I left Kevin in Ngongotahā with the caravan today, and drove our vehicle through Rotorua to the Tarawera Trail carpark, which is on the same road as the Buried Village, actually just a kilometre before it. I was looking forward to being in that part of the world again and had built up quite a picture in my mind of what Mt Tarawera must have looked like with the six eruptive vents lined up in a long row, ejecting and fizzing fiery red ash and rocks into the night sky, sometimes one at a time, sometimes several of them going for it together.
Following my nose, and having already driven the route once, I assumed I would find the right road, but no – I soon realised I was heading for Rainbow Mountain. I turned around, only to have yet another false start back in Rotorua, so I stopped and loaded my destination into google maps and quickly got on the correct route – should’ve done that in the first place.
At the carpark there was a toilet block and a set of signs with a map of the walking route. I locked the car, pulled on my boots and pack, took up my walking poles and set happily off, the sun shining warmly down.
It was hard to take photos in the water taxi on the way back to the start; as passengers we were well tucked up inside and the boat bumped up and down sharp and hard on the ripples. Our boat operator told us that his wife is related to Guide Sophia of Tarawera historical fame, and about some of the villages that were destroyed in the 1886 Tarawera Eruption, pointing out where they were situated. Tourists used to stop in one of the villages along the trail I’ve just walked, to rest and eat before continuing on to the Pink and White Terraces. He pointed out a patch of non-native trees that had taken hold with early visitors; a type of wattle that conservationists are now left trying to remove. As well as spreading they are also leaching nitrogen into the lake which is suspected of changing the natural balance for fish and native plants.
The boat docked on the northern side of Lake Tarawera and after the operator had put it away in its shed he drove us back to the Tarawera Trail carpark in a van, where everyone on the boat had started from.