When friends lent us a car we could explore on our own and our first trip was to Lake Taupo via Rotarua and the Huka Falls.
As we entered Rotarua we could smell the hot springs which throw steam up from the pavements and gardens. Lake Rotarua is the largest in the district with windsurfing, kayaking and fishing for trout being allowed. Moaoia Island is in the centre of the lake, has walking tracks and can be reached by boat. We followed the sign to the geyser park (Whakarewarewa), where boiling mud and erupting geysers can be seen and where the Maori Tribe displaced by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 now live, but then noticed a sign going off to the “Buried Village” so we decided to detour. On the way we came across a “Duck Jam” when a family of ducks decided to cross the road.
We had every intention of touring this site, but just as we arrived it started to pour with rain, so we looked round the Interpretive Centre, souvenir shop then went to their café and had morning coffee. It was still raining when we had finished this snack, so we gave the tour a miss, but picked up a brochure.
When the volcano Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886 the Maori village of Te Waiora was buried, along with 8,000 sq. kilometres of the scenic countryside. Excavations carried out since 1931 by three generations of the Smith Family have revealed some buildings and the museum tells the story of the village. You then venture round the excavated areas through bush to the stream and 30 metre Te Wairere Falls. Admission is NZ$22 per person, with complimentary guided tours.
Back tracking to Rotarua we stopped at the beauty spot of the Blue & Green Lakes.
Green (Rotokakahi) Lake so called as it looks emerald green from the air due to it being shallower than Blue Lake, has a sandy bottom and is named for the abundance of shellfish. It flows to Lake Tarawera (which is 322 ft lower) via the Te Wairoa waterfalls. Being sacred to the Maori it is very peaceful. It is 1302 ft above sea level and 69ft below the level of Blue Lake.
Blue (Tiki Tapu) Lake is almost circular with no apparent inlets or outlets and is a volcanic caldera formed 2000 years ago. This lake is home of the legendary monster Taniaha. From the air this lake appears turquoise due to the reflection of white phyolite and pumice on the bottom.
On our way again, we passed Huka Falls. From the overlook we were able to watch the Hukajet jet boats approach the edge of the falls and do a quick spin spraying water all over the passengers.
Lake Taupo with a surface area of 616 square miles is fed by rivers coming from the mountains and is the result of a volcanic eruption in 186 AD. Cliffs overlook part of the lake with snow capped volcanic cones on the southern side. The country’s largest river – the Waikato – running out of the lake, together with the rivers running into the lake, runs hydro electric power generating schemes. All rivers and lakes are teeming with trout and offer good fishing to all anglers. Among other activities on offer are water skiing, windsurfing and yachting.
As it was the week before Christmas, everywhere was decorated. There were models of Santa Claus in swim shorts decorating street lamps, in one town adults and children dressed as Santa Claus and his Elves were going round the shops handing out sweets to everyone, teenagers were carol singing. All this seemed weird to us as it was so hot and sunny – instead of cold and snowy!!