March 1, 2015 Rotorua, New Zealand


We arrived in Rotorua and checked into our motel.  Our room had a private patio area with our own plunge pool.  It is similar to a hot tub but without the jets.  The motel owner gave us milkIMG_3558 for our tea or coffee and bottle of gel for the plunge pool.  We enjoyed the small fridge and microwave in the room.
Tour books say Rotorua is known by locals as RotoVegas because of the strip of hotels that resembles the Vegas Strip.  I can tell you that comparison is a real stretch with Rotorua being nothing like Vegas!  Thank heavens!  We learned on a hike that Rotorua was the fourth city in New Zealand to have electricity.
Rotorua is an active geothermal area and it is common to see steam rising from the ground.  Another thing you immediately notice is the smell of rotten eggs that permeates the town, with some areas being smellier than others.  Just as many places in the western United States have taken advantage of solar and wind turbine power, the people in the Rotorua area have taken advantage of the geothermal activity.  A sign at the motel PicsArt_1425459178526described how they use the geothermal energy to heat the water we used for showers.  When we filled the plunge pool up the first time we were amazed at the steaming hot water coming from the faucet and had to quickly add cold water.
On one of our days in Rotorua we drove to the Hamurana Springs Loop Walkway for a short walk through a forest of California Coast redwoods.  Yes, I said California coast!  The IMG_3570IMG_3571redwoods were planted in 1901 as an experiment to test the suitability of different forest species for commercial planting.  They discovered other trees were faster growing and more suited to this area.  It was a beautiful walk through the 200 feet tall redwoods but did not begin to compare to the redwoods in California we saw last year.
Next we visited Okere Falls and the Kaituna Rapids.  At seven meters, this is the world’s largest commercially operated rafted waterfall drop.  We hiked the trail down many steps to the falls IMG_3564overlook and a cave.  We hoped to see some rafters shoot thru the rapids.  We waited awhile with no luck and since we had more to do that day we hiked back to the car.
We finished the day at Kuirau Park.  What a unique park this was located centrally in the middle of Rotorua.  Where else could you see a children’s playground, a ballfield, barbeque pits, picnic tables and beautiful walking paths amid seething mudpits and PicsArt_1425457411657steaming cauldrons spewing from the earth?  We spent time walking around looking at all the steaming vents and boiling sputtering mud pits.  We came across a foot pool provided for people to soak their feet in clean water heated from the geothermal activity.  Some Japanese tourists were sitting PicsArt_1425457344589PicsArt_1425457254945IMG_3581enjoying the water and invited me to join them.  I put one foot in and was shocked at how hot the water was.  I took my now very pink foot out of the water and we continued on our way.  We decided to finish our time at the park by finding a geocache located close by.  As we were searching it dawned on us that a young New Zealand couple near us was looking for the same geocache.  We struck up a conversation with them and joined forces in the quest for the elusive geocache.  Eventually it was found and we signed the log and told our new friends farewell.  It sure was fun geocaching with them!
On our last day in Rotorua we decided to hike the Whaka-Rewa-Rewa Viewpoint Trek.  We had read that this trail would take us to a beautiful view of Rotorua and the Pohutu Geyser.  This geyser was recently ranked as one of the world’s top 5 geysers by Lonely Planet.  It is said to erupt 100 feet twenty times a day.  It is said that eruptions can last for several minutes to several IMG_3590IMG_3594IMG_3597days.  In 2000-2001 it erupted for a straight 250 days.
We parked in the carpark and hiked up and down a fairly difficult trail which at times was no more than a deeply rutted path.  By the time we got to the lookout we were pretty hot and tired and with no shade or place to sit, began the wait for an eruption.  After close to an hour we were discouraged and ready to give up.  A Kiwi (New Zealander) came by and told us due to a drop in the water table and more and more people tapping into the area’s geothermal resources, the dependability and frequency of eruption is changing.  Broiling in the heat and sunburning by the second we decided to give up.  The Kiwi told us a shorter and easier way to get back to the carpark.  Even though we only got pictures of the Pohutu Geyser teasing us with lots of steam, we still enjoyed the views of Rotorua and if truth be told the exercise wasn’t bad for us either.  We did spend some time in the plunge pool that night relaxing our tired muscles.
The next morning as we were heading out of Rotorua we stopped by the Ohinemutu Village to see the impressive museum and some Maori carvings.  We noticed a group playing a game on the village green.  We found out it is a type of bowling played there since 1901.PicsArt_1425458206166PicsArt_1425458157844PicsArt_1425458109684
Some observations:
I struggle a lot with different food in new places.  Bill will eat anything and has enjoyed venison pie and lamb.
I do love their shortbread cookies here!
Coffee is ridiculously expensive at a minimum of $3 USD for a medium cup at McDonald’s or anywhere.
You do not see health signs in restaurants warning of everything that can cause cancer or birth defects.

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