Geysers, thermal pools and some Maori history

It’s been a pretty eventful few days. We visited Mount Manganui a few days ago, and the view from the top was pretty special. It’s a fairly quick and easy walk up to the top, it takes round an hour and the view is definitely worth it! After the walk we had a pretty relaxed day, spending most of it at the beach.. It was good to have a bit of downtime after all the activities and things we’ve been doing, and the beach at Mount Manganui is pretty special. A long, white sandy beach with warm, gentle waves, perfect for a swim and a beach nap.

We camped for the night at a free spot – a tip off from the Nottingham girls we’d met at Purangi winery. The campsite was one of the best free ones we’ve seen so far, with free gas BBQ, nice clean flushing toilets and sinks, picnic benches, and lots of grass for the tents. It was so good in fact tht we decided to stay for two nights, as did Emma, Bryony and Steph, and it was cool to hang out with some fresh faces for a while.

In the day between our two free camp nights we headed down to Rotorua, a tourist hotpot that promises all kinds of volcanic activity. We opted for a scenic hike through a redwood forest up to a vantage point where you can see the geyser – a great free alternative to paying the $40 or so entry to see it up close, and a good walk too.

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After the redwood walk we found the old historic Maori part of Rotorua, and after wandering aimlessly for a little while a kindly local man obviously noticed we looked a bit lost and gave us a mini guided tour of the area, including the volcanic spring cooking holes each house has in its garden, as well as the local Maori meeting house. The history of the tribes in the local area was really interesting, and it was brilliant to hear it directly from the lips of a descendant of one of the tribes itself. There was a small giftshop there run by a Maori traditional carver, full of amazing Maori carvings and artefacts, all sadly too large and heavy for a backpacker, but I did pick up a hand carved necklace with a ‘Koru’ pendant. The Koru is a traditional Maori symbol which signifies life, growth and harmony, and more specifically new beginnings – pretty apt for me after my last 12 months!

Maori Meeting House

After leaving Rotorua we headed 30km south, to Waiotapo Thermal Wonderland, a collection of lots of geothermal pools. The entrance fee of $36 dollars seemed a bit steep, but the park was interesting, and was definitely worth the money. The variance in the colours (and smells!) of all of the different pools is due to the different minerals present in each pool. The pools also vary in temperature from room temperature to scalding hot. Probably the most famous of the pools is Champagne pool, which has a bright orange perimeter, and is constantly bubbling with CO2, hence its name.

We’re camped tonight at Matata beach, a nice little campsite with hot showers and only $6 per person. Looking forward to a nice hot shower and washing some clothes after some serious hiking the last few days!