We meet at 7am at the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland before heading south to Rotorua, with a café stop on route to fortify those who missed breakfast. Rotorua is renowned for its steaming thermal vents, bubbling mud-pools and stunning lakes. The area is also rich in Māori and early European history, including the violent 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption that buried a Māori village.
We continue to Lake Tarawera, where we catch the noon water taxi to access the trail's midsection. Here, we start a hike alongside the clear waters of Lake Tarawera, enjoying the shade that towering tree ferns and ignimbrite cliffs offer. Along the way, you can take a dip in the lake at one of the small pumice beaches. The trail offers glimpses of the expansive wilderness of forests, lakes, and volcanoes in the distance.
We spend the night at the Blue Lake camp by the lakeside, where we come together to prepare a meal. It's an opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers and chat. Tonight, or in the morning, we'll also organise our gear and pack our backpacks for the upcoming hike into the rainforest, ready for the next leg of our journey. Includes lunch and dinner.