Rotorua — What’s that smell?

Leaving Matamata behind, we arrive in Rotorua. I was warned about this place smelling of sulphur. So bad they said, I would want to puke. Well…FYI, it’s not that bad at all. When getting off the bus I didn’t even notice a smell to be honest.

We checked into our hostel, Rock Solid. They are some of the nicest people to deal with! It’s a great spot in the city too. Our room was a 12-bed mixed dorm. We had two other Canadians, an American, Norwegian and Japanese all staying in the room. Although the American promptly switched rooms having realized it was mostly all women in our room.

We didn’t get up to much on our first day in town. Luckily we had a few days here in Rotorua, so we didn’t feel rushed to get out and do anything. We decided to book some of the tours we read about, but we noticed how expensive things are here. So we had to be picky about what we really wanted to do while here. If we booked everything we wanted, we would be poor by the time our 3 days were gone.

After confirming all of our tours, Chloe and I headed for the grocery store. Along the way we would get hints of the sulphur in the air, but again not terribly bad.

DAY 1    Whakarewarewa Village

Say that five times fast! HA!

We we were told that if we wanted to experience the true Maori culture, this place is a must see. It is the only living Maori village in New Zealand and it’s set within a geothermal area.

The visitor’s centre was nice. We thought it was starting off well. Then we entered the village. It was like walking into the ghetto that just so happened to have geothermal activity. I kept thinking it would get better, but honestly, it didn’t.

We opted not to have a guide for our time here in the village. Only because we noticed the guide and group outside the front gate and he was trying to teach the group how to say Whakarewarewa. It was like watching a kindergarten teacher teach his kids how to speak. Chloe and I looked at each other and quickly walked past the group. Nooooo thank you!

We noticed they were boiling corn cobs in a pool. So we bought some. The water is perfectly safe, and it was the best corn! Chloe and I wanted to buy more, haha. We wandered through the village as per the map guidelines. What was interesting is their cemetery is above ground due to the geothermal activity underground. It’s too hot to bury the bodies, so they have to build block like structures above ground to bury their dead.

The Pohutu Geyser erupts naturally once every hour, or so we were told. We made our way to the viewing deck to wait for it. An hour passed and no eruption. We waited and waited and waited. I guess you can’t hurry nature, or put it on a set schedule. Finally it erupted and we snapped some photos. We wanted to catch the cultural performance before leaving.

We got there just in time. They performed a Haka (war dance), Waiata a Ringa (action songs), long and short stick games and Poi dancing. It was quite entertaining actually. We both really enjoyed it. After the performance, we didn’t stay much longer. It was starting to rain and we had seen most of the village.

For the price we paid, I would say the village isn’t worth visiting. It’s great that it’s here for people to see and understand the Maori culture, but I just wasn’t impressed with the village.

Once back in town, we stopped at a little cafe. They lady noticed right away from the way I sounded (I had been getting sick and my man voice decided to come out), that I needed a hot lemon and honey tea. This was exactly what I needed. I pretty much lived off this beverage while in Rotorua. Our evening was low key. I think we walked back out to the grocery store for some cold and sinus tablets.

DAY 2   The Buried Village

Since it was so expensive getting to this place, we asked our Canadian roommates (Sami-Jo and Caitlyn) if they wanted to join us. It would cut down the cost on the fare if four of us went. Luckily they said yes and we were on our way!

Our driver was fantastic! On the way, he stopped off at the Blue and Green Lakes for us to snap some photos. He also took us to a lookout to show us where the volcano is in proximity to the village. It was an unexpected bonus to our journey.

Once in the village, what I thought I was going to see and what I actually saw were two totally different things!! I assumed it would look like Pompeii; everything beautifully captured in time by volcanic ash. It was not. The explosion literally buried this village. Mud reached the roof tops of buildings and swallowed them whole. The Rotomahana Hotel fell to pieces under the weight of the mud.

Amazingly only 122 people died. Looking at this village, I am surprised more people didn’t perish. Underneath the earth, however, lies one of the natural wonders of the world. The pink and white terraces were buried under the mud, never to be seen again. Pictures are what remain, and judging by the photos this place was stunning. The world doesn’t know what they’re missing!

It’s been over 100 years since the blast. The area has since regrown with lush greenery. If it wasn’t for this village, you wouldn’t know anything had ever happened here. If you get a chance to see this place, do it! The museum is fantastic. I learned so much from visiting and was blown away by the stunning views.

Once back in Rotorua, the girls and I set off to find a natural hot spring right in the city. We wandered in the right direction and stumbled upon a Nandos! Chloe and I were excited, we’d definitely be eating there later 😆 We eventually made it to the springs. They have it set up nicely with a covered shelter. We dipped our feet in for a few minutes. What with all the walking we’ve been doing, the hot water felt so nice!

We parted ways with our companions as they had to get ready for their Maori dinner. Chloe and I went back to Nandos and feasted over peri peri, discussing everything we had done today. It was an early dinner, so we decided to visit the Rotorua Museum afterwards. With only one day left in Rotorua, we had to cram as much as we could in today!

Rotorua Museum

Said to be one of the best museums to visit, this one was well worth the ticket price! From the outside it looks like an english tudor. It’s absolutely stunning when you see it! It has a rich history. Once known for a hot spot for entertainment, it held cabarets and night clubs for the people of Rotorua. It was transformed into a bath house. Veterans and soldiers often stayed here to be healed of their ailments.

Today, it’s a museum educating tourists on the building’s past as well as the city’s. The baths are still intact except for a few. We wandered under the building’s structure to see how they harnessed the natural springs for their baths. We also climbed to the top of the building’s roof to their viewing platform. It gave us a 360º view of Rotorua. It was beautiful despite the dreary weather.

We watched a movie about the bath house and the buried village. It was really well done actually. When the tremors started, the seats would move and shake. It startled all of us! I wasn’t expecting that from this museum. It was fun and a nice touch.

People were right to tell us to see this museum. It is a wonderful spot to get a grand history of Rotorua and its people.

It’s been such a great day! I can’t believe we have just one day left. Chloe and I are super excited because we are visiting Wai-O-Tapu tomorrow. We saw a photo of one of their colourful pools and couldn’t wait to see it in person. Two of our hostel mates are going as well, so it should be fun!

DAY 3    Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

A wonderland indeed! This place is amazing! If you see nothing else while visiting Rotorua, visit Wai-O-Tapu!

Our tour included a quick stop at some mud pools and watching Lady Knox Geyser erupt. The whole thing is manipulated — meaning it doesn’t erupt naturally. A park guide put a small amount of laundry detergent into the mouth of the geyser and within about a minute, the geyser erupts.

Everyone was ‘oooooh-ing’ and ‘ahhhh-ing’ but I wasn’t too impressed. I don’t like the fact that it’s manipulated by man. The geyser is impressive enough on its own. And I really hope they’re using environmentally friendly detergent!

I was excited to be on our way to our main attraction! There isn’t a tour guide or anything here. You just grab a map and follow along to each site. There are three separate walks you can do, or you can combine all three for an epic adventure! I’m glad we brought water and snacks!! It was a hot, hot day without a cloud in the sky!

I’ve never seen such vivid colours from water. Although it’s not just water I suppose. Thankfully our guide map gave us a run down of the colours and what it was (IE: orange = antimony). This place really is a wonderland!!

According to the guide map, Wai-O-Tapu has the largest area of surface thermal activity. Temperatures of the water are recorded as high as 300º C. We could feel the heat from some of the pools, along with the heat of the day, it made for a sweaty hike! The walks range from 30 to 75 minutes depending on which trail(s) you choose. So when visiting, be prepared! Wear proper footwear and clothing that breathes.

The visitor centre is quite nice. They have a cafe and gift shop. We ate some lunch here as we were starving by the time we finished all three walks. We had brought bathing suits because we had heard of a nearby hot spring. Having just sweat our asses off walking most of the day, sitting in a hot bath was not our idea of a good time. We opted to skip the hot spring and shower once back at the hostel.

Well our three days are up and our time in New Zealand is just about over! Tomorrow we head to Auckland before flying back to Australia. I can’t believe we were able to squeeze this into my adventure over here. I am so glad we did though!! If only I had more time to see the south part of the island. I guess that means I’ll just have to come back!!

Stay tuned for a quick stay in Auckland, rescuing cats a world away from home and my return to Australia!

Until next time…

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