Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I went to Rotorua a couple of weeks ago. I decided to spend a week there taking in the sights at a reasonable pace, letting things sink in . I stayed at a very cool backpackers with awesome owners (Rotorua Central Backpackers). I have to say I'm not really into backpackers hostels because you are sharing your room with strangers, but you do get a chance to meet people and make some connections, so it's doable.
On my first day, I walked around, with nothing particular in mind. I had lunch at a fabulous restaurant called Relish. I found out later that Lonely Planet had recommended it. I had lamb shanks with mashed kumara (Maori word for sweet potato), wild mushrooms and shallots. Yummy!

It was pretty rainy after that, so I returned to the hostel and didn't walk around much. On Tuesday I relaxed a bit and went to the government office here so that I could register for a work ID. The bureaucracy here is super simple and easy. What a nice change.

Wednesday was a busier day, despite the almost constant rain that fell that day. Catherine, the head of the hostel, had drawn me a little map of a walk that I could take if I wanted to see what was in and around the city. I took her up on the offer. It was a two-hour walk and I started out at the Kuirau Park and as I walked through it I encountered these gorgeous trees whose flowers had begun to drop and other flowers covering bridges. I think it would be a couple's paradise.

Kuirau Park

Wisteria-covered bridge

In the park you can find tons of natural hot mineral pools...

Let me backtrack. Rotorua is the epicenter of natural mineral pools in New Zealand. Many people who know about New Zealand, know about it because of Rotorua. For over a hundred years, people have been coming for the healing effects of these pools. Rotorua smells like rotten eggs. It's a sulfur paradise. The Blue Baths used to be where people would come to heal from all sorts of ailments, including depression, skin problems and muscle pains.

I've been told that many people go there for a week and then leave New Zealand feeling they have seen the country because in addition to the pools, this is Maori culture central. The culture here is very present and there are tons of tours and Maori experiences you can have that have been set up since the mineral pools became popular.

Of course, as you've already seen, there is already more to New Zealand than Rotorua, but this place is pretty darned amazing. Anyway, as I walked through the park, these are the types of pools I encountered. You can't bathe in these pools though.

Natural Steaming Pools in Kuira Park

After the park I continued on to Ohinemutu village, a typical modern Maori village. You could still see the elements of traditional culture clearly, though. A marae is a meeting house, I guess kind of like churches in Western society. But in addition to the marae was also an Anglican church. The old and the new...

Ohinemutu Village

A Maori Marae (pronounced "mara-ee")


Wae Wae (Amo-leg)

All around the houses were little smoking pools of sulfur, it was quite cool. If you continue along the edge of the water (Rotorua lake), there are tons of birds breeding in the Government Gardens, some of them relatively rare. It was a beautiful walk. On the pier, I encountered black swans which are not indigenous of New Zealand, but were brought here as ornamental birds. They were really beautiful.


And yet you still found mothers and fathers giving their 5 year old children bread to feed to them. Some people really don't listen. If I could have taken a picture of the irony, I would have, but I didn't get a chance, sorry!
But look at this part of a sign in the government gardens about gulls. It cracked me up!

Hmmm...I can be dive-bombed by these guys, but I shouldn't be alarmed?! Okaaaaaay....

At the end of the these gardens were where you could see the color of the lake change. There, the smells were stronger and reminiscent of White Island. The lake became a milky whitish/yellowish tinge and I don't think very much lives there. At the edge of this area is the Rotorua Museum and old bath houses from the 1800s as well as the Polynesian spa where people can still bathe today in these healing waters.

Rocky Point

Cool sign in front of a fast food place


Anonymous said...

Amazing place, Thank you for the tour

L said...

My pleasure! Anytime!

Anonymous said...

You are having the time of your life. Great Stuff ! I envy you !