Tarawera café, December 11th 2017
We hope you are doing great.
We are writing from Tarawera Café, it is 8 in the morning. Tarawera is the only spot where you can stop on the road between Napier and Taupo. We spent the night there and we are now having a nice instant coffee offered by John, the owner of the café.
Today, we are meeting Guillaume, aka Coraya (a friend of the University of technology of Troyes) at Huka Falls, close to Taupo.
After our first letter, I guess you are wondering how our fishing lesson went. Well, we trained for at least an hour on the sand to be able to aim at a target and control our strength.
Then we went in the water, not too deep for a start. We didn't catch anything (yet) but we were glad we learnt the basics. Dave, our master-fisherman, told us that fishing isn't called catching after all. How to put back a smile on our faces ;)
We went South to the Bay of Plenty, stopping at Karangahake Gorges. There was a gold mine there and you can still visit some tunnels. It's like in the Big Thunder Mountain of Disneyland. Except that it must have been a lot harder to work there than at Disneyland!
Then we stopped at Tauranga and the Mount Maunganui. All the campsites were full, completely different from where we were before. We didn't stay a long time there, just the time to go to the top of the Mount Maunganui and visit Tauranga city center.
After that, we went to Rotorua where you can have a foot bath in the very center of the city. Quite nice! The city is close to a huge lake, very beautiful but very smelly from time to time because of the sulfur. Rotorua is very famous for its thermal activity. We wanted to have a closer look at that and went to Wai O Tapu, a park where thermal activity is quite dense. Mud pools, hot water pools and geysers can be seen. The colours are awesome but the smell is not that great!
We went back on the coast and headed East stopping on the way at Matamata. We saw the first sunrise of the world after climbing 800 stairs (yes, you have to deserve this sunrise ;) ). Very cloudy but we could still see a nice red beam.
We drove along the East Coast stopping from time to time and notably at Tolaga Bay where we did a 20-km hike to see the bay where James Cook first landed. Apparently, a few other places like to call them "first landing" but well. It was a very nice hike through the forest, fields and plains.
In Gisborne (the most Eastern city in the world), we saw our 2nd most Eastern sunrise, from the observatory.
Then, we explored a little bit the "inland" and went to the lake Waikaremoana, the deepest lake in the North island, via a looooong gravel road.
Back on the coast, just North of Napier, we found a very nice campground close to a brewery. There was a sign on the reception door "if we are not here, please come to the bar". Okay! That's how they attract customers here ;) The campground's owner is also the owner of the brewery, convenient. We paid our night as if we ordered a beer (what we did just after).
We really liked Napier. It's a small city close to the ocean, the center is very nice, there are some old cars and an art déco architecture. There are 6 houses which look like the houses of Alamo Square in San Francisco.
We also enjoyed the region and had a breakfast on Te Mata peak where a lot of people were running or cycling on a Sunday morning - we felt quite guilty.
We discovered Cape Kidnappers and the gannets colonies. The cape can be reached by foot, on the beach, but only when it's low tide. It's a 5-hour hike but it's definitely worth it!
The area is also known its wine. We wanted to make our own judgement about that so we rented a tandem to taste the wines of different wineries. The renting place was very organised, we could buy as many bottles as we wanted, they would pick them up by car at all the wineries during the afternoon and we would get them at the end of our journey. We were very surprised - in a good way - by the white wines, less by the red ones. We finished the day with a good assortment of 5 bottles; it's nearly Christmas, we have to be ready!
Sorry, we have to go and hit the road, Taupo is still a 100 kilometers ahead of us.
See you soon! Lots of love,
Léonie and Baptiste