Kuiaru Park, which is a nicely landscaped free, public park, right in the middle of the town of Rotorua, holds ball fields, play sets and walking trails, but is also full of mud pit holes, dangerous steam vents and hot thermal pools.
The trails wind all over between the hot spots and most of them are fenced so little ones can’t fall in.
A new hot vent opened up last week , in the soccer field, so it has temporary plastic construction fencing around it. I would hate to have something like that open up in my back yard but it happens fairly often here.
Of course, there are sometimes fatalities from people being stupid or suicidal ( a truly horrible way to die) but I appreciated the way they tried to beautify and make accessible the unique features. What else could you do with them in the middle of town?
People picnic and jog and walk the trails all over the hundred acre park, through lawns, woods and lakes. The play sets are fun too.
Plus they have free, hot, foot baths, as well as a farmers market area and pool facilities. There were even people camping in their vans for free.
Considering how many of the thermal parks charge entrance fees, it was nice to see such a nice free one.
As we leave Rotorua we notice that cars are lined up way out on the highway. Has something happened? They are queuing for gas. Last night when we arrived gas was $1.62 / liter, now it is $1.42. Makes us wonder if it is a mistake or if something happened in the world (Dec 17, 2016) that we don’t know about. We don’t need gas so we keep going.
Now, a stop at the Wakarewarewa Redwood forest that was planted in 1901 and later dedicated to Forest Service folks who gave their lives in WWII.
It was initially an experiment to grow Redwoods as a replacement tree for all the Kauri timber that was cut down, but they grow so slowly that they gave up on that idea.
Now they replant Pinus radiata, also from California, in all the tree plantations instead, which grows much faster. Tree ferns grow happily amid the stand of experimental Redwoods, which are happy growing here, just too slow for commercial lumber operations. It takes only 40 years to grow the Pine and 90 to grow the redwood the same size (about 5 feet in diameter). The trunk of the Tree Ferns can also be used to make things like privacy fences and small bowls.
An extensive network of Mountain biking, horseback and walking trails run all through this park and they have a new treetop walk under construction.
One of the trails leads out to views of a big geyser in the valley below and we did that one first. People pay big bucks to go see this geyser but when we zoomed in we had a great view.
Jeff forgot his hat and the sun came out, hence the shirt on the head get up. He was already getting burnt.
There were mud pots down another trail, buried behind ferns.
The mud pots smelled like boiled eggs and looked like chocolate pudding cooking on the stove. Blup, blup…Jeff is totally fascinated by them.
Wild digitalis and other pretty flowers were blooming on the edges of a recent clear cut in the same park.
We ran across a pack of kids all decked out in protective gear, mountain biking the designated trails. There was an Enduro Race here a couple of days ago and the trails are well marked with degree of difficulty.
We bought some little wooden boxes made of 45,000 year old swamp Kauri trees from the parks gift shop and sat outside at the picnic tables and ate our lunch.
To pretty the place up they opted for sculpted metal cutouts to hide the port-a-potties. It was after lunch now and place was getting crowded so it was a good time to leave.
Saying goodbye to the redwoods.
Okere Waterfalls and Tutea Caves
We parked our van and headed up the Okere Falls trail to the first of two falls. Jeff was saying,
“No way, Nobody goes down that.”
I said that I would, with the right boat and a good guide, probably not in a boat like ours. We kept hiking down the trail towards the caves.
Walking down the narrow steps feels like an adventure into a hidden little people land.
There are a couple of caves, not very big , but fun anyway.
This one is low and you have to stoop to walk.
The next one is taller and has a great view. Over the sound of the rushing water, we hear people carrying on, screaming (in a fun way) and we scramble up the steps again to get a better look. Here comes a raft over the falls.
They made it down and more kept coming. There was a photographer up on the landing that would blow a piercing whistle in response to the rafts to give the all clear.
We watched about five rafts and a guide in a kayak all come over. the falls. Then I went running down the trail to watch them do the next set. Only one flipped upside down and they were fine. They all got wet and they hollered when they hit the cold water, but obviously it was do able. Now I wish I could do it. Alas, that would take time and planning…
After we watch a second rafting company come through with their rafts we finally get back on the road again. The scenery in New Zealand is never dull. There is always something new around the next bend in the road.
We take a little side trip down a narrow road, as in one lane, to visit Kaite Falls. It is starting to rain again so we figure we will make it a very fast trip. A photographer arrives just ahead of us and actually runs down the trail, staying two steps ahead of us the whole time. It is strange. Not as strange as the vibe I get from the teenage boys that were hanging about in the parking area though. They had no car and looked like ours would do in a pinch. I did not get a good feeling.
The trail was steep and filled with numerous really nice waterfalls and the rain sort of held off.
We always seem to find the best swimming holes when it is too cold to swim. This one would have been great on a hot day, or better yet if it was fed by a hot spring. We ran back up the trail and found our van untouched, luckily, but we still got out of there fast.
We ended up at Sapphire Springs Thermal Resort to camp for the night. Our campsite was right next to a rocky stream which would lull me to sleep. The kitchen was fine and we were able to do our laundry right next door while we cooked our dinner. A short walk down the path there were thermal pools and a swimming pool which were disappointing because they were not hot enough. I could not stay in very long, but getting out in the cold night air was worse. Apparently they are never quite hot (I think they were only 32 degrees C) and they got a bad review in the NZ Frenzy books because of that. We slept well and moved on the next morning. Still headed for the coast.
-Wendy Lee writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters