on Aug 30th, 2007
|Rotorua is probably the tourist trap/destination on the north island. But that isn’t without good reason. I found the city very interesting and enjoyable, despite the huge number of hotels, resorts, minigolf, souvenir shops, and so forth.
Rotorua is located on a very active geothermal field which is one of it’s main claims to fame. There are steam vents and boiling mud pools scattered around the city. They can burn you so most of these have a little fence surrounding them, but otherwise they’re just left as is. There are even such vents right in the middle of the fairway on a golf course I drove by! The evening I arrived in town, I took a stroll through a city park and marveled at how bizarre it all looked, what with swing sets and billowing steam in the same scene. The downside of all this steam and boiling mud: the city reeks of sulphur, smelling basically like rotten eggs most of the time. Some areas are particularly bad, and at first it can just about drive you nuts when you can’t escape the stench whether in a store, your car, or anywhere else. Thankfully my YHA room was paneled such that the eggs were overpowered by cedar.
(Note: I’ve not been to geothermal areas before, and I was wondering how they’re managed in the States. Are they denoted as hazards? Comments welcome.)
In addition to the geothermal sites, there is a large Maori population (take that both ways) around town, as well as a wealth of Maori cultural attractions. I visited Te Puia for a tour of the Maori museum, famous geysers, and a traditional Maori dance. It was a great time and I quite liked the Maori dance. If I had it to do again I’d sign up for the dance/dinner which I’m sure would be great.
I visited the German-styled Rotorua Museum and Art Gallery. This used to be a bath house in the early 1900s and half of the building has been converted into a museum of the bath facilities. I got a kick out of the large menu of treatments that could be used to solve just about any ailment through various combinations of hot, cold, mud, massage, electricity, etc. I can at least imaging how one’s skin might be helped by a mud bath, but fixing kidney problems or a ‘weak heart’??? I don’t buy it..
Lastly, I went to an attraction which was probably geared a bit more towards kids but was nonetheless really interesting: a show about sheep. Since I would never get this on the agenda if I was traveling with anyone else I decided to seize the opportunity. It was a good show, and now I know all about 19 different types of sheep. I even got to see a dog trial, which is basically commanding a dog to herd sheep through a serious of gates. (I heard this used to be a staple of the Sunday morning agriculture shows here in NZ.) Flame on.
With that I leave Rotorua. A full one day is probably enough IMHO. Off to Taupo…