View of Auckland from the Sky Tower

Back to Auckland

Saturday 26th April 2014

When we arrived in Auckland many moons ago, all we really saw was the airport hotel. Last night we had a room (in the Quality Hotel, Parnell, Auckland) with a really spectacular view of Auckland by night. We have one day left to explore this huge city of 1.4 million inhabitants.

We started our last day with a fascinating morning in Auckland’s War Memorial Museum. The New Zealand museums really are excellent. Unexpectedly we spent a very happy hour looking at about 100 superb wildlife photos which made the final of the BBC Wildlife Magazine annual photography competition. We didn’t always agree with the judges’ choice of category winner but deciding on our choices for winners was half the fun.

We then spent another couple of hours looking at the exhibitions on Maori culture and the military history of New Zealand. There was so much more that we didn’t have time for . . .

Then a fantastic trip up (initially to the 52nd then the 60th floor) of the famous Auckland Sky Tower (a really lovely treat from Sian, Sian and Michael). The views were panoramic (photo at the top of this post) and gave us a much better idea of the geography of the city, including its volcanic hills, bays and the port.

Tomorrow we fly out of Auckland airport, but only as far as Fiji!

However I suspect that it will be the end of the blog entries for a little while . . .

Lake Tarawera


Anne here . . .

Tuesday 22nd April.

We started the morning with a last look at Lake Taupo, because I liked it so much. Then we spent the rest of the morning in the Wairakei park area, just North of Taupo. We accidentally came across Wairakei geothermal power station but it was really interesting! Honestly!

Then a real spectacle just for the tourists . . . Three times a day, the flood gates of the Aratiatia dam are opened for 15 minutes to enable a huge torrent of ice blue/white water to cascade and thunder through the incredibly narrow Aratiatia gorge and rapids. The purpose? To entertain the tourists. Was it worth going to watch? Absolutely. Not that many tourists were there but we were all enthralled by the spectacle.

Then onto Rotorua, just over an hour’s drive away.

First impressions of Rotorua: SMELLY (sulphur); wide tree-lined avenues; quite large, a major tourist centre; a bit mad!; geothermally produced plumes of hot steam everywhere; fantastic sunsets over the lake and lots of black swans; and for the first time a few mad drivers.

After booking into our cheap and cheerful (the staff were fantastic) motel, with a huge, rather mad, outdoor, concrete geothermally heated spa bath, we decided to explore the Tarawera area.

But first we went to the Blue and Green lakes, or more accurately the Blue Lake and the bluey/green Lake. I didn’t think that the colours were that different although they were both beautiful. The green lake is sacred to the Maori so all water based activity is in the blue lake only.

Mount Tarawera is volcanic and erupted in 1886 burying a Maori village and killing over 100 people. It also destroyed the world famous pink and white terraces (layers of silica on the edge of the lake). In comparison tonight Lake Tarawera was incredibly serene and calm. Paul took some stunning photos. One of Lake Tarawera is at the top of this post.

And yes we did end the evening in the geothermally heated concrete outdoor spa bath!

Craters of the Moon, Taupo


Easter Monday – 21st April

Anne here . . .

So we are back on the tourist trail again. In fact we are on the “Thermal Explorer Highway” from Napier to Taupo. Fantastic weather which is lucky as the scenery is unexpectedly awesome and breathtaking. Just as splendiferous as anything in the South Island, and that was totally awesome.

Today is a serious competitor for the title of “best day so far . . .”

The scenery that we passed through was just awesome, high, high hills with the steepest sides that you have ever seen, usually covered by trees, and plunging into deep ravines. Oohs and aahs from me every few minutes. Just the last few miles into Taupo were flatter, farming plains.

Then Lake Taupo itself. I instantly fell in love with the Lake. It is just beautiful, a deep blue colour with mountains all around and lots of people just enjoying themselves.

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Then we meandered off to Huka Falls, not quite sure what to expect but they were awesome. Sorry, I am running out of superlatives. Literally ice blue water rushing through the narrowest of gorges. It is not the height of the falls that is so impressive but the speed and volume of the water and the piercing ice white and blue colour. It is popular but there are several excellent viewing points.

An aside: I love the way that New Zealanders don’t charge for car parking at tourist sites and often don’t charge an entrance fee for natural wonders, maybe just a donations box. We have always been happy to donate willingly.

Finally we stopped at “Craters of the Moon”. Definitely worth adding a geothermal boardwalk to your “things to do before I die bucket list”. Although there is no big hype here, in fact it is quite understated. It is run by a charitable trust and is a 45 minute boardwalk around loads of craters and holes in the ground that are producing geothermal steam. It is totally eerie but at the same time awesome to see all these wisps, puffs, clouds and columns of hot steam coming out of gorse and bracken covered ground. We were fascinated, as were all the other tourists.

The only downside of the last few days is that I seem to be deliciously tasty to mosquitos unlike Paul. Only DEET jungle formula seems to deter them!