Day 5 Travel Notes

    We ate breakfast on the deck at Solitaire Lodge and left around 9am. Back along the winding road back to Rotorua and then down towards Taupo. We were heading for another geothermal area, Waiotapu, where we were told the geyser erupts every day at 10:15. We got there just in the nick of time, got our passes and drove to the geyser area. I was amazed at how close people were allowed to approach the geyser. Maybe 20 feet max for a geyser that erupts several times that high. I was a little disappointed when we found out that they "prime" the geyser with soap to get it to erupt on schedule for the tourists. Sort of a trick but still spectacular when it went off. After the eruption we wandered around the "Thermal Wonderland" Lots of brightly colored pools with different minerals creating rainbows. It was hot in the sun and the steam made it hotter. We took lots of pictures.

    Next we went to the Taupo city center. Prowled around for a while, had lunch and found an internet cafe for updating email to everyone. I was starting to get used to finding an internet cafe nearly everywhere. Taupo was a little like Rotorua except not nearly as crowded.

    After lunch we were off to Huka Falls on the Waikato River. Not huge by any means, but the water showed such vivid colors that it was hard to accept as natural. Deep blue-green contrasted with the white foam boiling over a 10 or 20 ft drop. Since Jan really likes waterfalls, we spent quite a while there wandering around and taking photos.

    Then on to our home for the night, Huka Lodge which was just a kilometer or so upriver on the Waikato. This was a VERY nice place. We had our own little cottage down what seemed like a jungle path and just outside our back door was the river, which is also a trout stream. The Lodge cat, Rusty, came to visit us for a while. We were told later that he gets care packages of caviar from all over the world.

    We swam in the pool and then got ready for the cocktails and dinner. This lodge was larger than the Solitaire so the interaction at the cocktail party was not as intimate. Still, we sat and chatted with a couple from California and met the couple from Amsterdam that had been at Solitaire. At dinner Jan and I had a lovely table to ourselves with a glorious view of the rapids upstream from the falls. The meal was excellent, which seemed to be one constant at all the places we visited in New Zealand. Afterward we sat and chatted with the Dutch couple and had another glass of wine.

    That night we finally had a clear sky so I could go out and do some stargazing. For the first time in my life I saw both Magellanic clouds and even had a glimpse of 47 Tucani (a globular cluster) in my little binoculars. Seeing Orion upside down (and on a warm summer evening) added to the sense of strangeness of the whole scene.

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