With Ellie and Lewis having completed the Tongariro Crossing yesterday we thought it would be best to have a relatively relaxed one with as little walking as possible, say a lovely boat trip around New Zealand’s biggest lake? Unfortunately, the wind had different ideas having not let up since our arrival. This meant that our leisurely cruise was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Being British, we usually wouldn’t accept this as a reasonable excuse, however looking out of the window from the lake-side café we agreed that it probably wouldn’t be all that fun to be battered by the mountain breeze (again) for the next three hours.
Figuring that the weather was unlikely to change course, we decided to go with the wind and made our way up to Rotorua via the stunningly beautiful Huka falls. Yes it is pronounced “hooker”, and there’s probably a joke in there somewhere, but more importantly this awesome cascade is a site to behold! Vivid turquoise liquid gushes out of a relatively narrow gully giving a beautiful spray effect as the water rushes down into New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato. The intensity of the colours in the blue-white river and intensely green foliage fosters a sense of awe which makes you want to scream “yes nature!”. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s probably the most beautiful waterfall in New Zealand, however I’m very open to being proven wrong (and of course the photographs don’t do this natural beauty justice).
Continuing our journey North we arrived in Rotorua and headed straight for one of Mother Nature’s other great wonders, the Fancy Meow Cat Cafe. OK so the café isn’t a “natural“ wonder but its feline residents still inspire feelings of “what did we do to deserve this?!”- they’re so damn cute! Calling this establishment a café may have been a little optimistic. You get a free hot drink (a la paper cup) with your entry which is handed to you through the small hatch in the wall, similar to a prison cell. Harldy the cosy, Kiwi café experience we’ve become accustomed to but the cats make up for it 100%. They have cats of every variety: long-haired, shorthaired, pointy ears, floppy ears, tortoiseshell, stripey, bushy tail, but our favourite by far was the smoosh-mouth cats.
You may have realised by this point that I’m not too clued up on breeds of cats, and I’m sure that the cat enthusiasts out there have never heard of the “smoosh-mouth” cat. I can assure you this is a legitimate cat-type and there are no less than three at Fancy Meow’s, namely Smoosh-Mouth, Baby Smoosh and Grandpa Smoosh. The smoosh-mouth cat can be identified by its smooshed-up face which looks like the cat has been pressing its face against the window for far too long, resulting in a completely square and flat profile. This makes the cat looks like its permanently displeased and/or asleep - a feature that, to our absolute delight, appears to become more distinguished as they get older (see Grandpa Smoosh). They are so cute you just want to squeeze their grumpy faces!
Unsurprisingly most of the cats didn’t want to be squeezed, or even play with us, appearing completely disinterested in humans. Some of them did tolerate being stroked and we managed to get a couple to play with the fishing rod eventually. Bad service and fickle cats aside, it was still a really fun experience, and the cherry on the top was the garish sticker on the toilet seat which made it look like there was a cat jumping out of the loo.
After all that furry excitement we headed to Kairau Park, which was next to our campsite for the night, to get our first taste of Rotorua’s famous geothermal happenings. If you’re unfamiliar with Rotorua and you meet someone who’s been there, they’ll probably tell you that it smells of eggs - and they’d be right. The city is a (literal) hotbed of geothermal activity, caused by rainwater percolating into the ground where it’s heated and rises back to the surface. This results in geysers, mud pools, hot springs and fumaroles (holes in the Earth that emit a mixture of steam and other gases, such as sulphur dioxide) providing the aforementioned eggy smell. Kairau Park claims to have at least three of these features and watching the bubbles of gas rising up through the steamy fumaroles was impressive. The so-called “hot spring” however was more of a lukewarm puddle dressed up as foot spa...and we couldn’t find the mud pools.
Lucky for us, our campsite had it own natural hot pools (a sweltering 38 and 40°C!) and we ended the day by suitably relaxing/blanching ourselves in the (slightly smelly) boiling water.