Rotorua Travel Blog

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Southbound early to meet Mam and Al's friends' son on the waterfront in an English pub in Brown's bay, North Auckland. I had my first taste of the discourteou sKiwi driving that was to be coem a feature of our travels. We headed to Thames, a one-horse town that acts as the gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula. Unfortunately we didn't have time to explore the Coromandel and Thames became just a stopover on the way further south. As it turns out, Thames is best not visited at tea-time on Sunday (if at all) and offered little in the way of accomodation for five people that matched our consideably tight budget. Ad and I called into a hotel/pub and quickly left after being stared at by a group of red-faced drunks that would've been more at home in deliverance.

So we split up for the night, with Mam and Al finding a guesthouse and me, Em and Ad staying at the YHA. We went for a curry that was only memorable for the plastic, microwaved taste and rounded off a forgettable night in Thames. The next morning we left sharpish and headed to Mt. Manganui, a very pleasant little town on a sandspur overlooked by an old volcano. It had a great beach and would have been the perfect spot to spend a few days in summer, as would many of the places we'd visited so far. Onwards to Rotorua.


Rotting eggs. You can't really get away from it in Rotorua. The town sits on a geothermal field making it nice and warm, but it has the unenviable reputation of the earth's arsehole.

Our one full day in Rotorua was pretty action-packed. First up, shortly after 9am was 'Zorbing', where we got to roll down a big hill in a hamster-ball. We changed into shorts and got a lift up the rocky track to the top where the guy was hosing warm(ish) water into the central compartment (about 1.2m diameter) of a 3m-wide inflatable ball. Ad was first in, diving head-first, superman-style through the 40cm opening. Next up was Em, who didn't quite get it right and ended up lodged in the gap, flailing her legs like a cartoon character. After taking great pleasure in giving Em the nudge she needed, I followed her in. Shortly after we were hurtling (that's how it felt anyway) down the hill and upside down in our little compartment, laughing like loons. Great fun, welll-worth 45 dollars and if money wasn't becoming so tight I'd have done it all day long.


Not far from the Zorbing site is the SkyLine gondola and luge, which gives you great views over Lake Rotorua and the town itself, and the chance to hurtle down the hill on a plastic tray like a little kid again. Which, of course, is exactly what we did.


After lunch we headed down to Te Puia thermal reserve for a guided tour of the marae (Moari meeting house), traditional carpentry school, Moari weaving culture and finally the thermal reserve itself. And luckily for us the Pohutu geyser was in full flow, casting a misty haze of steam over things. We also saw plenty of bubbling mud pools too...


In the evening we headed off to Mitai, a Moari cultural dinner and show. We weren't all too sure what to expect, but the evening was excellent.

It's easy to see that the Moaris are extremely proud of their cultural heritage and like to show it off. We were first treated to a look at dinner. Similar to what we'd seen in Hawai'i and Fiji, a pig was roasted in an underground oven (called hangi in Moari) alongside the veg. We then had a short walk through the woods where the village stood and waited for the tribe to row up in their war canoe (waka) chanting Moari war chants (I think - could have been anything really). We were shown to a theatre-like room where a mock-up of the village was on display behind a stage and the show started. The first 15 minutes was quite tense, with some serious-looking war dances, weapon demonstrations and singing, with the odd Moari-rant thrown in from the chief.


After that, the chief switched to English and everyone relaxed as he explained more of the culture through weaponry, dances and finally the Haka.

It turns out that the Haka performed by the All Blacks is just one of many, as each tribe (iwi - practically fluent by now) had their own distainct Haka. Anyway, the show was great and the food was pretty good too.


After dinner we went off for a guided walk around Rainbow Springs, an area of woodland nearby that houses Glow-worms, Eels, Trout, Kea (a burrowing parrot), some geckos and the like and of course, the national pride and joy, Kiwi. Kiwis are strange little creatures, and not something that you'd think anyone would be immensely proud of. For a start they can't fly, they can't see very well, they're nocturnal and extremely shy even then. But they are unique to New Zealand.

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photo by: Vanessa_Mun_Yee