BootsnAll Travel Network

Mud, glorious mud

Katie had us up at 6.30am by mistake, bless her. We had planned to go to the buried village near Rotorua but couldn’t get any transport so we decided to go to a place called Hell’s Gate instead. Said buried village was buried by a volcanic eruption in 1886. The same eruption also destroyed the Pink and White Terraces which were said to be the 8th wonder of the world. Hell’s Gate is an extensive area of volcanic activity with lots of boiling pools and blobbing mud and fumaroles emitting steam etc etc. It got its name courtesy of George Bernard Shaw apparently. We also saw some Thermophilus bacteria which is also known as land coral and can survive very high temperatures. Katie revealed that she used to use an enzyme in her research work that was derived from the same type of bacteria and it was useful because you could heat it up and it would still work unlike other enzymes. At the same place we did some wood carving, Maori style, which was quite difficult. Then we decided to have a mud bath. We had to borrow some swimsuits and towels (they were very small swimsuits and a bit of a struggle to get into). We sat in the warm mud for about 20 minutes and then were obliged to have a cold shower before getting into some warm sulphur springs for another 20 mins or so. It was very relaxing and I thought afterwards that my neck was not nearly so stiff afterwards. In the afternoon we went to the museum in Rotorua which is housed in the old bath house. Some bright spark had the idea in the early part of the last century of making money by luring Europeans out to NZ to have mud baths etc for their health. The building is Elizabethan in style from the outside. The thing never really took off as it then took six weeks to get to NZ and not many people came. Also two world wars and a depression finished it off as well as the fact that the water was so corrosive it ruined all the fixtures and fittings in no time flat. Lesson: do your research before embarking on a major business undertaking! However, the exhibits in the museum were interesting including a good display about the volcanic eruption to which I referred earlier. In front of the museum were some very English gardens with roses and bowling greens etc.
We spent the following morning wandering round the park near the hostel which had lots of blobbing mud activity and lots of steam. After a coffee we caught the bus for Thames. This was another typically NZ bus experience. About 50 mins before we were due to arrive in Tauranga to change buses we only had about 30km to go so I said “We’ll be in early”. In the event, after a traffic jam and 2 detours we were in fact about 20 minutes late. Our hostel in Thames was a complete contrast to the one in Rotorua, which had been a modern, state of the art place. This one was a couple of houses converted into backpacker accommodation: very comfortable and friendly. Thames is on a river which Capt Cook (he got around, didn’t he?) thought looked like the Thames at home. It also has the distinction of having the longest straight main street in NZ. We had a walk up the coast after dinner – if you have been to Weston super Mare you will understand what the beach is like at Thames. We met a couple of lads looking for somewhere to swim!The next day we took a shuttle bus up into the hills and did a walk called The Pinnacles. They seem to exaggerate the difficulty of their walks here – the time they say the walk will take is usually far in excess of the time it actually takes as well. It was a good walk nonetheless and the clouds kept away for us to have a good view from the top. The last section involved ladders and via feratta-like metal rungs in the rock. We wandered down and were about an hour and a half too early for the shuttle bus. But we sat around by the river which was quite pleasant until it started to rain. After dinner we went to see the film “Atonement” based on the book by Ian McEwan. Neither Katie nor I was terribly impressed by the film but then I never really got on with the book either.
On Wednesday we borrowed some bikes from the hostel (ancient ones, mine was all rusty and there were springs sticking through the saddle) and cycled about 6km (no further!) to the “Butterfly Gardens”. This was a bit disappointing as they only seemed to have about 6 species of butterfly and they also import about 400 a month from Asia and we weren’t sure whether this was really the thing to do or not. After that we had an excellent walk. It had no made up paths, no steps or ladders – just a narrow, muddy trail all overgrown. On the way down the hill we spent most of the time in a stream – great fun! Then we got the bus to Whitianga – mercifully it was only about an hour and a half in the bus with no detours or stops. The hostel is right on the beach.
On Thursday we were going to go to Hotwater Beach where you dig in the sand and hot water fills your hole and then you sit in it but Katie said it was going to rain so we didn’t go. But what did she know- it turned into a lovely day so we took the ferry across the river and had a stroll to various beaches including Cook’s Bay (that man again). He pulled in there to chart the transit of Mercury across the sun in 1769. Dunno why he had to come half way round the world for this but it must have been important. The best beach was called Lonely Bay and we had a swim there before having lunch and heading back to Whitianga. We then spent the afternoon doing some bone carving. You use a dentist’s drill to fashion a design out of bone (from cows). We both did a fish hook design and then they are turned into necklaces. It took all afternoon but they look really nice when they are done. Afterwards we borrowed some surf boards from the hostel and threw ourselves about in the waves for a while.
Today we went to Hotwater Beach. It rained. We got soaked. It took over an hour to cycle there and then we had to put on our swim suits and do a major river crossing before getting to the beach. We dug a hole, which did fill up with hot water (so hot that it burned your hands in fact) but the sea was very rough and kept flooding our hole. So we gave up and cycled back to the hostel in the rain. It has now stopped raining. It is supposed to be summer here. I hadn’t expected it to rain like this. I have this idea that we will be sitting on the beach on Christmas Day in the sun. I am determined to sit on the beach even if I have to wear my waterproofs! There have been a few earthquakes near here in the past few days including one that was nearly 7 on the Richter scale.
Anyway, I may not be back on-line again before the big day so both Katie and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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