Days filled with action fly by so quickly that time for reflection and recording is not yet routine. Keeping up with a blog is not easy! I'm very glad that Gina and Kees are both picture snappers extraordinaire, so that some day I might import a few to this blog to help fill in the gaps.
Three days ago we left the lovely town of Matamata and began the short 2 hour drive to Rotorua. Dozens of touristy distractions held no interest for us, such as zorbing, luge rides, expensive spas, gondolas, jet boat rides, etc. The point was to experience the geothermal wonders, but the town has become a Mecca for all sorts of privately owned overpriced oddities, including most of the geothermal sites. We opted for a stroll through a city park first, amply fenced around many steaming vents, bubbling mud pots and bottomless boiling hot springs. The most charming parts were the public foot baths, where anyone could slip off shoes and dangle toes into blissfully warm pools, nicely tiled and conveniently rimmed with wooden bench seats. These pools were sometimes covered like our picnic shelters in Canada, but much cozier, often with lovely views of the surrounding parkland. They made ideal spots for communal chats with anyone who shared the pools. We really enjoyed visits with young families, local seniors, a couple of young travelers from Vancouver and a Kiwi bloke who gave us good advice on sights to see next. We were able to share our recent travel experiences as well, which makes me think that such footpaths would make a fine addition to any place needing a sense of community. Imagine the instant appeal of free warm steamy footbaths at all shopping malls! Add them to all Starbuck's shops as a public service...it's really a shame access to Canada's geothermal wonders are so limited.
Aside from a challenging hunt for a reasonably priced lunch, which really didn't seem to exist in Rotorua, we found no reason to stay in that town. After a walk through a bit of old growth redwoods, we had seen enough. As we headed south towards Taupo, the varied scenery continued to impress and amaze us, from dense glades that the highway tunneled through, to rolling emerald hills with steep valleys that seemed straight out of fairy tale illustrations. We stopped at one river that had some swimmers in it, who were clearly enjoying themselves almost too much. It was at a point where a very hot thermal stream joined a cold one, so pools like perfect baths could be enjoyed by all, under charming overhanging trees. We saw a spot like this again nearer to Taupo, where hot springs joined the Waitomo river. Each time we happily waded in and chatted at length with other travelers.
In the morning we left Taupo, with it's holiday atmosphere not unlike Kelowna, in search of glow worm caves. On the way we found Haka Falls, a pretty diversion of boiling waters, where Lake Taupo drains into Waitomo River. Kees took some fine pictures and movies before we moved on.
Finally, we made it to the famed Waitomo caves, where the only way to see these privately owned wonders are by tour. The Visa card took a hit, but we all loved the magical glow worm caves, seen by boat, and the Arahiu caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites.
A long day of travels led us to an ok motel in Orotahanga and finally some good Internet access, so we could try to catch up on correspondence.