Rotorua to Lake Taupo

As I have previously mentioned, it’s frustratingly difficult to get around here without a car. My fun German companions from yesterday have all checked out of the hostel, which means I’ve also lost my wheels. I do some mapping to figure out what activities I can get to today, and realize I literally require a car if I want to do anything cool. I’ve never driven on this side of the road, but there’s no time like the present, so I say let’s dooooo this, and rent a car. When I tell my Texan dorm mates about my plan, they decide to tag along which is great because now we can split the cost.

We pick up a rental from the Hertz literally next door to our hostel for $47, and head towards Kerosene Creek. This is an area with a naturally heated creek (obviously) that’s a suitable temperature for swimming.

I’m a little uneasy getting into the car for the first time, and the weirdest part about it is probably that the turn signal switch is on the opposite side, but staying in the left lane is just fine. Within 15 minutes I’m cruising stress-free.

We follow a little trail down along the water until we find a good spot to take a dip. I channel a little Kiwi and go shoeless for the walk. No one here is ever wearing shoes, I swear.
Some parts of the sand in the creek are insanely hot. If you dig down a little it’s unbearable, but the water temperature itself is perfect. Of course, there’s that yucky sulphur smell that comes along with any Geothermal pool, and call me crazy, but I’ve come to like it. It reminds me of beautiful places. Places like this, like Iceland. It’s grown on me.

As have the Texans. They’re tons of fun to be around and we’ve discovered there are millions of other topics besides gun laws!

Next up on our docket is the Lady Knox Geyser. We’re just blindly choosing places to go based on what we can see on Google Maps. There’s so much cool stuff in this area we can’t go wrong.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Some stuff you have to pay for, like this Geyser. Before seeing a price we decide to cap it at $5. Anything more and we’ll find something else to do. Well, it’s a whopping $32.50 for entry to this “Thermal Park”, and thats straight up not even close to within budget, so we move on. Byeeeee!

We decide to take the long drive down to Lake Taupo. We get 200 free kilometres on the car, and Taupo is pushing it a little, but we should still make it there and back under the limit.

We stop at a view point above Huka Falls on the way. It’s got some of the brightest blue water I’ve ever seen un-glaciated. I don’t understand.

Finally we reach Taupo, which is a MUCH more lively town than Rotorua. Rotorua actually has a really weird ghost town vibe. I’m not a fan. Most things are closed on Sundays, which is when I’d expect most people to be visiting? The weekends, no? It’s somehow acquired the nickname “RotoVegas” and while I’ve never been to Vegas…I can promise you it’s nothing like this. Anyway. Taupo makes more sense and is cooler.

We get out for a walk along the path surrounding the lake, and encounter a funny little driving range…aimed out into the water. I’m not much of a golfer (or a golfer at all) but one of the Texans is. He buys a basket of 25 balls for $20 and starts driving ’em out towards this floating dock. There’s a “hole in 1” target, but the staff say it’s only ever reached about once every two weeks. The best part is the scuba diver out there, retrieving balls in his bright yellow helmet. Imagine having that job? Hilarious.

Please note the gator boots!!

The boys are set on buying some Jade jewelry so we find a cute little shop selling everything from necklaces to table ornaments in the shape of kiwi birds. I’m trying to stick to as low a daily budget as I can manage, but I find this really cute Paua shell necklace for $19 so I buy it. Paua can only be found around New Zealand which makes it unique to me, and it’s a super pretty iridescent blue so I can’t help myself.

On the drive back to Rotorua I want to stop at some mud baths, which Google tells me are free. Turns out I totally confused the mud baths with bubbling mud pools, which are not the same. I pictured a mud spa tub where I could relax and slather myself in clay. But no, the bubbling mud pools are way too hot to touch, so we get to admire from behind a fence. It’s a fun stop to make anyway because they’re pretty rad looking.

After the pools we’re getting close to our kilometre limit so we head back to the hostel. We use the car to go pick up groceries from the “Pak n Save”, which I can equate to Costco without the membership fee. It’s hella cheap. We pick up some veg, shrimp, and chicken for dinner and cook two different epic stir frys.

Tomorrow I’m heading back to Auckland for a night, before catching a flight down to Wellington. I love a good city, but it’s clear that the best thing New Zealand has to offer is its incredible nature. I plan to settle in a city but now that I’m an expert left-side driver, I’m thinking I might invest in a car for weekend getaways.

Daily Costs

$47 car rental

$8 breakfast

$20 hostel

$10 for a third’s share of a 24 pack of beers

Free tea/coffee at the hostel

Free entry to Kerosene Creek, Huka Lookout, wandering around Lake Taupo, and Mud Pools.

Total Day Costs $85

(Plus my $20 necklace but that was unnecessary…)

Paid by the Texan boys:

$35 petrol (for half a tank)

$50 dinner groceries

Take me there!

Rotorua – Redwood Forest

After arriving in Rotorua in the late afternoon, I didn’t have much time to do any exploring yesterday. I settled into my hostel, The Spa Lodge (which is mad cute, by the way) and went to a local pub, Pig and Whistle, for some live music in the evening with my dorm mates.
Ohhhh, my dorm mates.
My 8-bed room is mostly German, with the exception of 2 undeniably American Americans. They are like a walking stereotype. Gator skin boots, camo, a tattoo of Texas, star spangled banner swim trunks, the whole deal. After spending a few hours together, one of them pointed out I was the first person they’ve met on the road who didn’t ask them about Trump. I had absolutely zero interest in having that conversation with them, because I knew exactly how it’d go. Having been raised on political discussions around the dinner table, I have developed strong opinions and a love for debate. However, I don’t see this one going well.

We all spent the night dancing and talking about literally everything else, having a grand ol’ time, but once back at the hostel we slipped up, something sparked a discussion, and a heated argument broke loose. One of the Germans acted as a moderator while the Americans and I hashed it out…until 4am. Oops.

So this morning I’ve gotten up to meet the Germans for a hike through the Redwood Forest, unsure of whether or not the Americans and I are still cool. They’re still asleep so I won’t know until later.

Most travellers I’ve met here in New Zealand have rented or bought a car. All the best spots are often far from the city centre and it’s really the only way to get around. Buses can take you between major locations, but otherwise you have to go with a tour package and I have no interest in doing that. Even though the Redwood Forest is relatively accessible from our hostel, there’s a difference of an hour walk or a 5-minute drive. Luckily, one of these guys has a car.

It’s a rainy morning which has brought out the contrasted colours of rusty red and lush green in the forest. I’m not a botanist or anything, but I never expected Redwood trees to grow in the same area as these giant, Jurassic Park-resembling fern trees. It makes for a super interesting trail. Entrance to the park is free, unless you want to follow the hanging bridges that are hung up in one small area of the forest, which looks pretty damn cool, but it’s also $25, so no thank you. We follow the arrows for a 3 hour route, which ends up taking us a little longer because we get lost more than once. I swear someone has stolen some of the arrows off the posts just to confuse us. Rude.

The 3 people I’m hiking with are all lovely. One thing I’ve noticed about German people when traveling is that they are really considerate of the language barrier and will speak to each other in English even when I’m not necessarily involved in the conversation, just to be polite. Usually other people revert back to their native languages which doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but I still think it’s really nice of them to keep me in the loop.

By the end of the hike my legs are pretty tired and I’m dreading how I’ll feel tomorrow. I’m a city walker; flat surfaces only. I can’t handle this incline business. Fortunately, our $20/night hostel has its own geothermal sulphur spa pool! and it’s free!In the morning, before it’s filled

We take a dip to relax when we get back to the hostel, and I run into the Texans. We have a quick awkward like, “heyyyy sorry ‘bout the yelling…I stand by everything I said….but we good? Yeah we good. Good.”

We vow not to talk about it again, though.

Costs for the Day
$20 hostel
$20 dinner
Free park entry
Free ride
Free tea/coffee at the hostel

Total: $40

Take me there!