RTW: Days 42-44
Our second stop in New Zealand was Rotorua, although I’m not sure it was the best place to stay in the central area of the North Island. We still drove quite a bit every day. Our first day was spent driving there from Wellington, stopping along the way at the Rangitikei River, another part of the River Anduin: the part of the river that is between the walls of rock on both sides. I read that you can go rafting down this river, and I would absolutely love to if I can get down to New Zealand when it is not their winter.
We also stopped by at Mount Doom and the Mordor region. It is located near the Whakapapa Ski Area and the Tukino Ski Field. We drove up the mountain and took a few pictures. It was a wonderful time of day as well, watching the sun set behind the gorgeous fluffy clouds. It was the start of ski season and there was some snow on the mountains, but in the summer all of the lava-rock cliffs are barren and created a great backdrop for Mordor. Actually, they must have shot these scenes very carefully because there is so much that is green and good around this area that it would have been tricky to hid it all.
After spending the night in Rotorua, we drove back to Taupo the next day and visited the AC Baths Taupo. They were not the fancy hot-springs in Rotorua, instead it was a nice hot pool that was both indoors and outdoors. It was fun and a lot less money than the other hot springs I looked up.
The following day we drove to Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. It had been very rainy for several days, and when we arrived at the park it was sprinkling. It stopped and we decided to risk it. This Thermal Park was amazing. It reminded me of what I always imagined a volcanic area would look like, except instead of lava bubbling and spraying and pouring out of the ground, it was different types of mineral water. There were a number of geysers and even boiling mud. We enjoyed it, even though we did get rained on before we got back to our car again.
We had lunch at Murano Blue, and tried to wile away another rainy day. We walked around Rotorua and ended up watching The Conspirator at a tiny independent theatre that had about 6 chairs in it and was part of a climbing wall gym; also home to a local church on Sundays.