There are 18 lakes in the Rotorua region, and we went exploring some of them today. The lakes were all formed by cataclysmic volcanic activity in times past, craters, calderas or valleys blocked by lava flow. Mokoia Island is located in Lake Rotorua, and is associated with a tale of true love. According to legend, Hinemoa and Tutanekai were from different tribes and fell in love. But the two lovers were forbidden to marry, and Hinemoa's father forbade her to travel by canoe to Tutanekai's tribal village on the island. Hinemoa decided to swim 3.2km across the lake to the island, guided by the sound of her lover’s flute-playing.
Lake Rotorua and Mokoai Island
Our main destination was to travel to Lake Okataina, somewhere I hadn’t been before. We turned down a narrow windy road, which had tall native trees hugging both sides of the road. Almost at our destination, we came to an abrupt stop – there were workmen on a truck dead ahead, and another truck slowly inching past. Not much room at all. With one of the trucks out of the way, we slowly made our way past and down to the lake front. Just as well we weren’t towing the caravan.
Traffic jam on the road
Lake Okataina was raised 12m by the Tarawera Eruption in 1886. It was also known as The Lake of Laughter when a Maori warrior referred to the lake as an ocean, and this was seen as a great joke by the rest of the men, and their laughter echoed around the lake.
Next stop was the beautiful Blue Lake, often seen as turquoise blue due to reflection from the white rhyolite and pumice bottom. Also known as Tikitapau, the place where the daughter of a high born chief lost her sacred greenstone neck ornament.
It was lunch time and as luck would have it there was a sleek and shiny Airstream Café van close by. The friendly owner quickly made us a toasted sandwich and a hot coffee each, while happily chatting away about his custom fitted Airstream. We sat and ate our lunch with the beautiful view of the lake in front of us.
Lunch time at the Blue Lake
The nearby Green Lake is sacred and both lakes can be viewed from a lookout on the narrow isthmus separating the two lakes. We were last at this lookout on our honeymoon, all those years ago, when we did an all day trip taking in some of Rotorua’s scenic delights.
At the lookout
View of the Blue Lake from the lookout
And we looked the other way to the sacred Green Lake, Rotokakahi
The Green Lake is named after the shellfish, kakahi, and often appears emerald green due to the shallow sandy bottom. It sacred lake is privately owned by the local iwi (Maori) and boating, swimming or fishing is not permitted.
All the lakes we viewed had wonderfully clear water close to shore. Rotorua is often called a land of lakes and rivers, and they are all so beautiful.