Advantages Somewhere very diiferent, Maori culture, boiling mud and geysers
Disadvantages the smell was a little off putting, Maori evening was awful
|Is it worth visiting?|
ROTORUA:Rotorua is on the North island of New Zealand almost in the middle about three hours drive from Auckland and six from Wellington.
We stayed at the Sudima Hotel right beside Lake Rotorua and as we got off the bus the interesting sulphur smell of Rotorua greeted us. It is quite a strong rotten egg sort of smell that gets in to everywhere. I didn’t find it too revolting but others in our group found it very over powering and complained constantly that it even pervaded the air-conditioning in the rooms.The town is quite small enough to walk around the main sights, the lovely steaming lake and the park alongside it and all the way to Ohinemutu. On our first evening we went to the Tamika Maori evening ( see separate review on this one)
GEYSERS AND BOILING MUD
The next day we were up for departure at 8.30 to go to Te Puia the Maori craft institute and the geysers and boiling mud pools. We had a lovely Maori guide called Faith who explained about Maori customs and traditions with such enthusiasm and clarity that we learned such a lot from her. Within this institution there were schools where young Maori people were able to learn traditional skills from older Maori people. We saw the wood carving school, the weaving school and Faith explained the significance of the carvings which was to tell the Maori story and the weaving was to create clothes using flax. We then went to the meeting house where Faith explained how this building was a very important part of their culture and is used for funerals, weddings and many other meetings but no food or drink ever came in there as that was another building specifically for eating.
We then went to see the geysers and they were everywhere. Steam was rising in areas all around the sight and the rain made it all the more atmospheric. The largish geyser erupted while we were standing there and what an amazing site it was, like a huge kettle spurting out a mass of steam. Everywhere we went we could feel how hot the rocks were when we touched them. As it was raining and quite cool it was lovely to sit on them or put your hands on the hot rocks to warm us up.
We then moved on to see the boiling mud pools which were like dirty grey boiling custard as they plopped and steamed away. They are really hot and you cannot get in for a soak which was disappointing, not that we were suitably dressed for that. When we were in the Dead Sea you could plaster yourself in Dead Sea mud before floating on the Dead Sea to wash it off. I don’t think you can do that with this mud but I’m not sure but it was certainly an amazing site watching the bubbling boiling pool– They looked a bit like boiling chocolate in Willie Wonka’s factory.
Our next stop was the kiwi house where we saw two lovely kiwis is a darkened area behind glass so they were not disturbed by us. These birds are now very rare and because they are nocturnal it is quite unusual to see them in the wild. This was as close as we were going to get. The kiwi house is kept in the dark during the day so that the kiwis think it is night and they are in their natural sort of habitat but behind glass so they are not disturbed by visitors. We had to be really quiet while we were in there as they are very sensitive to outside noise. They are really lovely, strange beasts – a cross between a bird and a mammal. We watched them for about ten minutes while they bustled around feeding and investigating the undergrowth.SILVER FERN:
It was a grey drizzly day but as we ventured out of the Kiwi House faith pointed out a wonderful example of the symbol of New Zealand, the Silver Fern and it was indeed silver and a really splendid sight – glistening in the drizzly light.PUKEKO:
As we were walking around the lake towards Ohinemutu we saw these wonderful birds, Pukeko, with the most enormous feet. The babies’ feet are the same size so they look like they are wearing their parent’s shoes. They came quite close and we were able to get some nice photos of these lovely blue birds with their huge feet.OHINEMUTU:
We decided we would walk along the lakefront, pop into the Polynesian Spa to check prices and what was on offer and then walk to St Faith’s Maori/Catholic church which is in Ohinemutu.In this very unusual Catholic Church decorated inside with Maori carvings and weavings on the walls there is an etching of Jesus on a window so that when you are sitting in the pews it looks like Jesus is walking on the lake. The church had an organist practising when we went in so we had the full sound and visual experience in the church. Despite the Maori decorations this is a Catholic church and outside there were graves but the bodies were buried above ground in concrete slabs because of all the thermal activity which might have brought the bodies back up if buried. The village around the church was Maori and had a meeting house and other Maori building with beautiful carved decorations. All around the village were spouting steam geysers and hot thermal pools it was wonderful and so amazingly different. In people’s back garden amongst the plants a spout of steam would suddenly appear. All around the village there were escape sprouts, steam seeping out from corners and vents everywhere. It was very atmospheric in the drizzly rain that we enjoyed during our stay in Rotorua, misty rain, steamy hot geysers all creating a ghostly, slightly smelly experience.
LUNCH:After this we walked back into Rotorua town to find something for lunch and as it was raining still we decided soup would be nice and warming. We found a restaurant that was offering pumpkin and kamura (sweet potato) soup which we ordered with chips and aioli. The waitress was lovely and chatted to us until our meal was ready. The soup was just what we needed as we were both very damp and chilly and it came to a grand total of $23.
THE POLYNESIAN SPA:After our lunch we returned to our hotel to get our swim suits and then went to the Polynesian spa for a relaxation. We paid for the lakeside pools rather than the adult ones as they seemed quieter and you got the towels, lockers and shampoo included. The adult pool was $20 and the Lakeside one $40 but it was recommended as superior. There were four alkali pools, 36°,38°C, 40°C AND 42°C. We started in the coolest and it was lovely with a view of the lake and rocks all around. It was hard to sit as you kept floating off but we stayed there for quite a while before moving to the next pool. This was pleasant but covered so you couldn’t appreciate the cooling sensation of the rain and it was quite crowded so we moved to the next one. I couldn’t stay here long sitting in the water but there were steps so your feet could be in and the rest of you out. The 42°C pool was far too hot to sit in for more than a few minutes but we had to try it before we returned to the first again. All around the pool area there were drinking fountains with cool water to stop you dehydrating which was good.
In the first pool as the rain started to fall bubbles appeared at every drop so the pool looked like it was boiling. It was lovely sitting in the warm pool with rain falling all around you looking at the steamy lake behind.We had as many towels as we wanted and when I went for the camera I replaced mine with a new one and then got another for my hair after the shower. The showers had shampoo/body wash dispensers and were very efficient. You had to make sure you were dry before going into the locker/changing rooms as they had polished wooden floors. There were hairdryers there too so I dried mine before leaving as it was still raining outside.
SUMMARY:We were only in Rotorua for two nights but it was somewhere very different. I had always wanted to visit Rotorua in New Zealand since as a child I learned about the geysers and boiling mud pools in Geography. It was not disappointing. It wish it had not been raining as it made it less pleasant to walk around and our photos were rather grey because of this but the spa was magical in the rain so that made up for it a little. My tip is, forget about the Maori evening unless my description is tempting to you of course.
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Wondering about the title? A Maori folk song translated means
‘Stormy are the waters of restless ( waiapu) Rotorua’ - in Maori
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1741. Auckland. New Zealand. Bus. January 2009. Also includes Rotorua and Hamilton in this long running all action survey of buses on the North...
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