New Zealand – south of the North Island

After leaving Auckland for the third time, I headed straight down to Rotorua - known locally as Rotovegas. It may be thus named in the same way as Stalyvegas - big aspirations, but ultimately seems a vacant. It also has a constant smell of hydrogen sulphide (rotten eggs), which the locals attribute to the active volcanic nature of the area. With the time of year that I visited, it had the feel of an off-season seaside resort, and the town itself felt quite empty most of the time. I decided to use the opportunity to take a day off, just mooching about town aimlessly and catching up on some sleep. This plan was foiled somewhat by the faulty fire alarm in the hostel which kept on going off at random hours, and the horrific acoustics within the hostel which meant that the birthday party going on was clearly audible in every room. No matter - that's partly why I brought eight sets of earplugs 🙂
Moving on from Rotorua was one of the longest days that I've done during this trip. I began with a visit to one of the local volcanic zones - Wai-O-Tapu - home to bubbling mud pools, multi-coloured lakes, steaming holes in the ground, and a slightly impressive but equally slightly disappointing geyser (guyser, not geezer). Once I'd left there, I began a loooong drive on the East Coast Highway, a 550km trek on a very windy coastal road down to Gisborne. The drive took around seven hours, but the view was stunning with sheer cliffs, deep forest, and the every-present winding road. I barely knew where I was by the time I pulled into Gisborne, and still couldn't tell you one thing about the town itself - I scooted off the next morning to  a town with character, Napier. After a massive earthquake in 1931, the majority of buildings in the centre of the city were destroyed. Rebuilding used the primary style of the time, Art Deco, with the result that the entire city centre looks like an architectural time-bubble. In hindsight, I wish I'd spent more time here but I left the next day under the misguided impression that I was running out of time…
While in Auckland, I visited the Auckland Museum which was hosting a photographic contest. One of the pictures on display was a gorgeous shot of a lighthouse (a subject that repeatedly appears when you travel around coasts), and I resolved to visit this particular lighthouse and attempt to replicate the picture. Needless to say, I failed (the contest photographer must have gone 'off-piste' to get his shot) - but it was still a very picturesque corner of the world. The gale force winds weren't welcome though, and I awoke in the middle of the night with the roof of my partially collapsed tent pressed against my face. I survived the night though, and as soon as the sun came up, I headed on to Wellington.
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