New Zealand Adventure: Rotorua – Tongariro National Park

New Zealand Adventure: Rotorua – Tongariro National Park

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Before today’s bike ride started I had a chance to see a little more of Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty as we all took a sightseeing tour through Rotorua and added two more stops on our way toward the starting point of today’s bike ride.

Sightseeing before the ride

We started our sightseeing tour by visiting the first New Zealand tourist attractions, well at least from outside. Today it is the Rotorua Museum, but when founded in the 19th century it was a bath house with Spas as mineral water was thought to have healing powers and one used a combination of thermal and electrical treatments — not only as in electrical treatments in one room and thermal ones in another one, but as in electrical-thermal-treatments in a bathtub.
But these facilities never became an economical success, rather the opposite so they became discontinued and the former bath house in the Tudor style building is now a Museum.

Sulphur Point

Due to its location you will almost always smell sulphur in Rotorua, some days stronger and some days less strong. But at our next stop, Sulphur Point, on the shore of Lake Rotorua the smell is strong…
I have been wondering how one ever could get used to this type of smell.
But yes, after having been here for a little more than half a day the smell seems already less overwhelming. Yet at Sulphur Point I realized that I wasn’t missing it a bit.
But I found a nice view toward Motutara Island, an island in the Lake of Rotorua. Motutara means Gull Island in Maori a name — as so many Maori names — that really describes the place.

And due to the conditions of the day I felt somewhat reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds…
Rotorua by the way means “Second Lake.” This name goes back to when the area was first explored by two Maori named Ihenga and his uncle Kahumatamomoe. They first discovered and named Lake Rotoiti – or in its full Maori name — Te Rotoiti-kite-a-Ihenga — which means “The small lake discovered by Ihenga,” as from where they came the lake looked rather small, but it later turned out to be much larger than expected. After that they came to Lake Rotorua or in its full name Te Rotorua-nui-a Kahumatamomoe, which means “the lake of Kahumatamomoe, discovered second”. So Maori names seem really to describe the place and its history.

Ohinemotu and the Te Arawa Waka Taua

After having spent some time at the shore of the lake our sightseeing tour continued to Ohinemotu, a suburb of Rotorua where the Ngati Whakaue tribe lives. Here I had a chance to take a photo of the Tamatekapua meeting house on the Te Papaiouru marae, or the courtyard of Te Papaiouru.

And I had a look at the Te Arawa Waka Taua, a Waka Taua built in 1989 by Lyonal Grant using the old techniques, and the title Te Arawa means “a vessel for the conveyance of a war party”. It is about 20 meters long and weighs about 2.5 tons according to an information plate. It is decorated with beautiful carvings.

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park

After this little cultural input we started our tour towards the starting point of our bike trip but made another stop at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, of which we enjoyed some of its free-to-visit mud pools.

Huka Falls

Before long we were back in the bus going to see Huka Falls, the largest falls on the Waikato River, which drains Lake Taupo.


At the Huka Falls, the Waikato River which is normally 100m wide, is squeezed through a 20 metre wide gorge and over a 20m drop. Every second up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the gorge and shoots out over 8 metres beyond to create a beautful blue/green pool. The name Huka is the Maori word for “foam”, which is appropriate as the falling water and rapids certainly resembles foam, especially under flooding conditions.

Here we had just enough time to take a couple of photos and enjoy the nice weather a last time for the day.

Riding in the rain through Tongariro National Park

When we arrived at the starting point of our bike ride through Tongariro National Park, it had started drizzling. Not too much yet, but that should soon change. An hour into the bike ride I stopped for some lunch snack and considered taking the rest of today’s ride in the bus as the rain was getting stronger. But I am not made out of sugar, so I decided to squeeze into some windproof trousers, which I hoped would not only be able to keep me warm – as it was not only raining but at 4-5˚C rather cold — but also a little dryer. I am not too fond of wearing rain-trousers even though I own at least a pair, as I always feel that they drain me from energy faster than what they give me in protection from the elements.
Of course with these conditions there was no need to carry my camera with me anymore, it was really raining far too much to take any photo.
Believing in the water resistance of my handle bar bag I didn’t use any additional zip-bags for to store my phone in. That would soon turn out to be a mistake that I would regret deeply.
After about 20 km in pouring rain I really wanted something to eat. Unfortunately the only granola bar that I had was in my handle bar bag, but if I was to open that, then I would pretty much flood the inside of the bag and by that ruin my phone… Not a very good idea. So I continued on. At some point two other members of the group were able to get close to me and we thought of finding a place to stop for a while, seeking shelter from the rain for at least a moment. Which also would have given me a chance to have a bite before going on. The only thing that did not come into sight was of course a shelter of any kind. After a while though we spotted a private home and figured to use his entrance to seek shelter. The owners of the place must have seen us turn in as they came around by car, looking who was visiting. So we asked for their permission to wait until the rain would stop, which we were kindly granted.
Being wet and in the cold, it really got cold, so I was happy to see our guide’s bus on the street and to take the remaining 10 km by bus. Of course just as my bike had been packed onto the trailer the rain stopped and I was considering to re-consider and taking those remaining kilometers by bike instead, but was convinced to take the rest in the warm bus rather than to suffer from hypothermia, but at least I got a chance for a photo over Tongariro National Park.

Arriving at the accommodation for the night I really needed a hot hot shower and not a refreshing one. My room turned out to be rather cold. Seeing my state one of the other participants had followed me to my room taking care of my luggage for me and was now doing her best to warm up my room — as there were some tricks on how to get the heating unit to work — while I enjoyed my shower.

If you liked this post, you might like the other stories of my New Zealand adventure:

Here you can find more photos of my journey across the North Island of New Zealand

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