On this scenic drive, we stopped off at a landmark known as Craters of the Moon. It is a part of the country with thermal activity under the ground that causes craters and pools (that was a really poor description). Anyway, a 40 min hike took us around the craters, which indeed looked like you would imagine the moon looks like. They were all steamy and you could hear the boiling water underneath the surface. I thought it looked like a bomb had just hit and we saw the after effects. Or the perfect setting for a Star Wars movie. Really cool.
We stopped off at a cafe which also boasted thermal pools. Paid $9 each to walk on their private trail, which turned out to be more mud than anything and a pool or 2 that had dried up. Oh well.
We learned our lesson and drove on to Rotary, which is known for its hot springs and volcanoes. We were warned the whole place smelled of eggs and that we should probably skip it. But we went anyway. Maybe it was the time of year, or the temperature or something. But it wasn't bad at all. We detected a bit of eggs, but not enough to skip town.
Grabbed some lunch at a small, unassuming cafe. Gotta tell you the bagel sandwiches there gave NYC a run for its money! We rolled out of there and wandered around the town which had loads of shops, souvenir stores, etc. Then we hit the supermarket. This has become my favorite past-time since we live on wheels. I love looking for the perfect camper van snacks and meals. Funny, we buy the same stuff every time. But I still like to make it an adventure. Surprisingly, L wants to be in and out as quickly as possible. I usually win, especially when there's pic n' mix to be had!
Found another Top 10 campsite just outside of town. Had a nice, quiet evening, a light dinner and got to watch the first (and probably last) episode of Gray's Anatomy in the tiny TV room. Great show. Could be a new favorite. Shame we won't get to see any more.
Next day we drove to the cable car. Very popular spot in Rotary because of the luge that takes you down. We bought 3 rides each. First ride, you have to take the easy, scenic route. The others you can choose from intermediate or advanced. First ride was indeed scenic and leisurely. Second and third rides were more like a Nascar competition for us as we tried to pass and outdo each other at top speeds. I managed to pass L once on a narrow bend but lost control almost immediately thereafter and he passed me again with a grin on his face. He won both times, though I was close. Did I mention you're not meant to race on these tracks?
We then headed to Te Paui, a Maori cultural park. Decided since we saw how the Aborigines lived in Australia, we might as well experience the Maoris in NZ. This place was so much cooler than Tjabouki. We missed the free show by about 5mins. Darn. But we piggybacked on a tour, which took us through the woodcarving factory. Maori carvings are easy to spot as they all look similar. Lots of asymmetrical curves, points and faces with their tongues out. Also very detailed in that an average 1m carving can take up to 6 months to complete working on it full time! Very cool.
We then saw a makeshift Maori village, some of their homes built underground to take advantage of the heat from the springs in the area. The food, though is stored in a small house on stilts to keep it dry and fresher longer.
Then we saw the mud pools and the geysers. The mud pools were bubbling and the geysers erupting as we walked through the grounds, full of steam. We were disappointed at first as the geyser was only spurting water. But about 10 mins later, it erupted and the water sprang up to about 10m! I've never seen Old Faithful but this was very cool! Also saw what looked like a spa, where apparently they used to boil their food.
We also met up with one of the Irish girls we met on our Fraser Island trip in Australia (Ciara). We had emailed each other, so we knew she would be in the area. It was nice to catch up with her again and we shared our adventures since we last parted ways.
We were going to get together that night for drinks but decided we were all too tired so we stayed in the van. It also poured rain that night and we were happy we didn't get stuck in town. L and I were perfectly happy with a bottle of wine and cards in the van.