A Ngongotaha Lakefront Reserve Picnic And Hot Action In Waiotapu Arriving In New Zealand
I tried so hard. We leaned on each other’s shoulders, we cuddled into little balls, we stretched across each other. We tried every position imaginable. What we didn’t do, was sleep on the 14-hour plane trip from San Francisco to Aukland, New Zealand. We arrived at 5:30 AM, groggy but determined to milk all that we could from every moment we spend in New Zealand.
Oh yeah, didn’t I mention? We are in New Zealand!
Rotorua: In A Ring of Fire
After picking up a rental car and a local cell phone, we head out for the lakeside city of Rotorua. The native Maori people knew prime real estate when they encountered it and the territory around the modern city was inhabited long before and European explorers wandered by. You see, Rotorua is located inside of a volcanic caldera. It is a supervolcano, similar to that of Yellowstone. Also similar are the fumaroles, bubbling mud pits, prismatic springs, and geysers found scattered around the central depression, now a massive lake with a lone island in the center.
Lunch Along The Ngongotaha Lakefront Reserve
We stop on our way for a picnic lunch along the lakeside in the Ngongotaha Lakefront Reserve. Despite a few drops of rain, we remained dry while ogling a flock of black swans and enjoying one of the local Sauvignon Blancs.
Checking Into Rotorua
It is a bit of a shock to check into our first accommodations of the trip. We are so used to traveling just the two of us in a truck that the hustle and bustle of sharing a house are temporarily overwhelming. Yet, a decided perk is the flourishing garden where we can escape for some fresh air and floral therapy.
Waiotapu And the Okataina Volcanic Centre
There are many free and ticketed places around Rotorua that one may visit to observe the thermal activity. We start with Waiotapu, part of the Okataina Volcanic Centre in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. While it does have one geyser, its main draw is the Champagne Spring, brilliant blue pool edged in orange. Unfortunately, visiting in fall as we are, the cold air means than any particularly hot (and therefore, dramatic) thermal features are perpetually swathed in a haze of smoke. We wait by a few fumaroles and springs, hoping for a shift in the wind to clear the steam, but only achieve soar throats from breathing in all the sulfur.
We eventually retreated back the house rental where we sit on the deck, share a bottle of wine, and prepare dinner. We have successfully remained conscious for our first day in New Zealand. There is no need to continue the trend.