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Hey guys, what’s popping?!
Do you know what it feels like to be a hamster?? I do now! Well, kind of… But let me start from the beginning…
We went to explore the youngest geothermal system in the world, “Waimangu Volcanic Valley”. It got formed by a volcanic eruption in 1886. Its last eruption was the third eruption of the “Waimungu Geyser” in 1973. Pretty scary, right? Not too far away! But enough history! It was super cool walking through this area, seeing so much activity! There was steam all around you coming from all different sorts of natural bodies! Some of those were super pretty, showcasing some colourful terraces!
Unfortunately, it was quite misty, which made the hike up Mt hazard not specifically worth it! It is definitely nothing for smaller people either, since you could not even see one of the craters called “fairy crater”, which was just completely concealed by ferns and trees from our viewpoint 😀 Ah well, it was a good exercise. We walked about 7,5km in total and took the return bus from Lake Rotomahana, that would usually give you nice views of Mt Tarawera, an active volcano, but since it was still misty, the volcano seemed to be smaller than expected 😛
We didn’t stay around the lake for long anyway, since we literally had to run to catch the bus in time, just to realize that the Kiwi’s are so laid back that my “always – on -time- Germanness” is absolutely unnecessary. We left with a 20-minute delay! Mostly because the driver still had a little chat with me about the special kind of German “humour” that people from NRW (my home state) have: always too serious and always in working – mode 😛 It’s true! And since it’s the state I grew up in, I’m allowed to make fun of it! 😀
We left the park just in time before it started pouring down! Soo, we decided to jump into a massive hamster ball called “Zorb” instead. I always wanted to be a hamster! Why not ?! 😛 It is the fastest “Zorb” in the world! Only flaw: it was freeeeezing cold outside and we had to get in there in our bathers! Luckily, the ball was filled with nice warm water! To get in, we had to jump in like Superman! It didn’t look as elegant as expected though since we both got stuck halfway through 😛
But it was super comfy in there, like a little spa… until they opened a gate and we started rolling down a massive hill. The water got everywhere and Kelsey almost drowned… Don’t worry, she’s fine! 😛 It was so much fun! You just had absolutely no idea where left and right was until you reached the bottom of the hill… where they made you get out into the freezing cold again!!
You know, sometimes you get lonely while travelling… that’s why the Rotorua Redwoods forest is the perfect place for you! You can just wander around hugging as many Redwoods as you want, but I bet you’ll never be able to fully wrap your arms around one since their trunks can get massive!
We walked around for 2 hours, changing our walking track twice as it started going uphill only 😛 But we finished a 5,6 km walk, which is not too bad, I guess! Even in here you still smell the rotten eggs, although it is advertised as fresh air… I guess, one day people living here just got used to the smell… I couldn’t live here, I think…
People in the “Whakarewarewa Maori Village” on the other hand won’t get lonely for sure! It’s a fully living village, open to tourists. About 60 people are living there, welcoming tourists with open arms, since we keep their lifestyle alive. The government wanted to stop them from living their language and habits but soon realized that it is actually a good way to lure people into the area. It’s sad, but the people here seem to have fun still entertaining us and showing us around.
We joined a guided tour with Rob and soon realized that we missed our cultural performance which was an hour earlier, which we didn’t know about. Luckily, we got a second chance though and they let us come back on Saturday.
The tour was super interesting. First of all, I finally learned how to pronounce “Whakarewarewa”. It is pronounced: “Fakarewarewa”, with a rolled “r”. But, guess what?! That’s not the full page of the book! The full name is “Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao’”!! Good luck pronouncing that!
People here are super friendly, although the war dance “Haka” gives a different impression. “Kia ora” is their greeting, meaning “good health”. The whole village is a big family, everyone sticks together, so that “house hopping”, checking out the best dinner options is not even uncommon. “Coin diving” is the kids’ favourite activity here. Which means basically diving for the coins that the visitors throw in their river. Of course, they keep the money afterwards 😛
Another common tradition is naked bathing in one of their hot pools. They’ve got geothermal pools and active, regularly erupting geysers all around, allowing them to heat their homes and make their own baths. Well, after the water is cooled down of course, cause I don’t think you wanna be bathing in 180 degrees?! 😀
People here are so close, they all go bathing together naked, which might seem weird to us, but normal to them! They cook their food using the hot pools and use it as skin – and body therapy too. But of course, there is a whole other story to the geothermal activity out here. Growing food is basically impossible since you can’t dig without reaching mud or steam and an eruption could occur anywhere. At one point, half of their village had been caved by an eruption… You live at risk every day, but people don’t seem to worry much about it. Our guide said that he wasn’t worried because no one will be able to escape a volcanic eruption anyway. If it’s gonna happen, it’s going to be horrific!
I for sure don’t have any doubt in that after seeing the massive active volcano on “White Island” about 50ks from New Zealand’s shores!! But they kept it quite intense about whether or not we would actually be departing, due to sea conditions. Cause, what I haven’t told you is that you can only reach White Island by boat or helicopter. Well, I chose the boat. Either way, I knew my motion sickness wouldn’t like this. And so did it happen that I got all the attention again that I didn’t want. The sea was rough though! The motion sickness definitely ruins quite a lot, but it sure as hell can’t stop me to explore New Zealand’s most active volcano and to tick that off my bucket list!
The volcano was for sure different from what I expected. From the outside, it looked like a clear cone – shape, but due to several eruptions and landslides, including one smaller one this year and a bigger one last year, the shape and structure had changed quite a fair bit! So yes, it is an active volcano and yes, an eruption could occur anytime without a warning! That’s why they made us wear hard helmets and gas maks. Additionally, they gave us lollies to stop us from coughing too much.
It felt amazing walking on an active volcano. You could see a lot of steam, a lot of sulfates and mud pools and hot springs. The main hot spring has a PH number of -4, which is not even part of the scale anymore and means it is highly acid! That’s why they kept us well away from there. Still, they let us taste volcano liquids: the purest spring water you could find anywhere. With a PH number of 0.2, it tasted like battery though. Don’t ask me why I know how battery tastes 😛
Believe it or not, but people actually used to work here, they used to mine sulfates and make those into powder, which would then be shipped away. One guy even lived on this island for 8 years straight!! Unfortunately, a big landslide in 1914 destroyed their factory and killed all 10 workers. The only survivor was a cat called Peter, which is now seen as a lucky symbol…
On the way back, we saw some fur seals and I clearly felt better than on the way in. That definitely makes up for not seeing the dolphins on the way in, due to my seasickness.
Well, if you ever get the chance, I can highly recommend exploring that volcano. I can only repeat it once more: If you really want something, you’ll find a way, if you don’t want it, you’ll find an excuse. There was a 70+ old lady walking over rocks, climbing over boulders etc… You’ve got absolutely NO excuse not to do it! Nothing is impossible!
I’m definitely glad that we got another chance to see the Maõri performance! Beautiful songs and dances! The most impressive one was the well most famous one: the Haka. It’s a war dance, where every little detail of your body, including eyes and tongue are used to intimidate the enemy. Another impressive dance was one where they used sticks they constantly swapped around by throwing them to each other. Didn’t always work out, but still super impressive!
In the afternoon, we conquered Mt Maunganui in Tauranga, 232m high and super steep. Climbing up wasn’t easy, but we made it and got rewarded by 360-degree views over Tauranga and its beaches. There was also a few people paragliding around the mountain. There were rumours that one of those guys got caught up somewhere, but seemed to be fine and was about to be rescued.
It’s not really my thing though: beaches and stuff… I’m still more the type of person who enjoys extraordinary places, like the outback geothermal areas!
The only exception might be “Hot water beach”, part of the Coromandel Peninsula. At low tide, you can dig a hole until you reach the hot springs and Voila: you’ve got your own spa! It was sooo comfortable sitting in there, even just with your feet! Only in New Zealand!
The way up there was hell though! My average speed was about 35, cause it was sooo windy! Oh, and next to you was this cliff edge… unfenced of course!
Back in the caravan park, I found a new travel mate! A black cat was one of the residents and seemed to like me a lot. Well, it was definitely mutual! I named her “Karma”… cause she is a black cat, you know… 😛 She clearly loved sleeping in my van! I didn’t pinch her, I swear 😛 But I should have kept her… who needs a boyfriend, when you have a cat cuddling with you 😛
The second beach exception is “Cathedral Cove Beach”. It’s a 2.5km one-way walk down to the beach, where you can find a little cathedral-like cave, which I was quite glad about, since it was raining, of course, when we went down there. The view out of the cave is absolutely stunning! You gotta watch your feet though since the tide was coming in! Oh, and your head, because there might be a few rocks landing on your head otherwise 😛
Well, of course, I ended up getting my feet wet, which is why I didn’t care anymore about my whole body getting wet when Kelsey told me you couldn’t stand on the log underneath that little waterfall down there and I saw that as an accepted challenge! I was soaked afterwards, but it was worth it! So, I tested a few of my photography skills on my model Kelsey and we took off: another 2.5ks uphill. But guess what, it stopped raining!!! If someone asks me whether or not I believe in Karma, I can clearly say: oh yes, I certainly do!!
Funny, how the sun was shining the whole way to Paeroa, our next stop and as soon as we reached our destination, clouds started forming again… Coincidence?! 😀
Paeroa is the “L&P” birthplace. New Zealand’s own soft drink, which is basically mineral water with lemon, advertised on the bottle as “good lemony stuff” 😀 It doesn’t taste too bad. Tastes a bit like the lemon “PEZ”, if someone can remember them?!
Paroa’s second attraction is “Karanghake Gorge”, which offers a couple of waterfalls and a lot of history. To get to these waterfalls we had to walk 9.2ks return along the Gorge’s edge!! But it was kinda worth it!
We would have missed the falls if we hadn’t asked a guy about it though! Signage is not the best out here, you know 😛 On the way back we even found a super spooky tunnel, which we ended up not entering. I swear it’s haunted!! As soon as we got closer, the temperature dropped massively! Isn’t that a sign of supernatural activity??
Time went by so quick and after one and a half weeks of travelling, it was time to drop Kelsey back off in Auckland… Another goodbye… See, that’s the hard part about travelling that no one talks about, but I’m gonna write a separate blog post about that!