T'riffic Tauranga/Rotorua

After taking nice and easy in Napier, we were again geared up for a big day in Tauranga.

Tauranga is located on the very scenic Bay of Plenty. Before we departed the cruise, we were a bit concerned we wouldn't be able to dock at Tauranga, due to the large oil spill from the tanker Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, offshore from Tauranga. It was still stuck on the reef when we were there, the local beaches were closed, but we were able to dock and there was no obvious signs of oil contamination.

The boat actually docks at Mount Maunganui, which is a tombolo that links an island to the mainland by deposited sand and gravel. Hubby was up early and captured a few good shots.

As nice as "Mt Mau" and Tauranga (the Gold Coast of the North Island) seemed (and when we revisit we will spend more time here), we had a big day planned. Getting off the ship was a little overwhelming with the number of tour operators spruiking! We opted for a mini-bus with Learning Journeys, where for an extra $50 (on top of the $550!!!!!!) we could have the bus to ourselves and go wherever we wanted. I was sure that the driver (his name was Phil) said that that included entry into everything, but we still had to fork out on top of the $600. At least it was in NZ dollars (1 Aussie dollar buys about $1.30 NZ). It was an expensive day! But it was the most we spent and I guess we propped up the New Zealand economy (which kind of needs propping up).

Phil was very informative and in a previous life was an earth science high school teacher! 

Our first stop was Kiwi 360. New Zealand is a prolific producer of Kiwi fruit or Chinese Gooseberries. Apparently once they discovered chinese gooseberries grew well in New Zealand, it seemed quite strange to  go around calling them chinese gooseberries all the time, so they adopted the name of their famous flightless, nocturnal bird and called them kiwifruit instead. I love kiwifruit - and I am now the proud owner of kiwifruit flavoured lip balm, courtesy of the obligatory gift shop. We didn't do the tour (seen one fruit producing farm, seen 'em all - been to the Big Banana and Big Pineapple back in Australia, didn't see the need to do the whole kit and kaboodle here - we needed to save our $$$ for the big guns).

The buds of the flower, before they flower
 and before they fruit - see, biology in action!

Do you like Wombat Girl's new jumper?

There are yellow kiwi fruit...

...and green ones!

After that, it was on to Okere Falls - constantly flowing due to the Kaituna River being dammed. They used to use the falls as a hydro-electric power station, but this has fallen into disrepair and now the river is used mostly for whitewater rafting (now THAT would be some fun!).

You can just see the remains of the race for the old power station
 at the bottom/middle of the photo (left hand bank
facing downstream, for those geomorphologists among us)

I slowed the shutter speed down whilst holding
 the camera still on the handrail - pretty effective, hey?

Then it was to the main event - Rotorua! I have been to New Zealand a couple of times to go skiing - so always visited the South Island, never the North. And Australia, being a relatively "old" continent, has no real geothermal activity - so being an earth scientist, I really wanted to see Rotorua!

The place to go is Te Puia - geothermal activity and Maori culture.  The Maori have been living in the area for about 700 years and so it is the perfect spot to combine natural and cultural history.

Wombat Girl with a log of Kauri Pine -
you are not allowed to  cut it down now

Maori carving

Oh look - the Pohutu Geyser!

The website says it erupts up to 30 metres/100 feet
into the air - looks a bit higher than  that!

Sulfuric deposits - smelled beautiful!

The geyser can erupt up to 20 times a day -
Phil said it was the best he'd ever seen it!

Wombat Girl loved the smell - strange girl...

Bubbling mud pools - quite fascinating to watch


Maori "marae" or meeting place - that chief was scary!!

Maori "kapa haka"  or performance art 
There's that chief again!
They pump the visitors through, but it was well run and the kids enjoyed it!

After all that culture, it was time to burn off some energy! We promised Wombat Girl that because we didn't go to Adventure Park at Tauranga, we would go to the Skyline Gondola and Luge. Stunning views over Rotorua from the Gondola, on a gorgeous day. Nice lunch looking at the views and then luging! I didn't luge, because I seriously didn't want to be in another moving vehicle, so I took photos and let the kids (the small ones and the big one) have their fun.

Beautiful downtown Rotorua

Chairlifts returned the luge riders

Video Boy and Wombat Girl go feral

And so does hubby...I don't think he used his brake...

And then it was time to get ourselves back to the boat, because they don't wait for independent tour operators if they don't get back in time! It wasn't a cheap day and now I can say I've seen Rotorua. Was it worth it? I'm glad we went and saw, but it probably wasn't worth $600 a day...

However, sun was shining, the weather had warmed up significantly, so we took the opportunity to relax and go for a swim (and err, shame, enjoy Barry Manilow on the big screen).


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