Tuesday 18 Dec
We started out fairly early for Te Urewere National Park, which includes Lake Waikaremoana. After passing through farmlands and small towns, the Forestry started and then the National Park. The first point of interest was Lou's Lookout – a 30 minute climb up through some beautiful forest and under large slabs of rock to an excellent view of the lake.
At Aniwawere was the Visitor Centre, with a large wooden cart used first to help build the power stations, then used in forestry, and also used as a bridge before ending up as an exhibit.
A short walk took us to a lovely waterfall.
A short drive took us to Papakorito Falls which were even more impressive.
After lunch we took a 2-hour return walk to Lake Waikareiti.
This was really delightful through the Beech Forest.
We then had a long winding gravel road for 100km to get to the other side of the park, passing more waterfalls along the way.
and eventually ended up in Rotarua for the night, staying at Aaryn Court Motel. Although basic, this place is cheap and clean, it has free WiFi and a 42oC private thermal pool – very relaxing! We are not very excited to hear that the cyclone which has hit Samoa and Fiji is heading south towards NZ.
Wednesday 19 Dec
The first thing was to go and have another hot soak in the thermal pool at the motel. The temperature was up to 44oC so we couldn't stand it for long...but it really was good. Kuirau Park in central Rotarua is one of the best thermal areas to visit. Although we had been here last time, we came back again, and saw even more than last time. It is just a local park with fenced-off areas...some bubbling mud, some deep clear blue steaming pools, and, of course, it is free to visit.
There were also some really striking roses in the park.
We thought we would get good views of the lake from the top of their mountain, but the top turned out to be a restaurant, deer park, and no view from the summit due to vegetation.
Luckily we were able to get a couple of shots from the road on the way down. When we had driven in the previous evening, Darryl had noticed a steaming area on the right-hand side of the road from Te Puia (the big commercial touristy park which I went to last time to see the geysers), so we set out to find it, and worked out the golf course was set amongst it. Back on the main road, we were able to find a way 'in' to have a look, and found large areas, one with 3 mud 'volcanoes'.
We called in to Redwood, which is a large area where all types of pine trees were planted in 1899 to see which would grow best in central NZ. Radiata turned out to be the winner, and is now to be seen covering many hills, but this area also has many Canadian Redwoods. Although they are not as big as those in their native areas, they are still extremely impressive.
The drive to Whakatane passes several picturesque lakes starting with Rotarua, Rotoiti, Rotehu, Rotoma and some smaller ones, so it is a lovely trip.
At Whakatane we booked into Pacific Coast Motor Lodge – it is exceptional!