Monday, 24 December 2012

New Zealand - Post 7

Thursday 20 Dec

We started on some of the many walks around Whakatane. The first was a loop track – Mokoroa reserve through the forest – it had LOTS of steps. Next we walked out to Kohi Point Headland – the Toi Pa is one of the oldest in New Zealand. 

The locals here are very friendly and helpful. After some lunch beside the river mouth we drove east to Opotiki. 

Initially, it looked like there was pretty much nothing to be seen, but the i-Site guy pointed us to an interesting suspension walking bridge, and then a Reserve which had lots of native trees including a 2000 year old burial tree (where Maori had buried the bones of their ancestors until they were exposed by a big storm, when they relocated them). 

At night we drove over the headland to Ohope Beach and went Kiwi hunting. Unfortunately, we didn't hear or see any, but there were lots of lovely glowworms lighting our path. It was a huge day - 17 hours and I walked 22280 steps (Darryl would have done a few more as he walked down a track at Kohi Point.

Friday 21 Dec – the End of The World! ;-)

What better activity for the 'End of the World' than a boat trip out to White Island, an active volcano, on the vessell Pee Jay V. We had been tossing up whether or not to do it, but it was excellent. The boat took about 1 hour 20 minutes to get to the island, where we were shuttled in on an inflatable. We were handed hard-hats and gas masks (which I thought was a bit dramatic – until I had to use it!). 

The place had amazing colours, with lots of sulphur giving yellow and orange hues, then other parts had pink rocks, and some looked quite green. There were large sulphur mounds, which we were warned not to walk on as they could collapse down, boiling mud pools, sulphur spouts with Sulphur dioxide and Carbon dioxide in the steam pouring out and bright yellow sulpur crystals all around. 

We were able to walk right up to the edge of the crater lake, which has dropped substantially, one of the reasons the volcano is currently on a Level 2 alert. You can see the live webcam at – look for the little yellow dots that are the safety helmets of tour participants. Then it was down to the bay to view the remains of the Sulphur Mining operations, before embarking back to Whakatane. On the way back we came across large schools of Bluefish, which really were bright blue, and were gulping air at the surface of the ocean, and then a huge pod of common dolphins which seemed happy to play with us for a while. 

The skipper circled us around a few times so everyone could get a good view. Once back on shore we drove to Tauranga for the night, and stayed at Ambassador Motor Inn.
Saturday 22 Dec

Leaving Tauranga and heading for Hamilton, we stopped at McLaren Falls Park. This is a georgous park with a lovely waterfall, tracks, open grassed areas, lakes, with lots of birds, camping facilities (including lovely toilet and shower facilities). It would be a great place to camp at only $5 a night. Next we came into Matamata where the i-Site looks like a “Lord of the Rings” building. 

Down the road was Hobbiton - slept in the car while I went in on the tour. You get taken by a 1950s vintage bus onto the film set (which they said covers around 10 acres). 

I could not believe how many Hobbit houses they had created...and there were lots of props with tiny clothes on clotheslines, letterboxes, tiny beehives, even vegetable gardens and fruit trees. 

The set was used for the filming of all three Lord of the Rings movies, and more recently for The Hobbit. 

The walk around Hobbiton culminated at The Green Dragon where we were treated to Hobbit Beer beside the fireplace (although the day was so warm, that was a bit of overkill). 

We arrived in Hamilton, and made our way to the Ascot Lodge Motel, (very retro, seems like 1950's style, but clean and we have 2 rooms, and it IS cheap), which will be our home until Boxing Day.
Sunday 23 Dec

We took a short trip to Te Aroha. We loved this place the first time we visited it in 2005, and it didn't fail to impress again. The Mokena Soda Geyser was not really spurting to its full splendor, but I saw it 3 times (it goes off approx. every 40-45 minutes). We did a short walk to see 3 lots of waterfalls – Crusher, Quarry and Tutmangao – along what it known as Horsemans Track, then at a junction I headed back down to the Domain, while Darryl continued up to the Summit of Te Aroha Mountain. 

We then continued along to Wairongomai Valley to walk up to the old gold mining areas. There are batteries, races, and an old railcart track. 

The Tui Mine, which we had visited last time, is closed for works.
Monday 24 Dec

We woke to heavy rain, which had been predicted 2 days ago, but finally arrived. This meant a very slow start to the day. After an early lunch we visited Hamilton Museum. I had not remembered that we had been to it before, until I saw the waka (Maori Canoe). We spent a few hours looking at exhibits and reading some history books, before going to the Library, where I did some genealogical research. Hamilton is a very pleasant place to be, there are beautiful trees along the Waikato River. Apparently this is also the birthplace of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show', and has the Riff Raff statue.

We did a little shopping for Christmas then headed home to our motel.

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