Rotorua Travel Blog› entry 8 of 20 › view all entries
Quite a long drive from Auckland to Rotorua, but we did take the more indirect, scenic route. Our first stop was at Paeroa, home of the mineral water which is "world famous in New Zealand since ages ago" according to the ad! The famous drink is L&P (lemon and paeroa) and isn't bad, in fact goes quite nicely with gin instead of tonic! We drove through the Karangahake Gorge, which was stunning, a lovely mountain area with lots of valleys and rivers - wish we'd had time to go for a hike, although the weather was a bit inclement.
The highlight of the day was Kiwi 360, a kiwi orchard with a big kiwi out the front, so we can continue our "big things" photo collection. We did a tour of the orcharge and learnt all there is to know about kiwi fruit ($20pp), driving around the orchards on a kiwi train (looked a lot like the macadamia train at the Big Pineapple in Qld). The guide was very good and provided us with lots of information, such as the fact that the original "chinese gooseberry" which they are developing again, is in fact a much small, hairless fruit and therefore a lot like a gooseberry, much different to today's bigger, hairier fruit.
On our first full day in Rotorua we did the "Tarawera Legacy" package of tourist sites ($60pp - in fact, there was no great saving doing it this way, and we would have been better off using the 10% discount vouchers that were in the tourist booklets). First stop was Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a living Maori village. As you do the tour, you wander through the streets and houses that are still lived in, along with the child care centre where the language is used and taught. The survivors of the Mt Tarawera volcanic eruption of 1886 were brought to this village after their towns were destroyed. You get to see th eback of the Pohutu Geyser along with lots of steaming water and mud pools.
The next day saw us indulge in one of NZ's icons - the Agrodome (Melissa can remember photos of her grandparents here in the 1970's). YOu get a 1 hour show about the 19 breeds of sheep that stand on stage, plus a shearing demo, a dog show and a cow being milked. It was quite amusing, but also informative for those with no rural background. The Woollen Mill has a 100yo carding machine to comb the wool, and they give demos of this after the show. The Shearing Museum has lots of old equipment but not that fascinating. We then went up the Skyline Gondola, from where you get a great view of the town. The gondolas and big and quiet and really don't move about at all, which is most comforting. oNce you're up the top, you can then try out the luges, which was great fun, racing down the hill on a sled on a wheels, and then getting the chair lift back up - most enjoyable - you can even do the advanced run if you're a bit of a daredevil.
Our last full day was spent at Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This site is very expensive ($64pp) to do the walking tour (on your own) and the 45min boat cruise on Laka Rotomahana, although a 10% YHA discount is available. It is very well set out, though, and shuttle buses are provided if you get tired. You could in fact spend all day here doing the normal walk as well as the more difficult mountain hike, but the weather was pretty dull and drizzly, so we only lasted about 4 hours. The walk is pretty easy and the boat tour is quite interesting, gives you another perspective of the Mt Tarawera eruption - the lake now covers over where the Pink and White Terraces once stood (incredible silica terraces which were the 8th Wonder of the World until the eruption, but were destroyed in it).