Day 11: Rotorua to Lake Okano
Distance cycled: 32km
High point: climbing the rainbow mountain
Challenge: wind and rain overnight
Memorable because: amazing, computer generated views
Treats consumed: chocolate muffin
Our campground was part of Kuirai park which contained more fascinating steaming rocks, as well as quaint bridges of hanging flowers. We followed the path around the perimeter, before jutting into town to start the Te Ara Ahi thermal trail which would lead us out towards Taupo, our next destination. The trail circumnavigated the edge of the lake, then followed the road, diverting to hot pools and forest.
In the afternoon we arrived to Rainbow Mountain and swapped our two wheels for two feet as we scrambled to the top. The view was incredible, the land like a computer effect or origami paper, folded into many lush valleys and lakes.
Day 12: Lake Okano to Taupo
Distance cycled: 8km
High point: hitchhiking
Challenge: waking up wet
Memorable because: kind kiwis!!
Treats consumed: brownie, chocolate
The day did not start well. The rain overnight had soaked everything and we scrambled to pack up and waterproof already wet gear. The day ahead did not look promising as we had 57kms of state highway and the weather didn’t look like it was going to give us a break.
Our first stop was bubbling mud pools at Wai-o-tapu. An impressive area of boiling mud, sputtering and spurting as the heat from below caused it to bubble. It was hypnotising to watch. Our second stop was at the cafe where got brownie and sulked about the weather. I even called the bus but it wasn’t making any stops on its journey through and it looked like we would have to suck it up. We made a final stop at some hot pools under the bridge. The equivalent would be getting into a dirty river and finding it warmer than your bath. We teased ourselves getting in up to our ankles, paddling in our shorts while our top half still had 4 layers. A man in the pool tried persuading us to get in. When we told him we would love to but we wouldn’t dry, he first offered us a spare towel, and then upped his offer to a lift to Taupo for us and the bikes. To say we jumped at the chance would be an understatement. There was no English “oh are you sure, we wouldn’t want to trouble you…” We got down to our shorts and underwear and jumped in. It felt amazing to be sitting there in the drizzle in hot water.
It was only about an hour to Taupo by car. Our hero, named Philip, was an ex-skydiving instructor who also owned the Rock and Ropes adrenaline course. We called by the course but he had no customers in the rain. We also visited Huka Honey, a shop filled with everything bee related, even real bees! He offered to drop us to a hostel or asked if we wanted to share lunch with him, so we went back to his house for some bread and honey, no chicken despite his temptations, and watched the All Black welcome home parade on TV.
Early afternoon he dropped us to a hostel where we proceeded to dry everything and then ventured out so I could eat not one but two dinners. Alice was more restrained having only one. Apparently no one told my appetite it had been a day off! We followed the dinners with chocolate and spent the evening in our hostel, part chatting to other travellers, part being consumed by warmth and wifi access.
Day 13: Taupo
Distance cycled: 35km
High point: Cruising ‘coaster’ and other trails
Challenge: we never want to leave Taupo
Memorable because: a not so elegant fall from the bike
Treats consumed: banana loaf
Taupo’s apology for the day before was blue sky and warm sun. We got on our bikes, luggage free and headed to Huka Falls. The fast rapids is water flowing from Taupo, condensed in a hard rock channel. The turquoise falls are an amazing sight as they argy-bargy their way down stream.
Next up was playtime. We headed to Craters of the Moon Mountain bike park for some trails. Having no luggage and (nearly) no fear, we flew along the (easy and intermediate) tracks. Our favourite by far was ‘Coaster’ which we rode twice, trying to maintain control as the bikes hurtled around corners and up ramps.
On our way back to town we stopped at Spa park, another thermal river, which could quite easily go unnoticed save for the people sitting in it. We love Taupo.