Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tongariro National Park

On our fifth day, we headed to Tongariro National Park. John wanted to climb Mount Doom and I wanted to see a World Heritage Site. Upon arrival into the National Park village, we got information about the crossing and hikes in the park. It was raining and mid afternoon, so we decided to do one of the shorter hikes, the Silica Valley hike. While on the hike, it was sunny, rainy, and even hailing! The weather really changes quickly in New Zealand.

Because it was raining, all these pictures were taken by both of us with John's Nikon 7900 instead of my D70. This helped his picture count and helped lower mine ever so slightly...

Tarawera Falls

On the fourth day of our honeymoon, we decided to continue on our waterfall quest. It took us to Tarawera Falls, which is halfway between Rotorua and Whakatane in the Lake Tarawera Scenic Reserve. It is definitely one of my favorite waterfalls that I've seen. In order to get to the trail leading to the falls, we had to drive on logging roads with gravel and pot holes. We kept winding around and thought that we had gone the wrong way at times. Finally, we got to the car park and found the trail and ventured on our couple hour hike. This was one of my favorite hikes of the trip because it was sunny and it was amazing to see water pouring out of rocks, going underground and then back above ground.

Hell's Gate

The next step on our waterfall tour, oh wait, I mean honeymoon, was Kakahi Falls in Rotorua. It is the largest thermal waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere and is in Hell's Gate Thermal Reserve. Because New Zealand was created by two techtonic plates colliding, there are volcanoes, mountains, and lots of hot springs/thermal reserves and this is one of them.

Hell's Gate Reserve was/is a sacred area to the Maori, the first cultural group to settle in New Zealand. They still use some parts of the park for religious/spiritual reasons. It is a realy interesting place. It helped that the day we went it was rainy/misty so the whole place had this surreal quality about it. It had a steam coming from the ground, sulfur bubbling up in mud and water, and even a mud volcano!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

camper van

When planning the honeymoon, John researched the best way for us to travel around New Zealand. He decided that renting a camper van from Escape Rentals was the best idea. Their vans are full size vans instead of dedicated campers. They are then fitted with a bench, table, counter and sink. We also got a cooler, a propane stove, camp chairs, a grill, and a solar shower. We didn't use the shower much, mostly because it wasn't sunny enough to get warm enough. There was also an electric heater, which came in very handy since some of the nights got quite cold.

Each van is uniquely painted on the outside in a theme. Our van was freshly painted and we were the first to use it! It was named Tamanui Te Ra, which we were told meant "big boy sun." We quite liked our van (except for the loose battery cable which Escape didn't seem to realize it had) and got a lot of compliments on it as we drove around New Zealand.

Just for fun, here are two pictures of other Escape vans we encountered as well. One day, we saw 7 Escape vans. I now wish I'd taken pictures of them. :)