Thermal Highway My Way

Road Trip Day 2
January 2, 2014

Gabrielle, Joe and I standing between the Blue and Green Lakes in Roturua.

Gabrielle, Joe and I standing between the Blue and Green Lakes in Roturua.

Backseat Deli is in business! On today's menu, ham and cheese sandwiches on seeded whole wheat bun, with hand-dipped (by Gabrielle) peanut-butter prezels.

Backseat Deli is in business! On today's menu, ham and cheese sandwiches on seeded whole wheat bun, with hand-dipped (by Gabrielle) peanut-butter prezels.

Rise and shine! It’s time to head to along New Zealand's Thermal Highway from Lake Taupo to Roturua. Our first stop is Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park. We’ve got maps sprawled across the back seat and tourism pamphlets sticking out of every pocket of our vehicle. Gabs is in the backseat making sandwiches (we’ve coined her business “Backseat Deli”) and passing peanut-buttered rice cakes up between the seats to nourish the driver and second in command. We’re so far out in the wilderness that the only radio signal we can occasionally pick up is a Maori station playing tribal hymns, so we resort to a little Bob Marley on the iPhone... until it dies.

Orakei Korako is unbelievable. Steam rises from every orifice in the earth’s surface and the silica and algae form a rainbow of colors. The earth feels so "active" here, like it might just explode at any second. As we leave the Thermal Park and get closer to Roturua, the smell of sulfur fills the air. We stop into an iSite center to collect even more brochures and maps, and decide what else we want to cram into our day.

We end up tooling around the Roturua Lake District to find the the Blue Lake. Summer is in full swing at Blue Lake. Families are picnicking on the beach, music is playing from the back of trucks and people are jet skiing. The contrast of the clear blue water surrounded by lush jungle greenery makes me imagine that I’m in Hawaii.

One of the most beautiful days on Blue Lake in Roturua.

One of the most beautiful days on Blue Lake in Roturua.

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Our last activity of the day is visiting Hell’s Gate. It’s a thermal park filled with natural sulfur baths and bubbling hot mud baths. It smells awful and Gabrielle is extremely unsure about getting in the water. After a bit of coaxing, the three of us finally relax into the sulfur pool, which is supposed to have incredible benefits for your skin, (ignoring the fact that you will smell for 24 hours after). Next we dip into the warm mud baths, which are just too much fun! We cover ourselves from head to toe in mud and wait for it to dry. The three of us look like statues.

I think Gabrielle is finally starting to have some fun. After a half hour we rinse off, purchase some mud mask souvenirs and head back to our hotel for the night.

Joe painting Gabrielle with mud.

Joe painting Gabrielle with mud.

Yet another successful day of adventures! I’m amazed at how much you can pack into a New Zealand day. If you’re in Roturua, I definitely recommend a visit to Hell’s Gate.

On the road again...

On the road again...