We had a few hours drive ahead of us, today, but could not leave Rotorua without a visit to 'The Buried Village', Te Wairoa. The 1886 eruption of Mt Tarowera, about 15 km away, completely destroyed several Maori villages that were closer to the volcano, and buried Te Wairoa in up to two metres of mud. In all, more than 120 people died. In the 1930s, the area was bought by the Smith family and for three generations the family has been excavating and developing a really interesting, informative and sensitive park around the site of the village.
Some of the old buildings, such as the blacksmith's shop, have been excavated to the original ground level. It was quite eerie to walk through and look at the walls of mud that surrounded us. One really remarkable result of the deluge of fertile mud was that a row of fence posts, cut from poplar trees, actually sprouted and grew into an avenue of huge poplars that survived for almost 130 years. They were cut down a few years ago because they became dangerous, but have now begun to re-sprout from the stumps - obviously, you can't kill a good poplar!
The park also incorporates a lovely short rainforest walk that passes below a surprisingly high and vigorous waterfall, given the gentle stream that feeds it. We ended our visit with an excellent coffee and a quick tour of the very good museum. We left Rotorua feeling that we had had an excellent insight into this fascinating area.
After a quick shopping stop and a relaxing, if cool, lunch sitting on the shore of Lake Rotorua, we headed off for the Coromandel. Time was a bit tight, so we didn't plan many stops. However we did take the time for a break in Waihi, a town famous for its now defunct gold mine. An enormous open pit and some some silent sentinels of days gone by - such as the Cornish Pumphouse and a Poppet Head - are situated right alongside the main street.
The drive through the hills of South Coromandel was really lovely, if demanding, with many twists and turns. Our hire car has pretty pathetic headlights, so we were very pleased to make it to Hahei in daylight - just! We have rented a beachside villa in a tourist park and will have to wait for morning to see what kind of a view we have, but the villa itself is fantastic. We have been pretty fortunate with most of our choices of accommodation so far, but this is the gold standard, to date!
Tomorrow, we are hoping to take a boat ride along the coast, but first - a good night's sleep!