The weather in Stratford was awful – it rained cats and dogs. But we shouldn’t complain – it’s not really better in Germany and it’s autumn in New Zealand after all. After leaving Stratford, we wanted to go to Lake Taupo and then continued our journey to visit the thermal wonderland Wai-O-Tapu.
Forgotten World Highway
After buying some groceries in Stratford, we drove on State Highway 43, which is also called Forgotten World Highway.
The Forgotten World Highway is 148 km long and runs from from Stratford in Taranaki to Taumarunui in the King Country. It is a Heritage Highway and got its name, because it is very remote and goes through areas that are just mystically beautiful.
Following the highway, we stayed one night at the Te Wera Valley Lodge, which was such a beautiful place clean facilities, hot showers, free WiFi and all that for just $24 per night (~13.52 €).
The cabins have cute names, such as Kiwi, Kakapo.
Kakapo? Wait, what? “Po” in German means “butt” and “kaka” means “poo-poo”… So seeing this reminded me of the Minions movie…
But as I learned, Kakapo is the name of a bird, comes from Māori “kākāpō” which means night parrot (“pō” means night, and “kākā” means parrot).
Driving on the Forgotten World Highway, you come through the township Whangamomona or to be more exact – The Republic of Whangamomoma. In 1989 residents here declared themselves as a republic and if you want, you can purchase a passport at the hotel here.
We continued our journey on this beautiful highway and came across “Hobbit’s Hole”.
This “Hobbit Hole” is actually the 180 m long Moki Tunnel which was built in 1936.
We finally arrived at Lake Taupo and stayed the night for free at the Five Mile Beach.
The next morning we went to the Huka Falls and they are pretty amazing to watch. Per second, more than 220.000 liters of water going down this 11 m high waterfall.
Aratiatia means ‘stairway of Tia’. The water of the Waikato River falls downstream from the dam on top of the Aratiatia Rapids. The dam opens three times a day (in summer four times) and it is pretty spectacular to watch the water come down and fill the gorge.
What I learned this time we went here was, that parts of the famous Hobbits-in-a-barrel scene was shot here. I knew that it was shot at the Pelorus Bridge on the South Island (where we went last year and had a yummy carrot cake). But Peter Jackson also filmed parts at the Aratiatia Rapids. They used the water coming down after the dam opened and dropped in the barrels – without the hobbits of course 🙂
Wai-O-Tapu: Thermal Wonderland
Wai-O-Tapu is Māori for “sacred water” and is New Zealands most colorful volcanic area and is located south of Rotorua. The Taupō Volcanic Zone is one of the most active volcanic areas in the world!
We could not only see but also smell that this is an active geothermal area. At first the smell of sulphur, which reminds of spoiled eggs, hits you like a hammer, but after a while we got kind of used to it.
The largest hot spring pool in New Zealand is the Champagne Pool; 65m diameter and 62 m deep.
The Champagne Pool has a surface temperature of 74°C and bubbles of carbon dioxide come to the surface – hence the name.
The orange rim looked really amazing. We learned that it contains the minerals arsenic and antimony sulphur, which both are very rich in Silver and Gold. But the most mind-blowing color was the neon green of Roto Kārikitea.