As each new post is added, we are getting more and more worried that we are making things more difficult for those followers not able to have adventures such as this for any number of reasons. So I feel duty bound at the beginning of this our 71st post to reassure myself and you, our readers, of the main reasons we do our blog and, more importantly, keep adding to it.
- It is our diary to look back on. A travel journal I suppose. We find the many anecdotes memorable but with time they will be harder to recall without a prompt. So here is our prompt.
- It is our way of keeping family, friends, fellow travellers and hosts along the way up to date with our JWalking travels and thoughts.
- We enjoy it. Recounting the adventures and encounters of the last few days gives us a good feeling but it is certainly not meant to shout “LOOK AT US”. For those who know us personally, that is just not our style.
So here is the update of the journal/diary for the last few days.
Thunder on the Lake
Taupo is the place to be on the last weekend in January, not only did we have Huey Lewis and the News and REO Speed Wagon performing but we had Thunder on the Lake. Despite being a good band name, this isn’t a rock group. It is the first round of the NZ Offshore Powerboat Series. New Zealand and Australia going head to head. The best place to view was from the Lake Terrace. The teams and promoters had all set up their gazebos along the lake edge and there were families dotted around on blankets and camping chairs. It all kicked off at 1pm and the noise was definitely like thunder and it was quite spectacular to watch. We didn’t have a programme of events and there was no loudspeaker announcements so we didn’t have a clue who was in the lead and thought the event had finished when all the powerboats came to a halt. Afterwards we were told that one boat had flipped over so they had to restart. It was hard to believe that we can been calmly sailing along on the peaceful lake just a few days before. Thunder on the Lake 2016 video.
It was a boiling hot day so nothing for it we headed for the Jolly Good Fellows for a local brew to revive ourselves. Before finishing this “Taupo” section, I cannot go without mentioning the necessity to say goodbye to some trusty, hardworking, longstanding, devoted friends of Jon. His trainers. Taupo had the honour of providing the new, much needed trainers. Those who know Jon well, will be pleased to hear that they are almost identical to the previous pair (which are now in the bin at the bus stop). Try and spot the new ones in one of the photos. Comments please?
Our hosts in Taupo, Leonie and Martin, kindly gave us a lift to the bus stop for our Intercity connection to Rotorua. (Yes, I have forgiven Intercity their past misdemeanors as the service on a little 18 passenger bus was much better.) It was an hour’s ride which was uneventful apart from the increased number of geothermal pools venting steam (and the associated sulphur aroma) as we made our way towards Rotorua. Like Taupo, Rotorua is on the edge of a lake. The lake is not as large as Taupo but the town is much larger and has a large island, Mokoia, in the centre which was formed by a lava dome. It is owned by the Maoiri of Te Arawa iwi and is sacred to them.
We were kindly met by Barbara, our new Airbnb host and welcomed to our lovely self contained accommodation at Grand Views. It even has a little patio and view of the lake. Most visitors to Grand Views have a car so Barbara gave us the run down on the buses and has provided two bikes and helmets (compulsory here) so we can get about a bit easier. We have not had a bike adventure since Cairns back in September so we are happy bunnies.
Next day, off we set for the centre of town. It is about 4 km mostly along the side of a disused railway line. Not far really but our bodies are now finely tuned for uphill walking and the cycling muscles have been neglected. Overall we loved being on the bikes again, the only bugbear being Jon’s cycling helmet. He hates it and must have mentioned it around 50 times. To be fair, it is a little snug for him and they do make you hot but needs must.
Once we got to Rotorua it was time for one of our favourite pastimes, people-watching. We sat and watched lots of tourists rush from their buses to the Lakeland Queen – a version of a paddle steamer that cruises around the lake. Quite picturesque but we decided it was better to watch it go than be on it (not a lot of outside space or windows). When they had merrily set sail we cycled further round the lake to Suphur Point. Aptly named because the shallow water is a yellowy colour of steaming vents and boiling mud pools. Lots of signage saying to stick to the path because of the vented steam and boiling water pools. It looked like a lunar landscape and although the sulphur in the air is fairly strong, it is a more acidic than rotten egg smell.
We then entered Government Gardens and the impressive building that houses the Rotorua Museum. It formerly housed the geothermal hot spring baths/spa which are deemed to have therapeutic properties but the spa is now in a separate building and is somewhat more commercial and expensive (Polynesian Spa).
The Spa is fed by a spring called the Rachel Spring which runs at constant boiling point (212 degrees fahrenheit).
The Gardens themselves were a mix of flower beds, war memorials and bowling greens. We found a number of American tourists walking all over the pristine greens despite the very large KEEP OFF THE GRASS signage. When I challenged them, they said “Oh but we thought people walked on them”. We patiently explained that, yes, people did walk on them BUT ONLY WHEN THEY ARE PLAYING!
After a touch more sightseeing, a little more people watching and a lot more leaflet gathering from the information office, we headed off on the bikes. As we were leaving, we came across some sculpture “Rotorua” style. No, Jon didn’t get his bike from here although when I saw the photos it looked decidedly like he had pinched one.
A great first day exploring in Rotorua. We are pleased it has a different feel to Taupo so that they stand out as individual locations.Time now to study our map and put our leaflets into “Yes”, “No” and “Maybe” piles and plan the few days we have here. To be combined with a lot more wearing (and hopefully photographic evidence) of fetching cycling headgear, of course.
31.1 – 2.2.2016