Day 8 Saturday 22 February – Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington

We left Rotorua this morning in the light misty rain, travelling through a region that is abundant with geothermal activity – the cooler weather meant there was more steam visible.  We headed south, and dropped down off the volcanic plateau, past the Kaingaroa Forest, filled with beautiful Douglas Fir trees and Radiata Pine trees.

We crossed the Waikato River and saw the hydro-electricity cooling tower through the mist and further on, we saw the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station.  Interestingly, because of the warm thermal water, huge tropical prawns are harvested from this area.

The Waikato developed into one of New Zealand’s major electricity producing rivers, supporting 8 hydroelectric stations and providing cooling water for 3 other stations, 2 of them geothermal and 1 thermal.  The Waikato River System produces about 15 per cent of New Zealand’s power but the North Island still has to get an extra 30% of its electricity needs from the South Island – big poles carry the power up to Auckland.

We stopped at the Huka Falls, which is on the thinnest part of the Waikato River.  Huka means white, which is very apt because the water thundering over this small area of the river was indeed very white.  Although they are referred to as “falls”, they are long rather than high falls.

While we were there, we experienced fine misty rain, which followed us on to Lake Taupo. At 613 square kilometres, Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand and is a great trout and fly-fishing area.  We stopped here for morning tea and by the time we were ready to head back to the coach, the sun had started to come out and we were able to get a few reasonable photos of this beautiful lake.

As we drove back out onto the highway, we met several hundred people running around the lake for charity – they spread out over several kilometres.

We continued our journey, travelling south across the vast volcanic plateau of World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park – 36,000 hectares – stopping to take photos of Mt Ruaphehu – 797 metres, Mt Ngauruhoe and the Kiamanaiwa Mountain Ranges.  This section of road is referred to as “the Desert Road” because of the very harsh conditions – hot and dry in summer, snow and ice covered and extremely windy in winter – very few plants can survive these extreme conditions. The Desert Road is often closed in winter because it is too dangerous.

We had lunch at Taihape and wandered through the shops in the sunshine, before continuing our journey south passing through a town called Bulls.  As we approached the town, we saw a sign saying “Bulls – a town like no udder” and then within the town there were more “tongue in cheek” type signs:  Pharmacy – Indispens-a-bull; the RSL – Socia-bull; the bank – Bank-a-bull; the toilets – Relieve-a-bull and even the police station got into the act with Const-a-bull.

We continued our journey to Wellington, the national capital, with a population of 395,600 people.  It is located on the southwestern tip of the North Island between Cook Strait and the Rimatuka Range.

We arrived in Wellington at about 4.30pm after Malcolm had taken us for a drive around the city, pointing out many interesting landmarks.  We checked into our hotel and discovered that they could not fit the four of us into the restaurant for dinner, so we went for a walk and found an interesting looking Belgian Beer Café, called the Leuven, and decided to have dinner there.  We had a delicious meal and went for a wander around the harbour area before coming back to the hotel.

We travelled through very diverse terrain today – geothermal, volcanic, lush forests, flat farming areas, arid “desert”, lakeside areas and rivers.

We have experienced a strange day weather-wise – we started off in quite cool misty rain, then warm sunshine, more misty rain and then when we arrived in “Windy Wellington” it was fine, clear, cool and windy.

After a busy but enjoyable day today and the prospect of an early start tomorrow, we are having an early night tonight.


One Response to “Day 8 Saturday 22 February – Rotorua, Taupo, Wellington”

  1. Janet says:

    Hey Mum, for some reason I love the photo of you leaning on the pole/sign thing. Makes me want to go travelling with you and Dad again. Maybe one day when Ella’s a bit bigger. I still have plans of us all (including Katharine, Steve & Patrick) having a white Christmas together, somewhere like Lake Tahoe! 🙂

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