picked up at 4 pm to go to Te Puia Cultural Centre for a tour of the thermal area which included the Pohutu Geyser. The large open entrance area was quite impressive, large carved wooden pillars surrounding a central greenstone boulder water feature. I think it was symbolic of the unity of the tribes.

Te Puia at Night photograph

Te Puia at Night

Drop Cap nfortunately it was raining by the time we got there and the steam from the geyser was largely undistinguishable from the clouds and mist generally.

Drop Cap ut we saw a kiwi in its nocturnal house and walked around the area with a guide, who then showed us the Cultural Buildings and explained the symbolism. One of the best things was sitting on the warm stone over the underground steam which really warmed us all up, although tiny cracks emitted scalding steam jets where you least expected it!

Cultural Show Te Puia photograph

Cultural Show, Te Puia

Drop Cap hen we had a Maori welcome, like at Waitangi, then a concert with pois and haka. After this we were shepherded into the restaurant for our hangi buffet, cooked on hot stones in a pit. It was a terrific buffet with salads, hot and cold foods, soups, vege options and desserts. I'm afraid we all succumbed. Maybe Taupo will have a WW meeting we can go to and just see how bad it is being!

Drop Cap good day, despite the bitter cold. It is snowing heavily in the south island and the southerly winds are blowing the chill up here. My pedometer reads 9.5 km today!

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Wednesday 29th May, 2013

Drop Cap have not mentioned that our journey with cats has continued with Ann's Volcanic. There are two cats here, tabbies and somewhat standoffish. There was a little note on our corkboard in the kitchen asking us not to feed them. Mac has been trying to introduce himself to them but they don't really seem interested.

Rotorua photograph

Old and New Rotorua

Rotorua photograph

Lake Rotorua

Drop Cap nyway, the cold is continuing bitter and although warm in the sun, the wind is very cold. We went to the Museum but thought that $20 each was a bit over the top, so didn't stay. We wandered over to the picturesque I-site to find any brochures for other possibilities but they all seemed to be geared to long periods and we had an appointment at 1 p.m and had to get lunch before that. So we walked down to Lake Rotorua to see what was there (an offshore heli- and floatplane port and lots of ducks and swans). Then we bought some takeaway sandwiches and drove off to find the station of the Railcruising company.

 Railcruisers Rotorua photograph

Railcruiser Cars Rotorua

Drop Cap his is another of the unique NZ tourist ventures. A young couple have bought up about 20km of disused railway corridor and have invented, designed and built individual railcars which you "pilot" yourselves, although a computer really does all the work. It is a quite remarkable jaunt down rather a steep hill and back.

Railcruiser End of the Line photograph

End of the Line at Railcruisers

 Railcruiser Car  photograph

Railcruiser Car Rotorua

Drop Cap e have never done anything like this and we all really enjoyed the experience. Geoff tried to get it on video via his Galaxy but it may have been too much for its memory banks. The guy who invented it was there and very happy to talk about his "baby". Apparently he is planning (if possible - he needs investors, I think) to start similar ventures in lots of other places, including the ZigZag Railway at home! I hope he can succeed, after all there are lots of disused rail lines which are not being restored. So, good luck to him, we say, it was so unusual.

Lake Tarawera photograph

Lake Tarawera

Drop Cap t was a bit late after this to do anything but we went to Lake Tarawera which was formed when Mt. Tarawera erupted with Pompeii-like consequences, buried villages, loss of life etc. We wanted to explore the Buried Village which is being excavated but we needed more time to justify the $35 entrance fee. So we had afternoon tea at their lovely old fashioned tea shop and came home. We have had a quite expensive two days here so dinner from the local chippie is indicated.

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Thursday 30th May, 2013

Waimangu Mural photograph

Mural at start of Waimangu Walk

Drop Cap ff to Taupo today but since it is only about an hour's drive we diverted off about halfway there to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This magic area was formed when the Tarawera Volcano erupted violently in June, 1888 causing widespread devastation and loss of life as we learned yesterday at the Buried Village. We decided to take the 4km or so walking track through the valley and down to the crater lake where we could get a shuttle bus back to the top.

Waimangu photograph

Steamy Waimangu

Drop Cap his was just a wonderful walk. It was like walking through a movie or something - primeval as the beginning of time. Steam vented everywhere, pools bubbled and hissed and in between birds fluttered and twittered - like a lost world.

Boiling Lake Waimangu photograph

Boiling Lake Waimangu

R at Waimangu photograph

Rosemary at Waimangu

Drop Cap here was a lovely blue-green lakelet called Inferno and Frying Pan Lake which bubbled and boiled. It is the largest hot water spring in the world. They say it is like it was at the beginning of the world and it is the youngest geothermal area in the world. All since 1888.

Hot Spring Waimangu photograph

Hot Spring, Waimangu

Drop Cap he vegetation has certainly regenerated and the world famous pink and white terraces which were destroyed by the eruption are slowly being reproduced by the action of the waters. It always was a geothermal tourist area even before the big eruption but it has all started again from scratch as it were. The colours of the rocks painted by algaes is phenomenal.

Waimangu Colours photograph

Waimangu Colours

Crater Lake Waimangu photograph

Crater Lake Waimangu

Drop Cap e just missed the shuttle bus and had to wait for 45 minutes but the lake scenery was so lovely that it was no problem just to sit and enjoy the view. When the bus came we had lunch at the café, then continued on to Taupo and its huge crater lake.

Drakes Place Lounge photograph

The Lounge, Drake's Place, Taupo

Drop Cap e found our cottage "Drake's Place" with no hassles and it seems good, no clothes drier unfortunately, but an air conditioner which seems to work quite well. The decor is dramatic, white walls with black, red and silver highlights, everything colour co-ordinated even down to the dishmop and tea towels. No cats visible but the back door has a cat flap so maybe that counts.

There is a small convenience type supermarket within walking distance but I would like to find one better equipped tomorrow. See what we can find. There is a view of the lake from the street outside and I believe a walking path around it. See what tomorrow brings.
Pedometer reading today 7kms.

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Friday 31st May, 2013

Drop Cap oday started off rather mundane with my doing two loads of heavy wash and hanging it outside on the clothes line. Mac and Geoff did a large load of undies and shirts etc last night at a nearby laundromat and also discovered a huge Pak-n-Save supermarket where you pack your own goods and they have quite reasonable prices.

Drakes Place Diner photograph

Dining Area, Drake's Place, Taupo

Drop Cap fter the washing and showers we headed into town, did some more shopping at the Pak-n-Save, then went to the I-site where we got some info and booked two outings. The first was the jet boat ride to Huka Falls and we booked for 2 p.m. So we headed home, had some tomato soup with toast and fruit and drove some 12kms up the road to the Huka Falls.

Jet Boating photograph

About to Set Out on the Jet Boat

Drop Cap he jet boat people were cheerful and friendly and a bit macabre but fitted us out with splash jackets and life vests then got us into the boat. There was us, a Japanese couple, another foreign speaking couple and Jezza (Jeremy) the driver. He was so NZ that it was almost a caricature, like a Crocodile Dundee Aussie. But he was fun and we roared away, after having our photos taken "for dental records" said Jezza cheerfully. It was a really great ride, just as good as I remembered from Queenstown ten years ago.

Jet Boating photograph

Jet Boating on Huka River

Drop Cap t was so exhilarating, 360deg spins splashing one side or the other, screaming past flotillas of ducks and swans and other waterfowl and giving them heart attacks. Seeing them struggling to fly in a hurry and one Geoff saw just deciding to dive instead was quite funny, if malicious. We whirled around from one side of the river to another, reaching the bottom of the awe-inspiring Huka Falls which rocked us about, then downstream to the wall of Wairakei Dam. We all really enjoyed it.

Drop Cap e came home and went down to the Boat Harbour to find where our next outing leaves from. Then we started along the lakeside walk and headed along the main road to find a café for afternoon tea. It was 3:55 as we entered a nice coffee shop but they told us they closed at 4 pm so were not serving. They still had some goodies so Geoff thought he would get some to take away. His blood sugar was obviously low because the next thing we knew the girl from the coffee shop came looking for us saying Geoff was "having a fit" or something. We poured lemonade down him and he was able to get up and have his goodies. He was compos and insisting that he was not low so maybe the adrenaline had had some effect.

Anyway we came home, got all the clothes in and dry and I made superburgers for dinner. I found Katie Fforde's latest book (which I don't have) in a papershop so now I have something to read. Calloo Callay! Time to get my new notebook out. Pedometer reading today 5.3km.

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Saturday 1st June, 2013

Ernest Kemp photograph

The Ernest Kemp. Lake Taupo

Drop Cap ell, today was going to be a gentle two hour cruise on the lake to see some famous (but not ancient) Maori carvings on a rock face by the lake. The "Ernest Kemp" is a replica of an old steam boat that used to trade around the Northland, based in Kerikeri. Ernest Kemp was the last member of the family who owned the old mission house and Stone Store, which we saw in KK a couple of weeks ago, and gave them to the nation as an historic site. So they named the replica boat after him.

Ernest Kemp photograph

On Board Ernest Kemp

Tongariro from Taupo photograph

Tongariro National Park from Taupo

Drop Cap t is a cute little vessel which reminded me of Scuffy the Tug Boat in the old kids' book. We were the only passengers today so off we went rejoicing. It was very pleasant, not too rough but not millpondish either and it was quite warm if a bit blowy sitting out the back in the sun. The views from the boat on both sides were great, especially the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park with their new caps of snow.

Maori Carvings photograph

Maori Carvings

Drop Cap hen, when we were close to the carvings the skipper recommended the view from the front of the boat so we took the cameras up. The carvings were quite amazing, intricate and full of symbolic details, carved by one man on a blank cliff face.

Drop Cap nfortunately, while the engine was idling to get us close in, heavy swell hit the boat and made me lose my balance, my hands being occupied by my camera. I banged my left knee and fell almost to the floor, badly wrenching my bad right knee. Yikes!!! The pain was excruciating, so much so that I did not even notice that my right arm had also been affected. I only noticed it when it began to bruise from the shoulder to the elbow the next day. This really spoiled the return trip. Trying to disembark was very difficult but with support from Mac and Geoff (they practically had to carry me) I made it to the car. We went into the town centre to find a pharmacy because I felt a walking stick might help. I wish now I had bought one from the hospital (and brought it with me, of course) because it would have been cheaper, but Mac also got me a knee brace (which I should have brought as well) and some hot and cold packs. Oh Boy! And since I suppose it really is a pre-existing condition I don't think we could get it back on insurance.

Drop Cap e came home and had lunch, then Mac and Geoff went off to see if the Segway operator (just down the end of our road) would let him ride. The ones at home have a weight limit of 112 kg and Geoff is a bit over that. He really wants to do it so I hope it will be ok. They have a minimum weight but no advertised maximum. It turned out that he would have been able to but the Segways weren't allowed anywhere except in a tight circle in the park and Geoff didn't think it was worth it. I went to bed with an icepack and painkillers and they went to find an Internet café which they did at Macca's. When they came back they started quite a complicated dinner between them to my instructions and did very well.

Drop Cap fterwards Mac and I watched "New Tricks" while I tried to find a comfortable way to get around. Don't think there is one - this gives me a preview of what it will be like after the op, I think - YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!

I don't know what we can do for site-seeing now. There were a couple of things we wanted to do but we will see what tomorrow brings.

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Sunday 2nd June, 2013

Drop Cap slept surprisingly well, despite having to get up twice in the night. I seem to be getting the hang of the stick, too.

Top of Huka Falls photograph

Top of Huka Falls

Drop Cap e first set off to find Huka Falls from the road. It was easy to get to and was quite a spectacular sight from the bridge. We even saw the jet boat under the falls, where we had been two days ago.

Glassblower at Work photograph

Glassblower at Work

Drop Cap hen we headed up the road a little way to the Lava Glass Gallery, Workshop and Cafe. We had morning tea and looked at the lovely (and very pricey) art glass. I really love good glass but, despite their offer to pack and mail free to Australia, I couldn't justify the expense. But we did pay $5 each to go into the workshop and watch the glassblower at work. This was fascinating. One guy, the owner and chief artist, made two small vases and the other made a couple of larger vases the shape of Mateus Rose bottles, round but flattened. We all found it very interesting, like Dick Francis' book "Shattered".

Glass Water Feature photograph

Glass Water Feature at Lava Glass Gallery

Drop Cap e then had lunch in their café - Mac and I had pumpkin and apple soup while Geoff had another seafood chowder. After taking photos of the lovely glass water feature in their garden we went on a bit further to Wairakei Dam, which we also saw from the river on the Jet Boat.

Huka River photograph

Huka River Before

Drop Cap his dam releases fifteen minutes of water from its floodgates three times a day, creating a massive system of rapids where there is normally a small stream bubbling between enormous boulders. They release the water at 2 pm so we were there to see the phenomenon, along with lots and lots of other tourists. They give plenty of warning, four spaced sirens, before opening the gates. It was really an incredible sight, but to me the most interesting thing was the time it took to fill the river bed and start overflowing. It really looked good and transformed the view completely.

Rapids Rising  photograph

Rapids Rising

Drop Cap fter this my leg started complaining because the way to the viewpoint was quite rough, so we decided to head for home. We are going out to dinner and I want a rest and a shower first. Pedometer reads 2.4 km today, in spite of the stick!

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