After waking up on the North Shore of Lake Roturua and making some coffee, we got the van packed up and headed south along the East coast of the lake. The road twisted and turned around the shore of the water until we reached the artist studio and home of Jeanette Blackburn. Our Kiwi camping neighbors had told us about her work and we decided to stop by. Their house is on a quiet street outside of downtown Rotorua with a massive flawless garden and the cutest little Coco-like poodle running around. Her work was pretty amazing and she was extremely friendly and welcoming into her home. Had we brought some money to burn I definitely would have bought a painting, one of which was commissioned for a New Zealand postage stamp and another went the Queen. She did not specify which Queen she was referring to, but it sounded important.
We drove on into the town of Rotorua which I cannot say that I loved. It smelled entirely like rotten eggs from all of the sulphur and hot springs, and I was not overly anxious to sit in a hot tub full of the stinky hot water. It is said the waters cure joint pains like arthritis, and smooth and clarify the skin, but I was skeptical. It reminded me of my dad's story about how in the old days people drank radioactive water thinking it would cure them of all ailments. However, we did really enjoy touring the Government Gardens, with a croquet match going on, and seeing some of the bathhouses from the early 1900s.
Ready to get out of the town, we drove south to Wai-O-Tapu which is called a "thermal wonderland." This region is full of geysers and springs and boiling lakes and bubbling mud-pools and this spot seemed to have it all. We saw sulphur caves, boiling craters, neon lime green lakes, and the champagne pool which is colorful, steaming and bubbling. Of course everything reeked of toxic gases, but the 90 minute walk around the area was amazing.
On to the south, we came to Lake Taupo which is enormous and surrounded by huge mountain peaks, some still with snow. The town was cute and friendly with little water front cafes and bars. We drove down the Eastern side of the lake until we found a nice place to camp, right on the water with another group of black swans hanging around the van. We got a quick hike in up to a viewpoint and headed back to the water's edge for sunset. The tires of he camper are only a feet from the water's edge with no one else around.