Wellington to Rotorua
We made it off the ferry with very little drama apart from a flashing light and a beeping sound. Thinking that Var "short arms" Chlamers hadn't put the handbrake down fully again we tried that to no avail. In the end we pulled off the road, turned off the engine, started up again and this time we drove off flashing and beeping free!
And guess what! We were driving on a motorway! We had driven on the equivalent of A/B roads through the whole of the South Island, even around the larger towns. For Var who had done all the driving it was a pleasant surprise, for me, who thoroughly enjoyed the remoteness of the South Island, it was a horrible reminder of the "real world". We only had time to pass through Wellington although again we would both have liked to stay around a little while, but we had a long trip ahead of us and didn't want to risk the supposed 6 hour journey turning into a 10 hour journey.
The North Island is different to the South Island, the most noticeable being that it is not so mountainous. The further north you get the more volcanic and thermal it becomes. Our aim was to get to Lake Taupo and the town of Taupo to stop for some lunch. The journey started along the west coast but we soon turned inland and drove through yet more natural beauty. There are so many national parks that it sometimes feels as if you never leave them. We had been given a tourism radio which plays music but also points out places of interest as you drove. We had to turn to it when we couldn't get a signal on most of the South Island and even though it was annoying at times, it did allow us both a chance to air our lungs and also to find some little gems. One of these was a glass blowing shop and demonstration place where lava is used. We pulled in to have a look but of course came away with a souvenir or two. Unfortunately most of the pieces were either too expensive, too large or both to be able to bring back home but it was stunning glassware.
We did stop at Taupo and although the weather was not particularly good, the view of the lake was beautiful. It is the largest crater lake in the world and many Maori legends centre on it. We had some lunch and as always got talking to the waitress. We talked about rugby, everyone in New Zealand is a rugby fan and has an opinion. When I told her that I supported Wales she told me that when the team were situated close by, they had come into the cafe/restaurant and sat quietly drinking coffee. They were real gentlemen, her words not mine and it had turned into one of their busiest nights ever as word got around and more and more people came in. Yet again, this was another place we could have stopped at for longer but we had to get on the road.
From Taupo to Rotorua was only about an hour but the closer we got the more you could see and smell that it was thermal area. At times the smell of sulphur was overpowering but what I loved even more was seeing the earth literally steam. It's difficult to explain it because it does look almost as if someone has started a fire but when you look closer the earth is breathing. It is awesome and I for one can't wait to explore more of this thermal wonderland.