Roughly 40 mins north of Taupo on State Highway 5 is 'Rainbow Mountain' (Maungakakaramea in Maori), nestled between the areas of Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu, this volcanic mountain is still smouldering due to the thermal activity taking place beneath it. This seemed like a great place to take a small boy with too much energy and too many questions! We packed a lunch into a backpack and armed with bottles of water, sun cream and sun hats we set off on the 7km round trip to see the crater lakes and gain the summit.
The reason it's known as 'Rainbow Mountain' is the presence of different coloured minerals in the rocks that make up the reds and oranges you can see contrasting with the greens and browns of the native vegetation. Though we didn't see that much bird life we certainly heard plenty, this area is known for populations of Tui, Bellbirds, Waxeyes and Kingfishers! The young fella was very impressed with the variation of the landscape, from bush to tree lined walkways to open areas and all the time with great views of the surrounding hills.
The first area of note is the Crater Lakes, here you see the iridescent water appearing first green then blue then turquoise depending of the light. Back to the main trail and it's mostly uphill, surprisingly no complaints from the small person as he was too busy looking out for birds and bears (he won't believe me that there are no bears in New Zealand!) neither of which were willing to show themselves to us.
The trail up the Mountain is dual use, both for walking and for experienced Mountain Bikers, once you get to the top there's a 3km, Grade 4 downhill track for advanced riders so if Mountain Biking is your bag, saddle up! We didn't bring our bikes (this time!) so it was all leg work and well worth it, once we reached the summit the views were stunning! We could see Mt. Tauhara in the distance to the South and Mt. Tarawera to the North, we even got to see the Chopper from Heli-Pro flying back to Taupo from a flight.
A picnic of buns, fruit and a chocolate bar then it was time for the descent! One and a half hours to the top and only 40 minutes to get down, that boy of mine keeps a mean pace!
Since we were in the area we decided to take a look at Kerosene Creek a nearby thermal stream. It was surprisingly busy, a 'Stray Bus' turned up just after us and about 30 people spilled out so we decided to try another spot for a dip. Often when driving home from Rotorua to Taupo I take the road through Reporoa and pass a sign pointing to the 'Butchers Pool' intrigued I decided to see exactly what we were missing.
A few hundred meters down a gravel track is a very well maintained 'Mineral Hot Pool'. Completely natural, this pool is kept lower during the school holidays (to stop drownings) and is usually about two meters deep, so a little boy grinning from ear to ear leapt from the car and was naked by the time I had located his swim shorts! I stuck my feet in and can tell you that it was bliss, the young fella jumped straight in and was delighted by how warm it was, apparently it's warmer the further you get from the outlet gate. Sadly all too soon it was time to head for home, once back in car my son fell fast asleep (lucky beggar) as I took us back via the Aratiatia Rapids and the new Giant Bike Sculpture to home.
A most excellent day was had by both parties and we're already planning our next outing!
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