Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rotorua thermal fun

Multicolored thermal spring
I arrived on North Island on Jan 23, Dan having returned home the prior day.  I hadn't thought much about my itinerary.  I had a positive impression of Rotorua, due to its mountain biking fame.  Plus, there are hot springs there. So, I picked up my rental car and drove off to Rotorua.

One of several massive steaming craters
I'd heard kiwis refer to Rotorua as "rotovegas", and, as you'd expect from that no-so-affectionate nickname, the town was ultra-touristy, with a sea of motels ringing the perimeter.  I was frankly kind of underwhelmed by it. Having spent the preceding three weeks in the uncrowded, rugged south island camping, it was a bit of a shock to my system.  

Huge, multi-colored thermal spring near Rotorua
But, I regrouped and got down to some serious touristing.  First, I headed off to the local hot spring, which was very nice.  Sulfur springs with a view of Lake Rotorua. What is not to like? I spent quite a lot of time there, possibly too much. 

I also went to a Maori cultural thingy, at the urging of my motel's proprietress.  Mixed reviews on this, though elements were interesting, such as the chanting, dancing and skills demonstration.

Sulfur pool. This was super lurid yellow, much brighter than in this photo
The next day, I had planned to rent a mountain bike and ride in the local redwood park. But, I woke up with a bad headache, probably from too much hot springing the day before. Or maybe it was from travel fatigue.  So instead, I went to a thermal area and looked at a small geyser, thermal pools, boiling mud and other interesting features including a boiling hot waterfall!

Thermal lake comples
This turned out to be very interesting and I really enjoyed hiking around the site, which was bigger and more varied than I had expected.  

I was about done with Rotorua at this point, but I'd prebooked two nights (my planning side coming out, now that Dan was gone). I was still pretty tired, and not really up for mt biking which is kind what I'd planned to do that day.  So, I hung around for the rest of the day, not doing a whole heck of a lot. Score one for the Dan system of no advanced planning:  if I hadn't prebooked, I would have been able to roll onward, unencumbered by a prepaid reservation.   I did get in a little ride around the area, which was nice. I tooled around the lake, looking at some historic buildings and walked a bit in the city park, which also has steaming thermal features. Did I mention that the town periodically smelled of sulfur? It was neat.

Piles of food for the hangi (Maori feast)
I never did get out on the mountain bike. I rode by the redwood park, which contains an elaborate network of mtb trails, and saw lots of folks riding into the park and it looked pretty great.  Definitely something to check out next time.

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