Last weekend, it was finally time for the ladies trip my friends and I had been planning for months. Five of us – Emma, Sophie, Sarah, Kate and myself – were set to spend two nights in a holiday flat up in Rotorua. We had all sorts of epic fun in mind, but you’ll just have to stay tuned for that.
I’d first been to Rotorua not long after I arrived in New Zealand in 2014, mainly as a stopping off point from which to visit Hobbiton. I really enjoyed my three nights in town, so I was excited to go back with friends and do more exploring.
Emma picked me up late on Friday morning so we could head up early. The drive up is about six hours, so we wanted to get a head start and have some time to stop off on the way up. The rest of our friends would be headed up later in the day to meet us.
Here’s our route on a map.
About two hours out of Wellington, we hit the town of Bulls. It was the perfect spot to stop for a delicious kebab lunch and a chance to stretch our legs.
One thing Bulls loves, more than even bulls themselves, is a good pun. In fact, almost every shop or office in town is a play on the word “bull.”
We popped in a shop or two and wandered along the main street of Bulls. It reminds me of a town from the American Old West.
Of course, no town called Bulls would be complete without a giant bull to preside over everything. He’s even move-a-bull. See what I did there?
No matter where you stop, you can’t possibly forget that you’re in Bulls.
Even the police station (home of the const-a-bull) has jumped on board with this mural.
Well, that’s enough of that for now. I don’t know if anyone could possibly handle any more bull references in one post.
Having gotten a good stretch and meal, we hit the road north. Our next stop was a couple hours further along, in the town of Taihape. Emma had been before and recommended trying out the truly Kiwi “sport” of gumboot (Welly/rain boot) throwing.
It’s exactly what it sounds like…
We had the place to ourselves, so neither of us were too worried about technique. What even is the right technique for throwing gumboots? Probably not this, based on how far my throws went.
Taihape: A Portrait:
Taihape definitely has that frontier town vibe, too.
And like Bulls, they’ve found their theme and decided to run with it.
With only a couple hours left to go to Rotorua, we drove north toward the section of SH 1 known as the Desert Road.
Right before the beginning of the Desert Road, we stopped in Waiouru to briefly check out some tanks. All New Zealand Army soldiers complete their initial basic training at Waiouru Military Camp, and it’s easy to see why this spot on the edge of nowhere provides a great place for training exercises.
Beginning on the outskirts of Waiouru, the Desert Road climbs to the highest point on New Zealand’s state highway network, 1,074 metres (3,524 ft), before ending just outside Turangi. It passes through the outskirts of Tongariro National Park and on a clear day, you can see the volcanoes of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Needless to say, this day was not a clear day.
We battled inclement weather and low visibility, but Emma took on the winding road like a pro. We entertained ourselves with thoughts of drinks and relaxation at the end of the road in Rotorua.
Before long, we were back on a more normal (by NZ standards) road with less hairpin turns, and we pulled over for a view stop near Lake Taupo.
We only had another 45 minutes to go on the Thermal Highway to Rotorua, and we could soon smell her coming. Ahh, sulphur!
Up next, come along on our Rotorua adventures, including some white water rafting and lots of sheep (but no white water rafting sheep, sadly).