Day 169: A Walk In The Woods

Tues. 29th January 2013

St Faiths churchRotorua was firmly on our agenda from the time we started planning months ago, but now we are here we have a rethink over what to do today. We were expecting to visit areas of thermal activity to see geysers and mud pools etc. but after being blown away with Orakei Korako yesterday we are not sure if any of the other similar places can better it.  We passed Te Puia on our way into town with its large car park and we have seen the adverts making it look too commercialised, so we were not encouraged go back. Alternatively there is Wai-O-Tapu park where the Lady Knox Geyser erupts at 10:15 every day which sounds too contrived. Zorbing, bungy jumping and rail cruising (a Postman Pat car on railway lines) all sound too commercialised or too scary. This is definitely the Queenstown of North Island.

Steam rises in the streetIn the end we begin by going into Rotorua town centre and walk along the lake side where we see black swans and a sea plane, which we were not expecting. Also not in our guide book but mentioned in Trip Advisor is Ohinemutu which was the main centre on the lake and comprises of St Faiths church, an Anglican Tudor style church, a Maori meeting room and a memorial ground for locals who died in action. The side chapel in the church has a huge window etched with Jesus in a Maori cloak who appears to  walk on the water of Lake Rotorua. This area is also a thermal area and water can be seen bubbling up between the paving slabs in the road. The smell of Hydrogen Sulphide everywhere in town reminds us of those chemistry experiments we were not supposed to do! It actually gets quite annoying after a while and all we want is good clean air to breathe.

Ready for a walkAfterwards we head out to visit Whakarewaewa Forest Park which is known for its Redwood trees with a small area set up for either mountain biking or walking. These impressive redwood statues are poised for walking. There are a number of walking trails from 30 minutes to 3 1/2 hours long. There is also a tramping trail of 8 hours which we did not have time for. In NZ it appears that walking is shorter trails and tramping is longer treks especially over a day long, and we never quite get our head around the term tramping.

This could have been for us -not!The mountain biking was on man made tracks and the bikers we saw there were having a great time. One guy paused close to us, took three big breathes before racing up a steep part of the gravel track as fast as he could! There are many manmade paths for varying abilities and we had a look at this Grade 6 path which was well above our expertise. Dave thought some of the paths looked good but it was too scary for me!

Before and afterIn the end we settled on the 31/2 hour walk which goes up to a viewpoint, heads along the ridge of the hill and also get to see the working forest. There are great swathes of land where the trees have been felled leaving bare earth. Some areas look like they have been left bare for quite some time as low level weeds/masses of yellow flowers are beginning to grow.

Big big trees and a little manThe scenery is very varied and it is good that large parts of the walk are through quite dense wooded areas in the shade, as by now it is the middle of the day and the sun is strong (I forgot a hat and burnt my head where my parting is – now I know why Dave is OCD over his cap/hat). We were grateful for these few trees in the middle of a cut down area for some shade. Why the trees have been left standing, we never did find out.

Amazing patterns of light and shadeWe see a few birds but not the pair of local falcons that we have been told are breeding here. At times the only sound we hear is the very noisy unseen insects which sound like crickets. It is good to have a peaceful day walking after the rushing around of the last few days, although it does mean that there is less time to see all the other delights that North Island has to offer.

Blue LakeAfterwards we went to see Blue Lake, which was blue and a lake! Very pretty and good for water sports or swimming but we just spend a while watching before driving the 70km to Matamata where we will be heading off to see Hobbiton tomorrow. NZ is certainly capitalising on the film locations for the Peter Jackson films.

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