Flashpacking New Zealand with Stray – Day 3 – Hell’s Gate

Stray Group at Uncle Boy's Family Maori

Stray Group at Uncle Boy's Family Maori

We woke up this morning to the sounds of ABBA blaring out of the kitchen.  Apparently this is the standard wake up music for the groups that stay at the Maori.  Either Uncle Boy is really really into ABBA, or he’s having fun with his new extended family.

Music on the bus is also a bit of a hot topic.  On our bus, anyone can pass up an MP3 player with a playlist.  If anyone doesn’t like a particular song, they shout “SKIP!” and we move to the next track.  Three skips and it’s time for a new ipod.  So far the majority of the music hasn’t been too bad.

Daily antics on the bus keep us entertained in the bad weather.

Daily antics on the bus keep us entertained in the bad weather.

Bad News

The weather hasn’t exactly been cooperating with my itinerary, which is really too bad.  We got news this morning that the river rafting just about everyone wanted to do was canceled due to high water levels on the river.  In addition, one of the star activities for the north island, the Tongariro Crossing, was also canceled due to bad weather.

Unfortunately, traveling during the winter as I am, there’s not much I, or anyone for that matter, can do to counteract this.  I just have to cross my fingers and hope that some of the other activities I’m looking forward to down the road are available when I get there.

There were a few other options to choose from to replace the rafting – Zorbing (rolling down a hill in a big, inflatable ball), Cultural Village (a tour and lunch cooked in the natural hot springs) or “Hell’s Gate” (a tour through a series of hot springs and mud pools and/or a mud bath and sulfur spa soak).  I have some pretty dry, bad skin so I figured I’d give the mud bath a shot.

One of the "black mud" pools at the Hell's Gate park.

One of the "black mud" pools at the Hell's Gate park. Some of these pools can reach up to 144 degrees celsius.

Hell’s Gate

I was the only one of our group to go for the spa, and expected to just sit and soak for a bit.  I didn’t realize they have a whole “park” to walk through in back that shows all the bubbling pools and mud pits they draw the mud from for the baths.  I wandered around there for 45 minutes taking a few photos and hoping I didn’t caught in a downpour.

After the walk, I settled in to a mud bath for 20 minutes.  Having never done the mud bath thing, I guess I was expecting a pit or pool filled with mud, but that wasn’t the case.  It was a small pool filled mostly with water from the hot springs and mud coated the bottom and the seats.  You’re in there for 20-30 minutes and then it’s time for a cold shower followed by soaking in a sulfur heated spa.  The whole experience was a welcome respite from the bus, and while I can’t quite tell yet how long the effect of the mud will last, my skin is feeling great.

The largest warm water waterfall in the southern hemisphere.

The largest warm water waterfall in the southern hemisphere is found at Hell's Gate.

Night out in Taupo

We pulled into Taupo and I split from the group again heading to Base Taupo instead of staying at the standard accommodation.  It’s nice having a room to yourself every once in a while when you normally stay in dorms, and even better when you’re spending all your waking hours with the same group of people.

I checked into Base and got a great, quiet room with a view of the lake.  I settled in for a bit of work and then took a nice nap before walking to the other hostel to join the group for a few drinks.  As things tend to happen, a few drinks turned into a late night out for half the bus, and Taupo seemed as good a place to do that as any.  I called it a night later than some and earlier than others so I could get a few skype calls in and finish working on some photos.

Accomodation: Base Taupo
Activity: Hell’s Gate

Go back and read about what happened the previous day or find out what happened next.

The above is posted from the road during the middle of a month long trip through New Zealand with Stray.  If you don’t know who stray is,read the intro to the trip or check out their website.

In an attempt to give you an idea of what the trip is like I’ll be posting like I was writing a journal, but with some practical information in case you want to follow in my footsteps.