It's been a while since I've posted. There's lots of reasons for that, not a few of which are related to work and my prayers for Christchurch following the earthquake there on 22 February.
However, I do want to reflect on something that happened recently, not related to the disaster. On 24 February, my lovely husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage. It's quite incredible - 10 years seems to have gone past in a flash! I can mentally account for about four, but 10 seems a little excessive...! Well, we decided to celebrate our anniversary and go away together. Our small daughter stayed with her grandparents, we popped the cat into kitty prison, and headed away for a few days.
We went up to Taupo and Rotorua in the centre of the North Island, which is old turf for us: we had our honeymoon 10 years ago based in Turangi at the bottom of Lake Taupo and explored the area quite thoroughly, but wanted to do it again. We took a very leisurely drive up, stopping fairly regularly every time hubby saw something he wanted to take a photo of - and there were quite a few stops! The first one was on the lovely Kapiti Coast just out of Wellington to get a stunning shot of Kapiti Island, and then just up the road we stopped at the chocolate factory and Prenzel's liqueurs, where we finally found Blizzard (well, it's called Peppermint Ice Liqueur now, but it tastes the same)! We used to have some years ago and it's gorgeous, especially very cold, and mixed in hot chocolate it's amazing. More photo stops on the Desert Road, part of NZ's high alpine environment, to get some beautiful shots of Mts Ruapehu and Ngaurahoe "naked" (Tongariro was slightly hidden from where we were) - it's so weird to see them without any snow at all. Apparently they have some now following a cold snap!
It was lovely to be in Taupo again - I like the great lake area and it was particularly beautiful under a very high sky. We had a bit of a wander around the city that evening, and liked some of the changes that had happened up there.
Saturday was another travelling day: we went up to Rotorua, arriving at Waimangu Thermal Valley in time for their 8.30am opening, with the lovely early morning side-light through all the mist and steam from Frying Pan Lake. We had the place completely to ourselves for nearly an hour before we saw another human being. It was so still, and quite eerie with the cool morning and the hot steam. Waimungu Valley is the world's youngest thermal zone, and the only one in the world where the exact date of formation is known - it was formed from the eruption of Mt Tarawera on 10 June 1886. It spawned the Waimangu Geyser (Waimangu means "black water" in Maori, and the Waimangu Geyser was the world's largest geyser, erupting from 1900-1904, and was known to send rocks and mud over 450m in the air), and now Frying Pan Lake has filled what was part of the Waimungu Geyser crater. We followed the valley downhill, more or less following Hot Water Creek, to Lake Rotomahana on the shores of the brooding Mt Tarawera.
The lake and valley is an amazing ecosystem: the area surrounding Mt Tarawera was blasted to bare rock following the eruption, which split the mountain and created a massive chain of craters that run for 17km, and then covered with ash and other ejecta. All of the plant life in the area has seeded itself since the eruption, and the whole area is protected so scientists can watch the natural recovery process of the earth. There's also a lot of really lovely thermophilic plants that are only found growing around geothermal vents, and most are only found in New Zealand (and some only in Rotorua!). The lake was very serene - unfortunately the closest we got to the lost Pink and White Terraces was sailing over the spot where the Pink Terrace lies drowned, over 60m under the surface.
The afternoon was spent wandering around Rotorua, and then we indulged at the Polynesian Spa: I've blogged about this before, and it was just as good this time - even better in some ways! This time I had hubby to share the experience with me, but also while we were soaking in the gorgeous Priest's Pools at about 37degC, the heavens opened and we had a massive thunderstorm! Last time I was under the stars at night; this time slowly poaching in the hot waters and having cold fresh water falling in torrents on our heads! It was hilarious. Everyone else was hiding under the covered area - we were sitting out in the rain enjoying the contrast.
Sunday was a much more leisurely day: we went to Lava Glass in the morning and watched a master glassblower making these cool little starfish. Watching the hot molten glass come out, and then seeing how he added colour and shaped them was fascinating. That afternoon, we went on a cruise on the Ernest Kemp on Lake Taupo, out to the rock carvings in Mine Bay. The carvings are about 40 years old, and they are amazing. This huge face towering over the lake, looking out serenely into the distance of Moana Taupo (the Sea of Taupo - a good name for the lake!), eyeing the mountains. I wonder what he thinks about, the chief? Maybe he wonders when Taupo will erupt again - maybe he hopes it never will! He's like a great guardian of the lake, and it's fitting that he's surrounded by taniwha.