Tim: "Do you think we'll ever have conventional lives?"
Mike: "Ooo look - Zirka Circus!! [pause] No I don't think we'll have conventional lives."
Tim: "I'd like to see you on a trapeze."
We said farewell to our beautiful beachside campsite on the Cormandel, drove three hours to Auckland, and said farewell to our rental car, Mitch The Bitch. We were so excited to have Adi back in our lives and thrilled at the amount of space suddenly available. She had a relatively new radiator and coolant and was ready to go. We used the internet at the library and bought groceries before pushing out of town to eat on the road. We didn't reach a campsite outside of Rotorua until midnight and we were grumpy and cold: sleep needed to occur immediately.
After a blistering cold night in the back of Adi and in the tent, Mike was eager to check out Kerosene Creek - a local hot springs spot. We arrived about 10:30 in the morning to discover a creek that was steaming hot - literally steam was rising from the water! We jumped with glee, changed into our swimsuits in the brush, and rushed in to bathe.
It was as if someone made me a hot tub in the forest: the water rushed over us as we sat in these rock seats that had been eroded away. Everything rushed down the stream into a waterfall where we chatted up the only other people there: an older British couple. It was amazing as we hadn't bathed in a good couple of days and had been so cold the night before. The sunlight streamed through the trees and we resisted dunking our heads under water as it was sulfer water and apparently amoebas can climb in your ears and eat your brains (or something -I wasn't really listening to Mike).
We stopped at the "Thermal Wonderland" just down the road where we gagged at the smell of boiling sulfer mud pitts (it looked as if feces was flying out of the ground and into the air - Dan decided it smelled like a bacon and egg sandwich from McDonalds) and used the clean flushing toilets at the Wonderland Visitor Center. Sweet sweet flushing toilets. How I adore thee.
We pushed on to Lake Taupo: a town nestled along the edge of a huge lake with the Tongariro National Park mountains in the distance. We ran some errands and bought groceries and ate a very late lunch alongside the lake. Everyone was hungry and tired and we eventually agreed that we would attempt the Tongariro Alpine Crossing the next day: a seven hour hike past Mount Doom.
We've had incredible luck with weather here. Obviously it's summer in this hemisphere, so we've been running around in shorts and sandals (or jangles as they're called here). You can actually walk around barefoot everywhere here - in the stores, on the street, in the bathroom. The only time I've actually seen Dan where shoes was on the hike over the Tongariro pass. It's very relaxed life down here. As someone who is cold all the time, of course I'm cold often and get sunburned just as often (thanks for this Eastern European fair skin Mom and Dad!) but even on a windy, cloudy day New Zealand is beautiful and the weather changes quickly.