Wow, what a day. I can’t believe where we started and where we ended up. Yesterday seems like forever ago, climbing over and through the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. I met a woman named Lilli who’s from Australia and is an International Student Volunteers leader who was working here for a couple weeks and has a few days off before going home tomorrow. She and I hit it off and she offered to take me with her on her mission to find hot springs to soak our sore legs after 20km of hiking. Needless to say, I was in.
We hopped in her car and took off up the road as the rain clouds moved in after a beautiful sunny day, chatting and really hitting it off. Soon we were at the hot pools and soaking our aches away while the rain pattered down on us. After we were like limp noodles from the hot water, we decided to check out the thermal walk they had right next to the hot springs. We wandered into the bush on the path and found beautiful sulfuric pools of all shapes and sizes hidden in the trees. Think Yellowstone, only we were alone. So when we came to a small burbling mud pool, we looked at each other and Lilli hopped over the fence, grabbed the stick that was already in the mud pool and we eagerly smeared the smooth, warm mud all over our grinning faces. On our way out we pulled our hoods over our heads to make sure we didn’t get in trouble. We drove down the road giggling and came to a quiet backpackers where we cooked a delicious meal and had a really restful night.
This morning we woke up naturally and had buckwheat and soy milk for breakfast. We got a tip from the owner about a place where two rivers converge; one is really hot and one is cold so they make a delightful confluence where you can soak in water however hot or cold you like. We were stoked and headed up the road to explore a historical Maori village site, cruise past a lake covered in trumpeting black swans.
Our next stop was spontaneous when we saw a sign that said “Blue Pool” along the river. We were hoping for a hot pool but it was just a good fishing site, so we had a snack on a bridge suspended over a large river then continued on to the hot river.
We found it very easily and decided we had found paradise. It was totally natural, no signs or anything, just two rivers, one steaming hot, and a pleasant place to soak among the trees and feel the rain on our heads. A thunderstorm moved in and suddenly lightening was flashing and thunder pealing right over us. We smeared black mud from the riverbank on our faces and delighted in the calm, waters with only a few people around us. When we were soggy again and a busload of young people arrived and looked skeptical about getting in, we decided it was time to go and discovered we had been in the river for almost two hours. Wow, we felt rejuvenated and our skin was radiant!
We tried to find more mud pools we had seen signs for but they were closed for a boardwalk construction so we ate a picnic lunch and drove on toward Rotorua. We saw a sign for Te Puia and decided to check it out, but couldn’t find the main entrance at first and when we did we shied away from what seemed to be an extremely touristy place where you could experience Maori culture, walk through hot pools or even take a helicopter ride over the area. We didn’t even make it to the front door before we decided it felt weird and continued on. A similar experience followed when we actually arrived in Rotorua; it seemed like it could be a great place to play but we had had such a spiritual experience that had opened us up completely physically and mentally, neither of us could handle a busy city filled with activities and souvenir shops. We decided to skip the city and drive up to a small town on the beach for Lilli’s last night and for me to chill out before heading back to Auckland.
It took us forever to get here, I’m still not sure why but I have a feeling stopping at several grocery stores to find a certain organic yogurt may have something to do with it. After driving and driving we finally found ourselves on the West Coast of New Zealand with the sun sinking toward the waves. We found the backpackers with no problem and were delighted to find it to be very clean, spacious and devoid of other people besides ourselves. The beds even have blankets and sheets and she gave us towels to use and the kitchen is fantastic and filled with spices and cooking oil and all sorts of treats. I even found a dusty Sigg water bottle in the back of a cabinet Lilli is taking back with her! Sweet!
We high-tailed it down to the beach to squeeze in an ocean dip at sunset with the surfers playing in the waves and the sky glowing orange and pink. The beach sand is black and sparkling, it felt truly magical to finally lower our core body temperatures again after the scalding river water. We frolicked in the waves thinking about our crazy day then headed back to the hostel to drink tea and cook up some amazing wheat-free pasta with veggies, tofu and cheese. So satisfying and delicious.
Lilli is really cool and we have a lot in common. We talk about synchronicity and following what feels right and how that really makes or breaks a trip. It just felt right to go with her to the hot springs and we found accommodation so easily and got the tip to go to the river. Being in Rotorua just didn’t feel right; Lilli couldn’t find a parking space and we couldn’t decide on a place to eat or get tea and it just felt wrong to be there, and getting to Port Waikato has been perfect in every way. I am so excited to spend the day relaxing here tomorrow. It’s just really nice to be reassured that following my intuition is what works best.