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New Zealand's Volcanic Discovery - Travel from Rotorua to Wellington

Richard Pennick - 09/09/05

Rotorua's geysers, bubbling mud pools, drifting volcanic and geothermal mists are fascinating and the Maori and their culture are captivating. But now the plan is to head down the centre of the North Island to Wellington and see everything on the way.

Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. Welcome.
Te Puia - Whakarewarewa. Maori culture - the Welcome
Photo source Te Puia
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As visitors to this country may have already discovered, in New Zealand there is almost as much to see and do on the way to most places, as there is at the destination. The road from Rotorua to Wellington is no exception, and one of the best ways to make this eight hour sightseeing trip to the southern tip of the North Island is in the comfort of a luxury motor coach, with stops along the way.

Rotorua is a three and half hour drive south of Auckland on the North Island's Central, or Volcanic Plateau. The highway south from Rotorua runs though forested, active geothermal country past Wairakei and down to Lake Taupo.

It then climbs up onto the Desert Road, and in due course, down along the Kapiti Coast on into Wellington. The region is a mixture of semi tropical forests, crater lakes, thermal reserves, water falls and volcanic mountains.

The motor coach departs from Rotorua hotels at 8.30am and heads out, past the thermal pools, onto the highway to the Huka Falls just north of Taupo.

The Huka Falls
The Huka Falls

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Here, the mighty Waikato River narrows and shoots through a granite cleft into the swirling cauldron below. The falls dump enough water to fill two Olympic pools every second - mesmerising! Kayakers are challenged to paddle over the falls - a few have made it - it is illegal!

Moving on over the high plateau, the snow clad shape of Mount Tongariro and its volcanic neighbours provide a back drop to Lake Taupo. The fresh water lake is an inland sea - thirty kilometres wide and forty long; a recreational paradise. The locals claim it as the trout fishing capital of the World - with cool, clear, water feeding into New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato. The Taupo Township, right on the edge of the lake is a scheduled stop, and cafe 'Replete' is the place for coffee, pastries and a look at the view.

A view of Lake Taupo
A view of Lake Taupo

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Leaving Lake Taupo and the Central Plateau, Highway 1 climbs up through Tongariro National Park to the Rangipo Desert past the trio of active volcanoes - the highest point on the North Island - Mount Tongariro (1,967m), Mount Ngauruhoe or "Mount Doom" (2,291m), and Mount Ruapehu (2,797m). In 1995 and 1996, Mount. Ruapehu erupted, spoiling the local ski season, casting a cloud of dust into the stratosphere all around the Southern Hemisphere. The mountain is quiet for now - but it is still smoking!

Mt Ngauruhoe and neighbours
Mt Ngauruhoe and neighbours

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Although not a "desert" in a sandy sense, high and low temperature extremes on the eastern side of the volcanoes have created a dry arid desolate volcanic landscape with hardy alpine vegetation covering the scoria or gravel. This was the site of "Mordor" in the Lord of the Rings movies. It is the domain of "brumbies" or wild horses, grazing sheep, rabbits, the harrier - an ever vigilant bird of prey - and the New Zealand army.

The scenery turns green again as the motorcoach descends from the high country, through the river gorges to the verdant farmlands, small beachside communities and sweeping stretches of sand along the Kapiti Coast of the Tasman Sea.

Kapiti Island viewed from the Kapiti Coast

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Photo which I may have sent you Kapiti Island viewed from the Kapiti Coast. An hour or so later you are dropped off at your hotel in Wellington, the nation's capital, where there is even more to see and do.

Newmans Coach Lines has been showing folks around New Zealand since 1879. They provide scheduled luxury motor coach services linking the main commercial and tourist centres, with full commentary sightseeing excursions to selected tourist destinations. This includes their service between Auckland, the Waitomo Caves and Rotorua. And from Wellington to wherever your fancy takes you next? For information and reservations


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