We spent the night beside the thermal springs at Rotorua, lured by the thought of heated campsites. Although days here are a pleasant 22 degrees, nights can be downright chilly. We watched the mud bubbling up beside our campsite and even stepped on some patches of hot sand in the lake nearby; but the thermal heat is a patchy thing apparently and our campsite was once again too cold to be comfortable. We have bought a little space heater for the remainder of our travels and plan on putting it to use tonight.
We swam in the lake at Rotorua, and it was lovely, but not warm. The hot tubs on the campsites were another matter; they were toasty. Putting Ginger to work once again we found our way out of town and on the road to Lake Taupo in no time, arriving there at noon in time for lunch. We would have been there sooner but we stopped along the way to watch the thermal geyser at Waiotapu. Neither of us had ever seen a geyser and we thought it might be worth it. It wasn’t. We paid $16 each to listen to a five minute spiel from a park ranger who when he was done talking poured some chemicals into a hot spring causing it to erupt. Totally cheesy and contrived. Don’t waste your money.
Lake Taupo was well worth the drive, however, and there is really no other way to get to Napier. We stopped at a curry restaurant called Indian Delights. It promised the best view of the lake in town, and indeed it was. They forget to mention that its curry was authentic and tasty, which it certainly was as well. And at $10 bucks for curry, rice and naan it was also one of the cheapest meals we’ve had since we got here. Sitting with good company looking out over this pristine lake with the volcanic peaks in the background and the little sailboats skimming over the water is one of those times when you are just happy to be alive and wonder why on earth anyone wants anymore than this. Really people! What is all this money-grubbing going to get you? It cost us $20 for an hour of unadulterated joy!
The road to Napier started out rather boring, but it didn’t stay that way. Pretty soon it started to twist and turn through the hills and around the bends. Kiwis are pretty impatient drivers (as the daily death toll on the roads testifies) so I had to ease on to the shoulder many times to let others go by. I don’t have a reputation for dawdling, so that will tell you something. As the terrain approaches Napier the forests give way to vineyards rolling gently to the sea. Hawke’s Bay, where Napier is located, is gaining an international reputation for its wines, and fuels much of the local industry in this town, along with tourism. But despite the holiday season, tourists seem to be a little thin on the ground at the moment, so we have had no trouble finding good spots to camp.
We are not wealthy travelers. We scrimp and save for much of the year to be able to do this and even then have to go as low budget as possible. We can’t afford hotels and camper vans are much too expensive in New Zealand. Hence the tent for which we had to buy a little space heater; it got a good workout last night. The heater was ten bucks and didn’t come with a thermostat. That left me waking every half-hour throughout the night to turn it on for five minutes to beat back the cold and damp rising from the ground. One of our regular readers thinks this trip puts me in the one percent. I beg to differ.
However, it does put us out among the stars, which were spectacular when I made my way to the facilities in the dead of night. There was the Milky Way spread out across the sky like a silken scarf. I counted 31 stars with the naked eye in Orion, the most I have ever seen in that constellation; it was that clear. Bet you can’t see that from your penthouse in Manhattan!