12.01.2011 - 16.01.2011 25 °C
Upon arrival in Auckland I headed straight to Albert Park, a beautiful green area on top of a small hill in the centre of the city.
There were loads of birds everywhere, quite unafraid of people, including the red-billed gull.
Auckland is known as the 'City of Sails' and it's easy to see why when walking along the waterfront by the marina. One third of the population of Auckland owns a boat and the hundreds of islands and bays along the top of the North Island must be a great place to spend time exploring. New Zealand's largest city felt very clean and safe, and I enjoyed just wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere. On my second day I visited the fish market. The range and quality of freshly caught seafood was very impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed the large plate of grilled calamari and NZ wine which made itself my dinner that evening.
The next place on my North Island itinerary was Rotorua, the most geothermally active area in the country and centre of Maori culture. This was also the first place for me to make use of my tent and camp (at Kiwi Paka - highky recommended; the free, hot thermal pool was great). I visited Whakarewarewa Thermal Village and was guided around by a Maori lady who lives there. Although also a tourist destination, the village is home to over 20 Maori families who live very traditional lives around the boiling thermal pools. They channel the water from some of the pools into outdoor baths; the minerals in the water are very good for the skin and have supposed healing properties.
The village's meeting house.
Natural 'oven' over a steam vent. The villagers use these like a pressure cooker to steam their 'hangi' meals.
Sweetcorn is also dunked into the boiling pools to cook. I tried some - it was pretty good!
The village is built on one of the thinnest parts of the Earth's crust found anywhere in the world. The ground is hot to the touch and sometimes houses have to be evacuated as new geysers erupt from cracks which can appear overnight. Pohutu is the largest geyser and erupts about once every hour as the pressure gets too high. The boiling water is shot 30m into the air where it turns instantly to steam. Impressive!
Black swan on Lake Rotorua.
Kuirau Park, near my campsite, also had lots of thermal features such as bubbling mud pools and steaming vents in the ground.
Pretty flowerbeds are dotted around the park and various paths lead through the woods. There's a very strong smell of eggs everywhere you go in Rotorua, evidence of the geothermal activity and sulphurous gasses escaping from under the surface of the earth.
The thick, stinking gasses gave some parts of the park a rather sinister feel, especially as the sun went down.
(*I tried to upload some videos to this post but wasn't able to get it to work... Please go to my YouTube page too see them - there are 6: