After a few days on our own in Auckland we have joined an overland tour with Intrepid Travel, which will take us around the north island. It is a small tour – just six of us with our guide/driver. Two Brits, two Americans, and us.
Our first stop is in Rotorua. In a country of just under 5 million people, Rotorua sees about 3 million visitors a year, hence the nickname Roto Vegas. No bright lights or high rises, though. Seated beside a lake, the city is in a geothermally active area, which is part of what makes it so interesting,.
Okay – true confessions time. Our inner eight year olds got a bit of a work out on this trip. As we drove into the city there were surreptitious glances going round our little bus, until Lizzie spoke up. ‘That smell?’, she said. ‘That’s the smell of the gasses produced from the geothermal activity. The locals call it the smell of jobs and don’t really like it if you mention it.’ Okay then. Someone hadn’t farted on the bus. Good to know.
Blurs blurp bubbling mud pools by the lake shore.
After dinner at the local street market we went out to walk amongst the Redwood trees. Once upon a time a bright light got the idea that growing California Redwoods in New Zealand would be a great forestry idea. Latitude south matched well to their latitude north – what could go wrong? We’ll just plant them, and then our grandchildren can harvest huge trees.
Well, best laid plans. Turns out there’s way more rain in this part of the world. Which means the redwoods grow really fast. So fast that instead of producing the dense hardwood as they do in California, they produce a softwood – not what they were looking for.
Outside Rotorua the demonstration forest has been converted to park with hiking and biking trails. But in the centre is the Redwood walk, which is up in the trees. We went at dusk so we could enjoy the walk and the lighting installation.
Up the ramp we went, to walk between the trees.
Amongst the trees are huge lanterns, created by David Trubridge.
And here we all are
It was quite wonderful, walking high up in the trees. The engineering of the whole thing was pretty cool, too. The bridges moved but the viewing platforms were stable. Everything was rigged so as not to damage the trees – I would have loved to how they did it.