New Zealand, Part 1: Rotorua

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This is a story about Rotorua.  Yes, I know I’ve been writing about my immediate neighborhood, Southern California, for some time. But now I’m expanding that area and widening my circle.  For the next several posts I’m going to write about my recent adventures in New Zealand.  This was my second trip and while it was different from the first, it was no less thrilling.

Once again I traveled with my adult daughter as we drove around the North and South Islands.  Our first stop was Rotorua, a town we both agreed deserved a second visit.  It’s spring in New Zealand and a bit chilly.  More importantly, the tulips were in bloom!  How wonderful to see spring flowers again.  These just don’t do well in the deserts of Southern California.  As it happened Rotorua was having a Tulip Festival and every corner was filled with flowers.

Rotorua Roundabout with containers of flowers

Buckets of Flowers in a Rotorua Roundabout

I was totally distracted by all these flowers and just couldn’t get enough of them.  I was stopping every few feet to get another picture!  Did I mention it was misting a bit?  Well, what would one expect in the spring? Of course, there were a few showers.  Tulips look wonderful in a bit of rain.

Tulip in a bed of flowers in Rotorua

Tulip Festival in Rotorua

Alas, people don’t look all that well in rain.  We planned an outing for the evening at Mitai Village, a Maori cultural experience followed by a traditional hangi. Love those dinners!  A steady rain was pouring down when we set out for our evening in the forest.  I didn’t take many photos but this one was a quick shot from under my raincoat.  I like it because it shows the rain falling on those poor men paddling the waka.

Maori Warriors Rowing their Waka in the Rain in Rotorua

Maori Warriors Rowing their Waka in the Rain

Frankly, I think they were paddling as fast as they could to get this part of the evening over with!  I know I certainly wouldn’t have dawdled.  We were drenched by the time we went to dinner.  If you go to Rotorua, and I hope you do, you must go on one of these Maori events.  Learning all about the culture is fascinating and the food is absolutely wonderful!

But Rotorua is more than just a Maori settlement, it’s an area of tremendous thermal activity.  The lake and town itself are located in an extinct volcanic caldera. There are two must-see places for thermal activity: Waimangu and Wai-O-Tapu.  I visited them on a previous trip so this time my explorations were limited to a walk along the lakeshore.  I was surprised by what I discovered.

First, just outside my hotel was a park which at the time was filled with a small carnival.  I had to check it out.  There were rides and games and I felt like I would meet Ray Bradbury’s Dust Witch at any moment. I did throw some darts and won a small prize!  How about this game?

Carnival clowns in Rotorua

Laughing Clowns in Rotorua

It was called Laughing Clowns and there was a row of perhaps a dozen of these torsos.  I’ve no idea how the game works but I love those open mouths!  What a macabre vision!

Our walk took us through a hot springs area.  How can you be on solid land at one moment and then walk a few blocks and suddenly see steam rising from the ground?  Well, that’s Rotorua for you.  This blue-water pool is located in Government Gardens.  It’s called Rachel Spring or Wangapipiro.

Rachel Spring-Wangapipiro in Rotorua

Rachel Spring-Wangapipiro in Rotorua

Pretty, isn’t it?  I think the pipe is there to move water from the spring to the bathing pools, possibly by way of the building located behind the spring.  This now is part of the resort, Polynesian Spa.  This water is supposed to be soft and soothing, with wonderful cosmetic properties. It is also hot.  The sign on the rock wall indicated the temperature is right at the boiling point!

We kept walking past the spa area and along the lake shore.  This is astounding terrain.  In some spots, there is a boardwalk to protect one from the thermal ground activity.  The surface is simply too unstable to walk over.  We came around past the Sulphur Bay Wildlife Refuge.  There were so many birds about in this area!  I like the following shot of Motutara Island. At least I think that’s the name of the little spot. Hard to tell by the brochure.  It’s a tiny little island on which the birds, mostly shags,  have built themselves a little hotel.

Birds Settle in on Motutara Island, Rotorua

Birds Settle in on Motutara Island, Rotorua

Evening and rain were headed our way.  It was time to pick up the pace and move along toward town. We spent a couple nights in Rotorua and had a great time doing little things.  If you want to see more photos from my gallery, please click here.


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