We woke up to a little shower followed by gorgeous clear sunny skies at the beach called Sailor's Grave. The waves were too small to surf, so we ended up hiking up a little perfectly maintained trail to a lookout over the beach and the neighboring Otara Bay. The forest was wet and lush with lots of Kauri trees and Fern trees and felt like a pre-historic place. We didn't see a single person on the entire hike. After returning to the beach, we walked south along the gorgeous coast, with islands offshore and tiny little peeling waves on the inside. The water is crystal clear and turquoise, but once you put your feet in, it is very actually very cold.
After our walk and breakfast, we got back in the van to check out Hot Water Beach where you can dig in the sand to make your own hot tub. The water under the sand when the tide is low is extremely warm. Being without a shovel, we checked out the small surf and continued on south to the cute surf town of Whangamata. Again the water was crystal clear and aqua blue, but unfortunately there were no surfable waves coming into the bay. We had a nice walk around the beach and the tiny town, visited some of the local surf shops, and continued the drive south.
The drives have mostly been picturesque rolling green hills dotted with cows and sheep and pigs and the occasional farmhouse. The country up here almost feels as if you combined the tropical vegetation and turquoise waters of Hawaii with the rolling farms and cool temperatures of Ireland. And everywhere there are very few people so you really feel as if you have the place to yourself.
After a windy drive down a gorge road, we got into Rotorua in the late afternoon. The lake is big and windy but beautiful. It smells a bit like sulfur and minerals from all of the geothermal activity going on around here. We found a perfect camping spot right on the water of north shore of the lake, and set out for a walk before dark.
We met some local Kiwis who were full of tips and suggestions on places to go and what to see, and told us about the Hamurana Springs walk that we should really check out. It was an unbelievable stroll though a massive grove of redwood trees that would rival anything up in Northern California, along a rolling river with black swans with red beaks floating around. The river had some spots in it which were neon-blue where the sand was exposed on the bottom, while some areas had seaweed type plants and giant trout swimming. When we made up to the end of the trail, you could see where the river started coming out of the ground. The spring pumps out 1,000,000 gallons of water an hour and creates the entire river. When you looked down into the massive hole, you couldn't see the bottom, just blue water pumping up out of the bottom, 50 feet down in the ground.
We cooked up some curry in the camper and crashed out with the lake waves putting us right to sleep.