Round-the-world Walkabout ctd.
I leave the coach at Rotorua, and am met by a friend of a friend, who has lent me her car for a week. I have not driven for two months, and the automatic gear is strange at first, but at least I’m driving on the left hand side of the road here, and the next few days are a treat as I enjoy my independence.
One afternoon I hike a couple of trails along the river from the Huka Falls, near Taupo. Very few people are on the trail, but several birds betray their presence, and I enjoy the privilege of being able to stop and stare and identify without the pressure of belonging to a group. Birdsong is melodious and frequent. It is a pretty environment, colourful trees and shrubs border the emerald green river which creates creamy rapids for white-water rafters. It is springtime. A thin sun appears, but it is mostly overcast and only a few drops of rain fall in the late afternoon.
On the second trail I am completely alone, except for a jet-boat screaming far below me, and a helicopter whirring above. Until now, I have not been able to feel the peace of isolation. I am four hours on the trail and do not notice the time go by. My limbs start complaining towards the end, but I take no notice.
I book a ride to the Craters of the Moon. The weather is damp. My scruffy long-haired horse with dried mud clinging to his coat is an obstinate standard-bred, and I think he is lame in all four legs until I am told he is a pacer. I certainly would not choose to ride another like him, and muscles other than those in my legs suffer as a consequence.
But the two hours to the Craters of the Moon geysers and the hills beyond are wonderfully pleasant and peaceful, even though the cloud obliterates most of the view. Tall pine forest shelters us from the rain, and my hitherto untried rain jacket and trousers do their job beautifully. Twice we pass by a delicate grey Arabian-type pony ridden in a twisted rope halter by a woman with an elfin figure. They seem surreal as they emerge from the mist.
We visit The Caboose Lodge. I imagined it nestling in a forest of pines by a lake; in fact, it is on a corner of a busy street by Lake Taupo. Its light brown log walls and yellow, orange and brown decor comes from South Africa, complete with furnishings. You step through the front door right into Africa. The theme is a train, rooms are cabins and wildlife pictures and motifs adorn the walls and floors. The locals took some time to appreciate the novelty, apparently, but the restaurant and conference facilities are popular.
I take a different route back to Rotorua – the farms are bigger and I nearly swerve off the road when I spot a herd of deer grazing peacefully in a paddock. Deer farming is quite popular here. I also pass a couple of llamas.
Before turning off to Lake Rotoiti, I detour down a narrow winding road to Lake Okataina and arrive at a deserted paradise, presided over by a sleepy lodge. A miniature crescent island … waters ruffled by white horses as squalls pass through; a sandy shore and a couple of jetties slapped by gentle waves. One or two buoys mark a little course. Distant shores are covered with unspoilt forest and dense undergrowth. Sometimes a patch of sunlight shows through the passing clouds.
That night, I stay all by myself in a sweet little shalet by Lake Rotoiti – an idyllic setting.