Posts Tagged With: Rotorua

It’s Weird when the Ground Steams

Hot Lava undergroundIt is not everyday that I find myself walking down the street and the ground is steaming.  Yes, here in Rotorua, New Zealand, steam shoots out of the ground in almost every direction you look.  If I were back home in the States, I would see this and think something is on fire or a factory is at work, but here it is just another one of nature’s wonders.

Phil's almost as tallWe began our second day in Rotorua doing what we couldn’t do yesterday due the rain:  go for a hike through the Redwoods.  We visited The Redwoods  Whakarewarewa Forest where there are groves of impressive California Redwoods.  Apparently they pale in comparison with the ones in the western U.S., but these are quite a bit younger.  They were actually planted from the trees native to the United States.  After looking at the map, we decided the 34 kilometer hike might be a bit much, but the 2.5k hike was not enough.  Like Goldilocks, we settled for the 7.5k walk which was just right.  It was well-marked and not too steep, though the climb to some of the look-out points definitely got our heart rate up!  The huffing and puffing were totally worth it to see the views from above the city.  We could see beautiful Lake Rotorua, but more impressive was the way the earth steamed as though it was about to burst!  The geothermal preserve below showcased an abundance of steam rising from the surface, but even farther away from that, off in the distance, steam clouds rise from the middle of the forest.

No 30k for you!After completing our hike, we went to Te Puia, a Maori village set on the geothermal reserve.  Here we witnessed some traditional Maori dances, including a Welcome Ceremony and a War Song.  It was interesting and impressive, though it seemed strange to me to clap after a song/dance done by warriors meant to intimidate their enemies.  I am always torn in these circumstances between exploitation and appreciation of another culture.  I did find it interesting, though I’d love a more authentic experience.  Such is the battle of the tourist, I suppose.  One of the best things about visiting Te Puia is that we were able to get up close to this amazing geyser, Pohutu (meaning “big splash”) which spews water 90 feet high at a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius!  Luckily by the time the mist reached us, it cooled significantly.  The sight of this water being under so much pressure that it springs from the earth is amazing.  Phil and I keep imagining what it must have been like for the very first person to discover this natural wonder–terrifying, I imagine!

Big Splash


Tonight, we are happy to be warm, dry and inside making our first home-cooked meal on the road (well, at least the first one we cooked ourselves).  We have found one of the major benefits of staying at hostels is the availability of the kitchen.  It is nice not eating out every night, plus a trip to the grocery store in another country is always interesting.  Lessons learned:  zucchinis are crazy expensive, but brussell sprouts are super cheap.  Also, a sweet potato is called a kumira.  I love it!  For dessert, we try two new candy bars:  Kit Kat Chunky and Moro Gold.

Tomorrow we head out of Rotorua toward Wellington.  We will make a brief stop in Napier, which isn’t too far from Mt. Tongariro which is an active volcano that began erupting today.  Yikes, as if we weren’t scared enough of volcanoes already!  Don’t worry, we promise to stay far away from any hot lava flows!


Categories: Diversions, Eating, Exploring, Hotels, New Zealand, Safety, Uncategorized, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rotorua and The Polynesian Spa

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.

Phil and a deliciously oversized Stella ArtoisWe’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:

The Polynesian SpaUpon 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.

Hot Tubs await youWhen 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.

Just another gorgeous day in New Zealand

Just another stunning day in New Zealand – rainbow captured over Rotorua during an afternoon rain earlier today

Categories: City Visits, Diversions, Eating, Hotels, New Zealand, Oympics, Unusual Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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