Being in a volcanic area means that there is a lot of geothermal activity below and above the surface. Rotorua and its surroundings are the best place to catch some of these natural occurring phenomena. We paid a visit to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland which has several of these features packed in their 3 km round walk. The large champagne pool, boiling mud, mineral terraces and of course the distinct smell of sulphurous gas (rotten eggs) all around you.
Next we went to Rotorua for some needed wifi and lunch at Artisan cafe (recommended). And continued our way to Whakarewarewa. As you might notice, a lot of the original Maori names are still in use! Here we paid a visit to the mighty redwood forest.
For the night Siebren stumbled upon a hidden gem. A spa with open air thermal pools with a campsite next to it. The entrance to the pools was included in the camping spot and provided a perfect before sleep activity. The temperatures range from 35°C to 42°C. In the evening the pools are open to the public but in the morning the pools are only open to campers from 6 am to 10 am. Giving the perfect private spot as we wake up early in general.
We drove further north to Mt Maunganui, a beach spot with a hip vibe named after the mountain on the peninsula. It was 26°C outside, sunny, sandy beaches, ice creams and a very relaxed day. We did however have to go to the summit, just 232 meters and a relaxed walk for a change. We find a campsite in Ramarama for the night (another one of those great names).
The next day we reach Auckland, NZ’s biggest city and the place we’ll end our trip. Just not yet. It is a rainy day and therefore probably the best one to spend in a town. Auckland doesn’t appeal to us, we just found a good spot to have dinner, Elliot’s Stables (a bunch of restaurants under one roof where you can order and mix it up). Unfortunately there is another heavy rainy day and we decide to drive up north. And rainy means extreme weather. There is flooding in certain areas and roads and it pours for a couple of hours straight. Not much fun but we try to make the most out of it.
The last three days were more promising, and by now we have reached the north of the north of NZ. Getting here meant driving through city of Kaitaia were I was surprised by a welcome sign in three languages: Maori, English and Croatian. A Google search shows that these three cultures have helped build Kaitaia to what it is today.
Cape Reinga is the North most tip of the North Island. It is sunny, blue and the view gives an end of the world feeling. The Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet here and break together to form waves. Cape Reinga is a sacred place for Maori as they consider it as the jumping-off point for souls as they depart on the journey to their spiritual homeland.
We make several more stops and finally land Pumbaa on the last campground for our final two nights. The intention was just one night, but within 5 minutes after arriving we decided to change it to two. The place is called Bethshan motel, has lovely owners, right on the beach, unlimited use of kayaks, hot showers, wifi, laundry. It’s just 80 kilometers from Auckland and the perfect place to leave NZ. Peace, quiet and nature. We return the car in Auckland after driving a total of 5003 kilometers.
It just ten more days before heading home. The very last leg of this trip is to Fiji. The cherry on top of the cream on top of the six layered pie. Don’t expect too many blogposts. If the weather allows it, we’ll enjoy the sun, sea and read books. Do some culture exploring in one of the few remaining original Fijian villages and mostly relax.