The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

Mt Tarawera erupted in the early hours of the morning of 10th June 1886 followed by the explosion of Lake Rotomahana which buried Te Wairoa village under a blanket of mud nearly 2 metres deep.  Around 150 lives were lost.

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A walk around the popular archaeological site reveals parts of the excavated village which lay undiscovered for around 130 years.  Several of the houses have had their entrances dug out and you can go inside, which gives a good idea as to how deeply they were buried in mud.

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Scenic paths lead to the Waterfall trail where we descended 117 steps to stand beside Wairere Falls, very impressive.  Some of the steps were carved out of rock and quite steep but we took our time as we were walking right next to the waterfall and they were slippery with moss and spray.  We stopped often just to take in the beauty of our surroundings and glimpses of Lake Tarawera.

 

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The Te Wairoa Stream where trout swim in season

 

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Only 100 more steps to the top …… and a coffee break!!!

There is a very informative museum with various items discovered during the excavation and you can learn about the fate of the pink and white terraces, a natural landmark, popular with tourists in the day and completely destroyed in one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters.

Lunch at the café was a nice finish to a very enjoyable morning.  I highly recommend a visit.

 

 

 

 

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The Gods Were So Angry That They Made The Lake Boil

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Rotorua is a place of myths and legends and we enjoyed hearing some of them whilst we travelled around, as a way of understanding the local way of life.  Here is a legend about the boiling lake in the local public park.  In case the writing on the sign is hard to read, it basically goes like this:

Back when the lake was cool enough to bathe in, it was called Lake Tawakahu and a beautiful young lady named Kuirau used to swim there.  Kuirau’s husband said that the lake belonged to her, but a large Taniwha (sea monster) lived in this lake and one day seized her.  It’s not known whether she died of fright or was taken back to Taniwha’s lair, but she was never seen again.  The Gods were so angry that they made the lake boil to get rid of the Taniwha.  

From that day on, the lake was called Lake Kuirau in memory of the beautiful lady who used to swim in its waters.

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On our first day in New Zealand, we were driving around Rotorua with the intention of stocking up at the supermarket, when our attention was drawn to steam rising from the park.   This was Kuirau Park, a free site where you can stroll along the boardwalk quite close to the steaming, hissing, bubbling activity, located surprisingly close to the city centre.

 

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As we were driving off, we noticed steam rising from a few backyards nearby and steam puffs from gutter drains on the edge of the road.  A very unusual sight.

Rotorua, New Zealand

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A few weeks ago we spent a very enjoyable week in New Zealand.  We chose Rotorua as our base, situated in the North Island on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua and a 3 hour drive from Auckland.  Rotorua is a major tourist destination mainly due to the amazing geothermal activity, with geysers and mud pools located in and around the town.

I love New Zealand – the majestic lakes, hot springs, friendly people, lovely green rolling hills and rain!  Such a change from Australia with everything so dry and brown at the moment.  It rained at some stage every day of our stay, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and I was glad that I remembered to pack us each an umbrella.

 

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We stayed here off-season, so I was able to enjoy watching the little black ducks in the canal rather than boats!

Let me tell you about our accommodation.  We belong to a timeshare company, WorldMark, which has resorts all over the world, so it wasn’t by chance that we stayed at the Ramada Resort Rotorua Marama;  chalet type accommodation on the edge of a boat canal with Lake Rotorua on the other side.  It was very comfortable and spacious, fully self contained with 3 bedrooms (why not, we had credits to spare!).  Our level of membership also covered free movies and wi fi, always a bonus on holidays.

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I was a bit wary of the two resident black swans when they started to follow me up and down the boardwalk, but they were very friendly.  I think they were hoping I was bringing some food!

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Such beautiful, spacious grounds right on the lake.  We didn’t have far to go in order to admire the scenery.

Not a lot a lot going on in Rotorua itself, but luckily we had made arrangements to pick up a rental car at the airport, and with the help of the sat nav, had no trouble finding our way around,  exploring the beautiful countryside and visiting some very interesting places.  More on those later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghan – Third Stop, Coober Pedy

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About half-way between Alice Springs and Adelaide, in the middle of nowhere, sits a small town in South Australia called Coober Pedy, once the Opal Capital of the world, which seems to rely more on tourism these days than opal mining.

Opals were first discovered here in 1915 and until the 1980’s business was booming as more than one thousand miners supplied opals to overseas markets. But today there are fewer than 100 miners left, production has dropped right off and the people in the town hope that some young blood will come and help to kick Coober Pedy on again.

So why would tourists want to visit a mining town past its heyday? Probably because they want to see for themselves a town like no other – more than half of the 3,500 population live underground due to extremes in temperature – in summer, over 50oC is not unheard of and it can be freezing in winter.

 

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Ventilation pipes mark the “dug outs”

The old miners realised that they couldn’t live in these temperatures, so they started to dig out their mines and live there. Later on they replaced them with underground homes, dug into the side of the hill. Each room has to be ventilated, and in the early days they consisted of wide, open air shafts but when drunken miners kept falling into them on their way home from the pub, they were replaced with thin pipes with mesh on top to keep out the snakes. This is what you see today.

 

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This is a display home underground.

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Electricity is no problem but there is no mobile phone connection underground, so you need a reliable alarm clock!

 

All houses have a front door above ground. Some houses have all the rooms underground and others have built some rooms (such as the wet areas) above ground and the living rooms and bedrooms are dug out. While temperatures soar and plummet, below ground it is always about 23-25 degrees C and they say you will get the best night’s sleep you have ever had.

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We ventured down a mine, had a nice Greek lunch there and spent the afternoon looking around the town and surrounding areas.  It probably has the only golf course in the world with no grass, and the golfers are given a grass mat to tee off.

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There are no gardens or flowers, just desert, and the areas surrounding the town consist of thousands of mounds where miners have tried their luck.

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There are no company mines here, it is too difficult and they would not survive. All you need to find opals is luck!

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Here is a collection of rusting old cars and obsolete mining equipment.  Every few months someone comes into town to take it all away.

One thing there is no shortage of is opal shops, which is just as well;  the only opal chips I managed to find were in the charm I bought for my Pandora bracelet!

Dining out is not a problem; around 45 nationalities are represented, mostly from Europe and the Mediterranean. Very multicultural.

So if you would like to go somewhere really different, do yourself a favour and visit Coober Pedy and stay a few nights in the underground motel. It’s the only place where house reno’s are not a problem. Need another shelf? Dig a hole. Need a walk-in robe? Dig a bigger hole….and you might even find some opals while you’re at it.

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The Dog Fence.  It seems to go on forever, like the red dirt and blue sky

The Dog or Dingo Fence was built in the 1880’s and is the world’s longest fence at 5,614 km or 3,488 miles.  It has in the most part been successful in protecting sheep from dingo attacks.  You may be surprised to know that some sheep and cattle stations can be larger than some small European countries, and tens of thousands of sheep were being killed every year before the fence was completed.

 

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The end of a busy day at Coober Pedy – time to relax with canapes and drinks while watching another amazing sunset.  Then all aboard for a sumptuous dinner in the restaurant.

 

Next morning, the outback reds and oranges gave way to lush green as we made our way into Adelaide and the end of a great rail journey.

 

The Ghan – Second Stop, Alice Springs

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The Alice Springs Desert Park, situated on 1,300 hectares, at the base of the MacDonnell Ranges is where we spent the day with our guide for an exclusive walking tour.

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I couldn’t recommend this outing more highly, and if you ever visit Alice Springs, it is a must-see. But allow plenty of time. You could easily spend most of the day here and you will be truly inspired. There is so much more to deserts than you think, and this educational facility explores everything the desert region of Australia has to offer – the birds, animals, medicinal plants and the people, and the relationships between them.

Our day started with a very interesting presentation by an indigenous guide about the aborigines and their way of life, including their weapons such as boomerangs etc. We made our way past several aviaries of birds for the free flight bird show, after which we got up close and personal with some of the birds and the trainer.

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Then we strolled past dingos and emus and made our way to the Nocturnal House to see various animals moving around and foraging, such as the iconic bilby, numbat and snakes. Our guide was very knowledgeable and answered all our questions.  I was pleased to find out that all the animals here are either rescued or being used in breeding programs because they are in danger of extinction.

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After lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the rest of the park, which is divided into three separate areas – Desert Rivers, where you can walk through dry river beds and areas which were past swamps and waterholes, discover outback flora and fauna which included a demonstration showing how the aborigines search for food and medicine.

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Next was the Sand Country which re-created the sandy desert and lastly the Woodland which was where we saw kangaroos out in the open.  I liked that the guide would not let us get too close but to stop and observe them from a distance. They seemed very relaxed and after some photo taking, we were formed into a single line and quietly moved on.

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Once back at the train we just had time to freshen up before being whisked off in buses for dinner at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The beautiful stone buildings have all been restored and offer a glimpse of how it must have looked when families lived there in the late 1800’s. They were all lit up and each had a plaque explaining how the building was used back in the day.

We arrived at sunset and were greeted by staff bearing glasses of champagne as we made our way to the open central area which was set up with tables with white tablecloths. On the back of each chair was a lovely  poncho bearing the Ghan symbol as a memento of our visit.

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We had a delicious meal under the stars with a live band playing in the background. Before dessert was served, we were given a star gazing presentation which was one of the highlights of our trip. A truly memorable day.