Wow, talk about a fresh night! We drove around for two hours looking for a place to free camp. It’s a bit difficult inland to find legal spots that don’t look dodgy haha! We ended up staying at the back of a hotel carpark which provided overnight camping for a small fee. Turns out this hotel was situated in an alpine village called Opunake, right by Tongariro National Park, where Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings is located. We arrived late afternoon only to see people walking around in fully decked out snow gear carrying all kinds of snow equipment! The night was super chilly, we found ourselves using extra clothes as additional blanket layers. We were voicing our concerns during the night to each other whilst half asleep about being snowed in and not being able to venture on! The morning eventually ticked around, we gazed out the curtains to discover our concerns had not eventuated! We started the day early and left from Opukane at around 7am. It was a chilly 4 degrees celsius! We thought we’d check out Chateau Tongariro on the way to Taupo -and by check out, I mean, do a drive by. We soon decided, since we were right there, why not drive to the top to the ski resort and check it out? We’re glad we did, it was lots of fun, and there was lots of snow around.
We continued around to Lake Taupo. It is so beautiful – so calm, and we couldn’t resist stopping for a bit. As soon as the camper van came to a halt, the wildlife honed in on us! These cheeky, overly curious Black Swans that seemed to patrol the perimeter of the entire lake came to check us out! I felt like I was going through an interrogation with their vocal taunts, death stares, tremendous courage while they wandered right up to my shoe and began nipping at me for being on their turf! We even caught two heading for the open door of our camper van! I grabbed the camera to take some shots of these interesting birds. I didn’t have to zoom in too far! They were right up on me, often times too close to focus! After a decent photoshoot with the lake’s security team we travelled up north into Taupo town where we planned to go straight for the legendary Huka Falls. Seeing this surging torrent of aqua coloured water raging through quite a narrow gap was totally awe inspiring!
We noticed a sign pointing us to ‘Craters of the Moon Geothermal Area’ – so we thought we’d check that out. Turns out it is one of the coolest things we’ve ever experienced! Definitely felt like we were on another planet – or in the dinosaur era! Josh kept saying there was a Tyrannosaurus Rex stalking us. He still is adamant about that!
After the hours of walking through the prehistoric terrain we found ourselves a calm powered sight to camp out near Taupo and had a relaxing afternoon indulging in fresh electricity, fresh water and the beautiful heater!
It was another early start. Our compass was telling us, Rotorua. We were amazed at the amount of geothermal activity everywhere. Seems that Rotorua is powered on geothermal, so the town harnesses earth’s natural, unlimited and clean resources. We stopped on the way a few times to check out plumes of smoke that seemed to be spewing out of many random locations. Our destination for the day was Wai-O-Tapu – awesome geothermal place, where we saw a sulfur fall, the famous champagne pond (pic at top), the devils bath, which was a large pond full of a greenish yellow liquid, and the awesome gurgling mud pools! They were fascinating to watch. Kind of felt like there was some hideous creature lurking beneath the surface getting ready to emerge from the mud!
Onto Rotorua to have a look around on an overcast day. It was nice at the Rotorua lake, and we took a walk around there and marvelled at the vents of steam coming out of geothermal areas even in the main town! The smell is quite like no other too – we wondered if the locals were just used to it, or if you would never get used to it! We decided we wouldn’t camp in the smell haha, so we headed just out of town…
and ended up free camping near Trout Pool Falls, a bit of a drive north from Rotorua. We were first in this lonely little car park right near white water rapids. Soon we noticed kayakers packing up after a rough ride through this energy packed stream. The night was peaceful, we cooked great food, got to sleep early and easily. We woke up to mist everywhere. It must not have been much later than 5.30am. We took a little forest walk through the Trout Pools area, and after a quick breakfast we were off to the next stop! Okere Falls, just around the corner, which is the old hydro power station that first brought electricity to Rotorua in 1901 – there was even a picture of a family photo of that era with an electric kettle in it because they were so proud of the electricity!
We wouldn’t have been able to share posts or photos while we were away if it wasn’t for Wilh-ma – who we used for our internet connection while we were away. If you are going overseas, definitely look them up! They have great rates and quick and friendly service. You can find them through their website or Facebook page.