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Tuesday 27th Jan
Now that we had the car it was time to spread our wings. We decided to go for a swim near Opotiki before it got too hot and then to explore the scenic area in Waioeka Gorge south of Opotiki. The car had other ideas - a tyre on the rear was decidedly flat so the first port of call was the garage for the puncture to be repaired. One hour later than planned we arrived at the beach and took to the water. It was warm once the critical bits had been submerged. All went well until a rather large wave took us both off our feet - we weren't quite so keen to swim after that.
Next port of call was the Marawaiwai reserve and then onto Tauranga Bridge and a three hour loop track. We managed about a quarter of the loop before the heat got the better of us, so we returned to the car only having completed half the distance. If we had gone the full circuit we would have had to cross the stream twice on the return leg. Christine gallantly demonstrated her ability to do this!
Wednesday 28th Jan
We decided to spend a day in the Rotorua area. Firstly we went to Waimangu to see some of the hydrothermal and volcanic activity which was the result of the 1886 eruption. The most recent small eruption occurred in 1973. Fortunately everything continued bubbling away as normal while we were there.
We next travelled to the Blue and Green Lakes just south of Rotorua and finally journeyed to Okere Falls Scenic Reserve where we walked along the river to see the spectacular waterfalls.
Thursday 29th Jan
A leisurely day to finish off our week in Whakatane. After a shopping expedition in the morning we spent the rest of the day with Eileen. We ventured out for a walk in the afternoon but otherwise spent time looking at old photos. It is surprising what you can find on the other side of the world!
Friday 30th Jan
After saying our final farewells to Eileen we journeyed towards Rotorua and firstly visited the Hells Gate thermal area. There was a heavy smell of sulphur in the air and the site contained many pools of bubbling mud and water that had temperatures approaching and above boiling. From there we moved on to Tutea Falls to have our lunch and this time we were lucky enough to see the rafts coming down the falls. My attempts to get a photo of this failed but I did manage to take a video of the event.
After lunch we moved on to the Huka falls near Taupo and then into the motel at Taupo where we relaxed for 30mins in a thermal pool (39C - very warm but lovely)
Saturday 31st Jan
We went for an early morning walk down to the thermal springs that feed into the Waikato River on the outskirts of Taupo. Some people were already having a hot bath. We then went up the road a short way to the Craters of the Moon, another geothermal area - mainly steam this time and then on to Turangi stopping alongside Lake Taupo at Hatepe for lunch.
The afternoon was very hot (32C) and we were searching for shade. Firstly we tried Lake Rotopounamu a beautiful spot reached by a short shady walk up in the hills. Then after an afternoon cuppa we moved on to the marina at Tokaanu at the southern end of Lake Taupo where we spent a pleasant and interesting hour bird spotting with our newly purcased book of NZ birds. The accommodation tonight is very basic - only a small hut with a bed, one chair and a bit of a shelf. All facilities are communal but fortunately close.
Sunday 1st Feb
The stars in the middle of the night were magnificent - I would have stayed out longer if it hadn't been for the fact that I only had my boxer shorts on and was afraid that someone might report me for indecent exposure!
We made our way across to the Tongariro National Park and in particular the village of Whakapapa. Just before the village we went on a walk to the Tawhai Falls and also from here we had a great view of Mount Ruapehu (2797m). After a couple more short walks in Whakapapa we carried on up the mountain to the village of Iwikau from where we used two ski lifts to reach the highest cafe in NZ at 2050m. We then walked over the scree to the snow returning to the cafe to buy tea. We had just about finished our cuppa when they announced that due to high winds the cafe was closing and everyone would have to leave the mountain. So back on the first ski lift to the half way point. By now the wind was so bad that they decided to close the lower lift so we had to descend (with escorts) on foot to Iwikau. Once back in the village we ventured onto the ridge called Meads Wall (Lord of the Rings fame) but the wind was blowing so strongly that we had difficulty standing.
And then on to the campsite at Taumarunui where we have another "standard cabin" - fortunately the standard is much higher than last night.
Monday 2nd Feb
The trip today from Taumarunui to Inglewood used a route called the Forgotten World Highway; 150kms of road through New Zealand's pioneering past, very isolated countryside and richest landscape with a warning at the start to say that there were no petrol stations for the whole of the route. We were prepared for this and had already topped up. Sections of this road were also unsealed or "metalled" as they call it out here. These sections were surprisingly good and level without too much loose gravel so we were still able to keep up a reasonable speed (30mph-ish). Some of the places we visited along the way included lookouts over beautiful countryside made up in part of unique hillocks or bluffs (the result of volcanic activity in the past). We also stopped at the grave of Joshua Morgan who died at the age of 35 - an intrepid explorer who helped to blaze the trail for the road through the Tangarakau Gorge which forms a large part of the route we were travelling. Eventually we arrived at Stratford - a town to the east of Mount Taranaki (2500m) - and stopped for a while to look at the clock with its mechanical portrayal of Romeo and Juliet and excerpts of the play sounding out over loudspeakers on the hour. It was then only a short distance to Inglewood and the home of Barry and Frances with whom we are spending the next two days - they made us extremely welcome.

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Page updated 4th February 2009