Taupo: Hot Waterfall at Otumuheke Stream
Most of the hot springs and geothermal attractions in the Taupo/Rotarua regions (e.g. Hells Gate and the Polynesian Spa) can cost up to $100 thanks to their touristy nature. Sure, they offer fun activities like sniffing stinky, sulfur-filled air and bathing in mud, but there’s just nothing quite like opting for something natural. You know the feeling – it’s like ordering quinoa over white rice. So if you are in Taupo, make sure you schedule in some time to visit Otumuheke Stream: a secret, piping-hot waterfall that flows through lush prehistoric foliage into the Waikato River in Spa Park. As it is open to the public, free of charge and usually fairly empty, it is an ideal activity for any poor traveller. You may find serenity in the depths of the hot water, or at the very least, you’ll get a free bath – a definite upgrade from the hobo shower you were planning on having in the deodorant section of Count Down.
The carpark isn’t that far from the hot springs itself – maybe only a kilometre or so – but I can’t be too sure as the walk to the water is a memory I have tried to suppress due to how painful it was. So I guess now is the time to provide some advice from one traveller to another: please wear shoes to and from the water. I especially recommend this to those visiting in winter and/or super early in the morning when the grass is like iced knives. Whilst fellow hobo Gemma Clarke is likely to read this and scoff at how much of a pussy I was when we visited, all I can say is, “Fuck you bitch for convincing me to go barefoot – don’t you know my family used to refer to me as The Princess & the Pea?” For those of you who don’t know the tale, a princess had a pea (yes, the frozen green ball your parents tried to pass off as a vegetable… pffft) under her mattress and, as a result, couldn’t sleep because she was so sensitive and prissy. That’s basically the story of my feet… represented in a really metaphorical and Fairytale-like way. Anyway, if the frosty grass doesn’t leave you with gangrene, the rocky gravel path is sure to leave you with some form of inner turmoil that you can later reflect on in the steamy water. Whatever happens (hopefully you’ll run there in your sneakers), don’t turn back before you get there, because the hot stream is incredibly tranquil and totally memorable.
The hot water begins under the bridge along the walking track, but we advise wandering further upstream to get away from the prying eyes of early morning joggers and dogwalkers. As you progress up the hill, you will notice there are multiple secluded spa-like spots for you to bathe in. I strongly recommend donning your birthday suit for a true à-la-natural experience, and don’t worry about any Peeping Toms because the steamy air will cover any pink and/or pointy bits. Just be careful not to drop your neglected bikini in the water, as it will shoot down the waterfall into the river and you will lose it forever. Instagrammers at the ready, this whimsical location is sure to rack up a coupla likes!