Bits between Auckland and Rotorua

The hop-on-hop-off bus that I’m using in New Zealand doesn’t go everywhere that I want to go, so I’m taking a few side trips. The first of which was to the Coromandel Peninsula. I had booked a ferry ticket but due to some slightly dodgy weather the ferry was cancelled and a replacement bus service was put on.

When I arrived in Coromandel Town I had lunch and then had a trip on the Driving Creek Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway and was built pretty much single-handedly. It’s an impressive feat of engineering:

I met a chap who must have been in his 80s and he told me that he’d started backpacking when he was 70 and had visited 46 countries so far. His last trip was to India a couple of years ago and he had been planning on going to west Africa last year but Ebola put paid to that. An inspiring gentleman, and proof that you are never too old!

As the weather for the rest of the day was a bit damp, I just had a wander around Coromandel Town itself. 

Overnight there was torrential rain and it hadn’t  improved by the morning so I wasn’t holding out much hope for Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. However, by the time we had driven over to the other side of the peninsula, the rain and eased off, and after a cafe stop the weather had cheered up a lot.

Hot Water Beach draws crowds of people for a couple of hours either side of low tide who starts digging pools. The water under the sand is hot. And by hot I mean burning. If you dig in the right place, you can dig yourself a very nice spa pool:

After spending about 90 minutes here we drove the short distance to the Cathedral Cove walk. I’d been here 15 months since on the G tour and it was just as spectacular as I remember it:

We got back to Coromandel Town in the late afternoon and I went to see some more kauri trees before getting the ferry back to Auckland.

After a laundry day in Auckland, the following day I hopped back on the Stray bus and headed south to Raglan, and laid back surf town that is how I imagine Byron Bay would have been 30 years ago. No surfing for me this time though, just a chilled afternoon admiring the views

The hostel that Stray usually use in Raglan couldn’t take the whole bus so some of us ended up at a different hostel about 5 minutes up the road. Definitely lucked out with this as I had my own cabin with a double bed – result!! And my best nights’ sleep in almost 2 months.

The next day we went to Waitomo Caves to see some caves and glow worms. I’d been to Waitomo when I was here in 2004 but I went in some different caves this time and we were allowed to take pictures of the glow worms (last time I was here we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the caves). My camera is a bit rubbish, but you can just about see them here:

My eyes could see a whole lot more than this.

After Waitomo, we headed to our overnight stop at a Maori marae in Mourea, on the shores of Lake Rotorua. A marae is a meeting house. We were welcomed into the family and then had dinner (slightly disappointingly not a hangi) before watching a show of traditional dancing and singing. After this the guys in our group learned the haka and the girls learned the art of pui dancing.

Sleeping was interesting as we all bedded down in the meeting house. As there were 37 of us it was certainly cosy!

The next morning was an early start as we had to be in Rotorua by 8am so that people could go to Hobbiton. As I was staying in Rotorua for a couple of days, I went to Hobbiton the following day.

We arrived far too early for me to check into my hostel so I dumped my bags and wandered around Rotorua for the rest of the morning. It smells of rotten eggs here due to the sulphur in all the geothermal activity, but it’s not too bad. In fact the smell isn’t there all the time, and it’s easy to forget about it until you get a sudden whiff of it.

I’ve had 3 days in Rotorua and enjoyed not rushing around. I went to the museum on the first day, Hobbiton on the second day, and yesterday I went to Te Puia geothermal park to see the Pohutu geyser, apparently the tallest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. It erupts a couple of times an hour (compared to Lady Knox geyser, also near Rotorua, which goes off with some assistance as 10am each day), and while I was there it was erupting pretty much all the time.

Today I’m going onto Gisborne for a couple of days before going around the eastern cape.

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