New Zealand volcano territories

Posted on March 1, 2008
Filed Under Commentary, Travel | Leave a Comment

I’m getting frustrated with New Zealand internet access. There are tremendous number of providers selling access time and claiming to offer access from everywhere in the country. Others are strictly local which means a traveler loses unused time when moving from one location to another.
The wireless network in Helensville is so bad it only allows you to log on to use your time once. When you sign out, whatever time you had left is gone. What is worse, the same thing applies when the community network loses contact with you, which it does.
The coin op system at the ferry terminal in Wellington simply took my money and did nothing.
Some hotels charge ridiculous internet rates and service is sometimes pathetic compared to what we are used to.
Some services are wonderful which makes the whole experience very frustrating. To paraphrase Forest Gump, internet service in New Zealand is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
As this is written, I have been frustrated for several days in my attempts to get good enough access to upload items to the website. With limited available time slots available on the road, reliable service would be appreciated.
I’m sure local folk know whom they can count on and whom they cannot.
Mount Maunganui, Rotorua, Lake Taupo
Mount Maunganui is an oceanside suburb of Touring. We were there on Sunday, February 17. The community and the beaches were crowded and noisy.
We were surprised to see little children playing in the surf while parents watched casually from shore. We asked a couple of lifeguards about rip tides and were told they were present and dangerous.
A popular attraction in the community is the hot pools facility. Our motel, like most others provided complimentary passes. The pools are heated geothermally and patrons pick the ones offering the degree of heat they prefer. One includes metal tubes that pour a heavy stream of hot water into the pool like a shower with no diffusing head. People sit under them and move so the stream hits whatever part of their body is stiff or sore.
Sometimes you don’t realize a spot needs high-pressure, hot-water massage until you get it. It is wonderful!
We moved on the next day through more twisting mountain roads to Rotorua. The park in front of the museum there was like a sudden jolt back in time.
On lawns on each side of the boulevard leading to the museum were teams of well-dressed teams lawn bowling on one side and playing official croquet on the other.
I almost expected to see the Red Queen and courtiers playing with flamingos.
It was like a scene from a British costume drama.
The museum commemorates the history of the community as a popular place for medicinal hot baths. There was one major volcanic eruption that killed 120 people. Here and there, about town, steam clouds rise from yards.
The area has a smell until recently familiar to Miramichiers. There are regular whiffs of hydrogen sulphide.
Live Kiwis
Rotorua is the site of another Maori cultural presentation and hangi. A hangi is a feast cooked by burying meat and vegetables under a fire for several hours or a day. It’s fine but one of those things you do so you can say you did. I think you can achieve the same thing in a slow cooker.
The Rotorua presentation offers an optional tour after dark to a fenced in area where Kiwis live under protection. Kiwis are nocturnal and do not fly. They are dun-coloured, hairy, about the size of small chickens, with long legs and long beaks. Other breeds of the same bird are bigger.
They run with long, high steps and bobbing heads that make them look stealthy. They look cuddly and anxious and bring out the protective instincts like babies and puppies do.
Rats that arrived with the Maori and stoats, and weasels brought in by the Europeans, threaten to make the almost defenseless Kiwis extinct.
Various protection groups across the country harvest Kiwi eggs and incubate them safety from predators and protect the chicks until they are grown. There are also many fenced areas to exclude predators.
Literature about them says that most New Zealanders have never seen one.
The Rotorua tour included an aquarium. Among other species were 35 lb. Rainbow Trout. Rainbows and Browns were introduced from California years ago and have thrived without harming local species. They grow well in local waters which helps explain the popularity of fishing in the lakes at Rotorua and Lake Taupo.
We made a rather abrupt departure from Rotorura after one night when we found two June Bug sized cockroaches in our room. Michelle is not squeamish. She vanquished a mess of roaches and saucer sized spiders in a villa in Mexico some years ago. Still, the presence of roaches in a room that was not hers to fumigate did not appeal.
We mentioned it to the owner and she said they had recently had the rooms fumigated but that the hot earth drives roaches upward into houses.
Lake Taupo
The accommodation we found in Lake Taupo was delightful. The bed was on a mezzanine level with a bathroom featuring a two-person spa tub. There was a very warm pool in the patio.
The lake was at the foot of the property. Everyone seemed to go sailing after work. Black Swans combed the shores.
The lake is a volcano crater in the top of the mountain formed by the eruption. It is hot in the summer and frosty in the winter.
As you approach the city, you are struck by huge flumes of hot water vapour misting up from a pipe line that carries steam from a huge geothermal power plant.
One of the popular attractions in the area one of a series of power dams on the river running to the lake. Instead of building one huge dam, like Mactaquac, there are a group of little ones. The one at the top fills up and then dumps for a half hour.
The water gushes through the turbines and on down to the next dam where it is, again, dumped for a half hour.
Each dam of the series produces electricity in turn.
The company that operates the dams, also operates the steam plant and a biomass plant. It says it produces 22% of New Zealand’s power at peak demand.
A lovely feature of the community is a large botanical gardens on an upper rim of the city. It is late in the season for blooms but still a wonderful, cool and refreshing place to visit. For Maritimers, the variety of exotic trees in the gardens is fascinating.
It is an interesting and comfortable community and very popular with tourists. Michelle and I being addicted to salt water and tides, find it not quite as attractive as so many other New Zealand communities.
The next article will be about a Miramichi reunion in Napier, on the Pacific coast.


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