Tuesday 24 January 2006 Rotorua to Auckland

I set my alarm and when I turned it off I accidentally reset the clock and thought I was late. But instead I had time for a leisurely English breakfast at the motel cafe. It was not a promising day weather wise, and it turned out to be quite windy and rainy.

However, my activities were well suited to the day. I was picked up and taken to Hell's Gate a thermal area named by George Bernard Shaw in a visit there. I walked around area with two English girls who had just graduated from college. We were provided with umbrellas, but the wind turned them inside out if we weren't careful. These thermal pots were much larger than the ones the day before and included the largest mud volcano in the western hemisphere. I was pleased to identify a tui in the trees. The highlight of the morning was a mud bath. I sat for a half hour in a 6 by 8, 2 1/2 foot deep concrete pool that had a layer of mud on the bottom and was quite hot, then I sat in a big hot sulphur pool with other people for another half hour. It was quite relaxing and the management nicely dried our rain soaked walking clothes while we sat.

The driver took us back to town and gave me a short tour of the beautiful old buildings -- Tudor style museum and old bath house and gardens before dropping me off at the tourist center where I shopped and called Phil with Skype. It continued to pour, and got worse on the trip to the Waitomo Cave area. I hadn't wanted to do this part, because when we got into the cave it looked like Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown, but then there was the twist. The larva stage of an insect has filaments that glow in the dark and we took a boat ride looking up at these tiny dots of light that were fantastic. Two and a half hour ride back to Auckland and as we neared the city the wind was fierce. Tony had arrived an hour early to pick me up and we went to their home for a very nice pasta and salad dinner followed by hokey-pokey ice cream -- vanilla ice cream with crunch honey inside. We had a Monkey Bay chardonnay.

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