|By jumping in the middle of a river....
Well so far 2010 has been "Sweet as" (kiwi slang for awesome). I did literally jump into the middle of a river during a white water rafting trip down the Kaituna and shot through some rapids snapping pictures with one hand and trying not to drown while swimming with the other. But I am ahead of myself.
The week started out with a trip to Whakatane to go on a charter dive trip to White Island. The only active volcano in New Zealand. It is about 50 km off shore, the weather was perfect and the dolphins joined us for part of the ride out. The pod had to have been at least a hundred or so. As we approached White Island I could see the steam rising from the crater. Awesome! We dove the first site called Homestead Reef and the most memorable part was kneeling on the sand at 70 feet deep and having the blue maomao surround me in a tornado like tunnel. We then cruised the island and the landscape is like something you would picture on the moon. The second dive, at Spanish Arch, was better then the first - a swim through, large crays, stingrays, kingfish, scorpion fish and so much more. Another pod of dolphins joined us for the ride back to the marina. Sweet as!
The following day it was off to Rotorua - a lake and geothermal area that is a huge tourist attraction. I wanted to hit only the highlights, so it was off to Raftabout for the white water river adventure down the Kaituna River. We navigated 14 rapids rated up to Grade 5 including a 21 foot water fall. This is where at one point the guide said anyone interested to swim the next rapid jump in. Well... in I went, for a frigid dip and an adrenalin rush swimming over the rapids. Sweet as!
That afternoon found me enjoying a much more laid back activity at the Waikite Thermal Pools. The water bubbles out of the ground at 98 degrees celsius and they cool it down to 36-42 degrees celsius and fill a bunch of different pools. I went for a eco walk and a nice long soak. Sweet as!
The following morning I was booked into the Polynesian Spa. I started out in the Lake Spa Pools soaking in the high mineral content hot water for about an hour. This was topped off with a spa treatment - Rotorua Mud Bath and Massage. Hard to leave town after that. Sweet as!
I then set out on a nice long drive around the East Cape and East Coast. A very remote area and one of the most spectacular drives so far. I hugged the Pacific Coast Highway most of the way and was constantly blown away by the beauty of it all. I stopped for the night in a little town called Te Kaha and marvelled at their ability to grow the coolest hedges and also caught a marvelous sunset. Sweet as!
The next day I continued on and was forced to slow down and enjoy the ride in spite of my need for speed. There are numerous "One Way" bridges and highway areas that fit only one car and it is for traffic in both directions and sometimes even the Trains too! I also ran into a few East Cape Traffic Jams. (see photos). I made a stop at The Nut House for Macadamia and Honey Ice Cream and lazed around Whanarua Bay for a while in the midday sun. I stopped in Te Araroa for some fresh Manuka Honey for my morning tea and to visit Te Waha o Rerekohu - the worlds largest Pohutukawa Tree (a.k.a. the New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it blooms bright red around December) - this one had no flowers, but was still massive and very impressive. I continued on to Tikitiki for a stop in at St. Mary's Church (yes I was searching hard for things to do by this point) to check out the Maori architectural design and craftsmanship. Quiet, peaceful, meditative. Dinner in Tolaga Bay and then down to Waikanae Beach in Gisborne for some sleep. No sooner had I checked in (read parked my Spaceship) then the sirens started and the helicopters started flying overhead. There was a huge fire burning out of control headed straight for the Holiday Park! I spent the next couple of hours watching and waiting for the evacuation orders - they finally got the fire under control around midnight and I managed a few hours sleep. Sweet as?
I just pulled into Napier where I am spending the night. In the morning I will decide to hang or head out? The plan is to get down to Wellington in the next day or so and catch the ferry to the South Island. At least that's the plan. One day at a time.
Peace and love to all,