Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rotorua w/e

Saturday 4 February
We set off down south at 8am and its about a 4 hour drive. We’re staying at the Kuirau Lodge which is about a 10 minute walk to the centre of town across a geo-thermal area. Immediately we notice the sulphur smell and as we approach our Lodge we see steam coming out of the drains down the street: strange land indeed. Our accommodation is really large and pleasant with a sitting area and kitchen as well as ensuite. Out the back there’s a swimming pool that’s geo-thermally heated, just like a warm bath, and we make full use of it during our stay. We pop into town and look round the market, then decide to head for Wai-o-Tapu. It’s about 20km further south and covers quite a large area, with walking paths laid out so you can’t wander off into the hot spots. There are bubbling mud pools and steam coming out of cracks in the earth everywhere we look. There’s an emerald green lake and a bright lime green lake but best of all is the Champagne Pool which is large, very deep and boiling hot with tiny bubbles rising to its surface. At its periphery the various chemicals in the water are deposited in layers: white, orange and green. 

It really is lime green
At the edge of Champagne Pool

On the way back we go to Kerosene Creek, recommended by Liz our next door neighbour. It’s a hot stream in the wild where a swimming spot has been formed at the base of a waterfall. We don our togs and go in: I avert my eyes as a naked German gets out, struggling into his cozzie to avoid embarrassment. It’s pretty hot and lovely but not quite deep enough to swim. A beautiful Maori boy sits on a branch awaiting the space to jump in.

Swimming at Kerosene Creek

Back in Rotorua we venture into the town to eat. We can’t find any of the restaurants recommended in the Rough Guide and it’s at this point that I feel seriously nostalgic about those lovely old European towns which have cute bars and great eating places round every corner. We end up eating in a pseudo Italian place which advertised Thai green curry pizzas (!) and had the most enormous disgusting looking gateaux that I’ve ever seen in my life, and as you know I'm usually quite fond of cake.

Sunday 5 February
Next morning we decide to canoe. I have a pretty poor record on canoeing as Max will confirm, but nearby Lake Tarawera hires them out and this seems a good opportunity for me to redeem myself. When we get there it’s a bit colder than we imagined and the place isn’t open yet so we backtrack up the hill to look around the buried village. Back in 1866 Mt Tarawera erupted and showered ash and mud over a vast area. The little museum tells us all about the fabulous pink and white terraces, the 8th wonder of the world, which attracted thousands of visitors to the area back in Victorian days, and how they were destroyed in the eruption which also killed 120 people and buried villages. Interesting stuff, but the buried village was a disappointment and we were freezing cold.

Change of plan and we’re off to Waimangu Volcanic Valley to do a boat trip round Lake Rotomahana. You can walk round the valley too but we’re too late in the day to cover it all. A rickety old bus takes us down to the jetty and off we go. Boat journeys are always pleasant and this one took us around the circumference of the lake showing us all the various geo-thermal sites: geysers, steaming cliffs, under-water craters etc.  In the evening we head for ‘Eat Street’ as it’s called and end up in a Thai restaurant. Mike’s happy as we find a bar selling real ale.

Steaming cliffs at the edge of Lake Rotomahana

Monday 6 February
We go to the nearest Maori village, Whakarewarewa, which is having a special celebration as it’s Waitangi Day, a public holiday to commemorate the treaty between Maori and settlers. We are guided by a Maori woman who gave us a good introduction and led us round the village. About 25 people still live here but it’s very crowded today because of the holiday, and there’s a real feeling of community celebration. We see how the ‘hangi’ is cooked and where the communal baths are. There are boiling hot pools and steam holes all over the place. The earth’s crust is really thin here: it sounds hollow when you jump up and down which is rather disconcerting, as is the heat you can feel under your feet. Mike is keen to talk to an old man who is the grandson of one the Maori guides from Victorian times. She was called Maggie and went to Oxford and is buried in Oddington on Otmoor. We’ve seen her memorial there, and so ended up chatting to the old fellow, hearing his rather sad life story. He doesn’t look remotely Maori and obviously has a rather odd relationship with the local Maoris here, but intends to live out the rest of his days here. Driving home takes ages because we hit the traffic coming back from the Coromandel peninsular.

Whakarewarewa living village

1 comment:

  1. Love the colour of that water Sue! As is the edging of the pools where the minerals get deposited.

    Reading how hot the water is there in places got me thinking, would the NHS maybe pay to send me to NZ for some hydrotherpay ya think?! After all, is the warmth of the water that is important they say!

    Looks absolutely lovely there and at times hard to believe is part of the planet in a way and is so different to here.