21st – Rotten Rotorua

Don’t be thinking we didn’t like Rotorua, our main stop for today. Well, I was up for liking it but the smell of rotten eggs was a bit too much for Javi so we didn’t hang around aaaall day. We arrived in the town and parked at the main campervan carpark (which also allowed free overnight camping for self contained vehicles to which Javi was like er hell no way) and as we jumped out the smell hit us. It was fairly strong and it does take some getting used to! Also probably didn’t help that we’d parked directly next to a bubbling pond. The drive into town was pretty cool seeing steam randomly rising between trees and knowing there were tons of boiling pools in there somewhere.

So we had a wander round town, through little cute streets with lots of shops and treated ourselves to brunch in Dixon Brown’s, which was bloody nice I have to say. After that we decided to go to Huka Falls which wasn’t far at all, and I’m glad we went there. There were tons of people about but plenty of viewing points of the gushing huge waterfall and rapids. Again, the crystal blue water was just stunning to see and we took a load of photos before walking for a couple of hours up along the water. Although it was cloudy it was quite warm so being under the low trees was nice and cool – we enjoyed that.

We’d been told in town about about a Prawn Park they had nearby and that it actually was a fun day out where you could catch your own prawns and eat them, so as the weather wasn’t too amazing we decided to do that for the afternoon. We got a tour through the whole farm and hand fed a million baby prawns, which was an odd experience as they all mob your hand and when the food is gone are all testing your skin. It doesn’t hurt of course but tickles like hell! That was a novelty for everyone. Being in a geothermal area the whole park and it’s pools are heated entirely from the hot springs and they have to add cold water so it’s the right temperature for the prawns. The time came when we could get our bamboo rods and ox heart bait and go sit out on the lovely quiet ponds to fish for our dinner. Well for Javis dinner, I’m not keen on shellfish.

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After a while and going between boiling sun and freezing rain clouds, we got told if we wanted to have our shrimp cooked up there we’d have to go up to the restaurant soon. So although my two were still extremely active in the bucket (cold water stuns them my arse, mine jumped out of the teeny bucket several times!) we took em up and I said goodbye and Javi ate them. I’m sorry Courtney but I’m semi sure you’re not reading this anyway. .. but better anyway that I caught them myself!

When he’d finished his snack (and I’d polished off a bowl of fantastic thick chips) we left the prawn park and headed to our roost for the night. We’d chosen a campsite on Lake Okareka and wow it was the prettiest place we’d slept in so far. The water was like a mirror and although it was basically a small waterfront gravel carpark, you were surrounded by thick bush and everyone had parked in a nice orderly line. There were two wardens there who are volunteers for the Department of Conservation, and they were so so friendly and sweet. They spoke to everyone who’d listen about the wildlife around and the Kiwi counts they did and that they have tons of wallabies in this area. I didn’t think I was hearing her straight! Apparently an Aussie guy who lived across the water brought a load over and then ended up letting them out and years later they were having a detrimental effect on the native bush. What a shame aye. That seems to be the way with most of the animals and plants that have been introduced over here in one way or another. As we were talking to them about this the guy warden spotted a family of dabchicks out on the water, which apparently are rarer than kiwis! That was cool to have been able to see them then.

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We cooked up dinner and when it got dark took our torches and went for a walk along the water to the bushes – the warden had said there was something under the bushes we’d see only at night… we’re getting closer and closer and can both see the reflection of two eyes just under the bush in the water, as the man had said. We crept closer and were whispering to each other about what it could be when from that precise direction came a low “hello!” My first reaction was to say hiya back and then we burst out laughing. The native wild human!! It was his trainers that we’d seen reflecting of course, argh. We wandered back to the van still chuckling and came across 3 wallabies just grazing and not too afraid of us trying to get pictures in the dark. They were pretty cute but of course they’re poisoned so it’s odd how we were taking photos of essentially a pest.

We returned back to Joe and, after saying hello to the German family we kept bumping into all the way from our jet boat ride in Queenstown on the South Island, made our bed (got it down to like 1 minute 43 seconds or something, pros) promptly fell asleep.

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