Good evening from Rotorua, New Zealand! Brooke and I are settling into our cozy, yet simple room at the YHA Rotorua Hostel as we end our day in this charming and sleepy mid-sized town, alongside a lake formed in a volcanic crater. This town is famous for natural beauty, geysers, hot mud springs and more. It is also the native home of Zorbing! Which we have absolutely no desire to do. Rotorua is just another one of many, many locations whose name is Maori in origin. There are two things we see everywhere we look in New Zealand: Maori cultural influence and backpacker camps and hostels.
We’re hosting full bellies courtesy of a late dinner just down the street.We dined at a gorgeous and grand former local police station turned Irish pub aptly named “The Pig and Whistle” (get it?). The evening was made up of a giant Stella and a Giant (but not so fresh) Guinness, splitting a pork tenderloin and watching the opening heats of the Olympic Kayak and Canoe racing live from London. Go Kiwis!
The highlight of our day had to be our trip to the hot pools at the Polynesian Spa. In fact, it might have been one of the top highlights of our trip thus far. Hot mineral bathing in geothermal spring water that flows right under our toes in Rotorua. We don’t have a lot of photos to share because, you know, a brand new digital camera doesn’t mix very well with seven baths and spas lined with slightly corrosive mineral water. The spas provided amazing relaxation and just an incredible experience. It was really quite like nothing else I’ve ever done. I’m nobody’s Hemingway nor Steinbeck nor even E.L. James, so I feel like I’m not going to do this happening justice, but I’ll give it a shot:
Upon arriving at the Spa, we chose the Adult Pools and Priest Spa package that ran us $25 USD each for unlimited time in the rejuvenating waters. This included access to seven separate pool areas in total – none deeper than about four feet. You quickly notice that those pools are slightly stinky (from the natural sulfur rising up), remarkably steamy and really hot. Each pool is kept at temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees
It is a very tactile experience. It is hard to focus on anything other than the warmth and the steam pouring in waves of clouds off your body. Man, if I was a local resident, I would be there every single day. So, sure, we don’t really understand how these thermodynamic spas work. Seems like we’ve been getting a crash course in various Geology lessons as we tramp across New Zealand. We do know that each pool had minerals that you can see floating in the water. And we know that a hot spa on a cool night feels amazing. And probably a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the awful sounding idea of a hot spa on a hot summer night.
In the pool closest to the lake, which was the hottest and our favorite, I had this sort of magical moment when the clouds finally cleared allowing me to at last view the stars of the New Zealand sky. It was then when I saw the Southern Cross for the first time. A set of stars I had never seen before. The stars here are bright and there are many. It makes it easy to understand why I came this way.
When we decided we had raised our core temperature quite a bit and soaked it all in, we called it quits. Leaving the spa felt like walking out of a long message. Refreshing and soothing and leaves you feeling at ease. Brooke and I walked out of the Polynesian Spa in the cool New Zealand night feeling like we had some leftover steam still escaping from our bodies. Yeah, it was the highlight of the day soaking in those pools. Chalk one up for another worthwhile, memorable trip experience.
We’ve settled into Rotorua and will likely stay a couple of nights. The hostel has some thin walls and bathrooms down the hall, but the place is clean, modern, full of amenities and give us all the space we need. Tomorrow night, we think we’ll try our hand at a homemade meal in their eye-poppingly large kitchen. We continue to absorb and explore and learn and see and enjoy. Hmmm…I’m pretty sure that our clothes and our room smell a little like sulfur from the pools.