This morning we left on our road trip! We jammed everything into Josh and Louise’s new VW Passat, and headed off early in the morning to make our way to Whakatane to catch a boat to take us over to the world’s only active marine volcano, White Island. It is estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old. It is only accessible by guided tours and nobody else is allowed to set foot on it.
Once we got on the boat “Pee Jay” in Whakatane, we set off four our six hour tour. It takes about two hours by boat to get there, and then about two hours at the volcano, and two hours back. We saw bunches of common dolphin on the way over and a sailfish basking in the sun. The weather was terrific and the sea was calm.
When we arrived at the volcano, we had to transfer to a smaller boat which took groups of us onto the volcano itself (the big boat can’t dock really anywhere close.) We got off the little boat onto the old wharf, from when the volcano was mined for it’s sulphur in the 1900s. They quality of the sulphur on the volcano didn’t turn out to be so great however, and there had been a couple landslides and deaths from the volcano, so people decided that it wasn’t worth mining there anymore. There are still some crippled ad dilapidated buildings from the old mining days on the volcano, which we got to explore. When you step foot on the volcano they make you wear hard hats and gas masks to keep you breathing okay. You can breathe alright without the masks unless the steam is right on you, and then it makes it really hard to breathe and you cough a lot. We also got to walk right up near the bubbling hot spots in the ground and see the main crater in the volcano which is super acidic and boiling boiling hot! You had to follow exactly where the guides stepped because there were gas pockets that could come up at any time.
After the hike on the volcano, we went back on the boat and they let you swim right in that little bay where the big boat was moored. There were bunches of little jellyfish in the water but they didn’t sting you. The water was FREEZING though, and again, only Louise and I went in! Boys=chickens. After the swim they fed us a delicious lunch, and I got to taste my first mince pie, crunchie bar, and asparagus roll (a Kiwi treat I’m told..). Everyone then fell asleep on the boat ride back.
When we got back on the main land, we decided to check out Ohope which was pretty close to Whakatane. We pulled over at a little park area where there was a cool estuary with trees, birds, little tiny crabs everywhere and warm warm water to swim in. The boys only went in up to their thighs… le sigh.
There wasn’t any lodging in Ohope, so we went a little further down the road to Opotiki and found a small little motel to stay in for the night. Nothing much was open, and the town is pretty small, but it’s good for the night before we move on to Rotorua tomorrow and do some rafting, zorbing, shopping, and whatever else strikes our fancy! Good night