20 February 2011

Rotorua & Coromandel

Kuirau Park thermal springs in Rotorua - too hot for swimming!

After a relaxing spell in Taupo, and a dose of the cold for the two of us, we began our journey north to Rotorua. This place is a major draw for tourists because of its unusual volcanic activity. I had been  given a warning from Doctor Faye that the mud baths were smelly and unhygienic, so we decided to give them a miss, however, we did go and look at the thermal pools and bubbling mud of Kuirau Park. There were a lot of volcanic attractions on offer but having seen the craters and the mud pools, we thought it would be more appealing to spend our time elsewhere - at the luge circuit!

At the luge circuit - so much fun!
After a refill at Fat Dogs Cafe and a much-needed ice cream (it was just one of those days), we set off for the race of our lives. The luge, which is like Cool Runnings without the snow, was so much fun. After my appalling attempts at video games and golf buggy driving as a child, my family have been naturally worried about my driving abilities ever since. On the luge, though, I didn't crash once and even managed to overtake a couple of boy racers!

We continued our games day with a game of Yahtzee (which is still a sensitive subject for James) at our campsite, then it was onwards and upwards as we set off for a stop I had been really looking forward to - the Coromandel Region.

James could have stayed here all day
Just picture clear blue sea and white sand beaches and that pretty much sums up the majority of the region. Every corner we drove around provided another reason to stop and absorb the beautiful views.

Hard at work!
Our first night was spent in the Kauaeranga Valley on the outskirts of Thames (where our van was invaded with sand flies, as James' legs can now testify). Our road trip continued up to Whitianga and Hahei for the Coromandel's ultimate attraction - Hot Water Beach.
The area is a major geothermal tourist attraction or as James said when he looked down on the beach - a 'rugby scrum'! Hot springs filter up through the sand two hours either side of low tide and the water can be as hot as 64 degrees Celsius!

Hot Water Beach: a Coromandel tourist hotspot
We hired our spade (as you do) and followed the crowds to the steaming sand. The masses were densely populated around two areas with a free spot the middle. Thinking I had found the perfect place for our man-made jacuzzi, I instinctively walked towards the empty patch of sand and reacted by flapping my hands and jumping up and down in search of some cool water as I darted across the 64 degree Celcius sand, oops! The pain subsided quickly and I have to admit that I took a little pleasure in watching others make the same mistake!

After embarrassing myself with my Scottish squeals, we set about - or rather James set about - digging the (and I quote) 'best sand hole on the entire beach'. No, we couldn't settle for a small, shallow area in which to relax and enjoy the bubbling water, don't be silly! This was a mission not to be messed with! The digging began. I stood and took in the views, but before long a task had been set - to protect the fort... I suspect there is some history of competitive sand-castle making in the Tulloch household, am I right? Dutifully, I set about my task, and as the beads of sweat began to pour off James's face in his quest for success, our sand jacuzzi began to take shape. It was quite simply a work of art and something we finally got to relax in!

In our homemade jacuzzi!
We now have just one week left in our campervan with only two stops left to conquer - the Bay of Islands and Auckland. We'll be sad to leave Barney, but we're both very excited about staying in the relative luxury of a hostel!



  1. great write-up again Pam - had me laughing as usual - I could picture some of the scenes so well. Looks like a very interesting and unusual place - maybe Bill and I will be able to follow in your footsteps one day. Never thought NZ would be so fascinating.

  2. Great to follow your steps in Rotorua - we enjoyed the luge too! - and Coramandel, which we enjoyed very much, but gave hot water beach a miss! Hope you enjoy Bay of Islands - we thought Russell was superb. Am writing this after hearing about the Christchurch earthquake - you are well clear, but it must bring things close to home!


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