After a fairly long day of touring around dairy pastures in the North, we arrived in Rotorua: sulphur spring and geothermal hub of activity, as well as being a major Maori culture center. The smell of sulphur isn’t constant, but rather gusts in occasionally, with what The Boy describes as “the smell of hard boiled eggs, not rotten eggs.”. (Admittedly I don’t know what a rotten egg smells like, but I’m willing to trust the guide books on this one.)
We wrote off our first night in favor of sleep, but set out early the next morning to check out the town. We were delighted to discover a farmer’s market on the Saturday, and better still, their twice-monthly book sale was on as well! Heading over we came across our first real-live pukeko bird, a cute blue chicken-looking bird (according to The Boy) that run amok in these parts.
We then went on to stock up on veggies for snacks and nibble on meat skewers — my first chance to try New Zealand lamb that hadn’t previously been frozen! — before wandering into a little park with a number of geothermally active pools.
You mightn’t think hot bubbling mud is very exciting… and maybe it’s not, but it was still pretty amazing to see steam pouring up from a grove of trees as you walk through a park. Just like forest fires, my mind can’t really reconcile that these vents are totally natural, yet so incredibly bad for the plant and animal life immediately around them. The plants were all completely bleached — coated white by the mud — and in one case, tree trunks coated with what looked like rust, clearly dead, and yet… the heat must keep so many plants alive through the winter. Nature is weird.
Not all of the pools were so grey and grim-looking of course. At times, they were quite colourful.
The steam would billow in and out; at times we couldn’t see the other side of the pond. I have to say that while spring is very pretty, it is also quite windy, so I was a little sorry when we emerged from the warm, steamy pondside, back out into the sun. Right at the edge of the pond, The Boy and I tested the water temperature. It was about warm bath level; makes you wonder just how hot it is toward the middle where it was bubbling — no wonder the Maori used to use these vents to cook!
After that, we were lakeside (Rotorua is built on the edge of Lake Rotorua, which fills an old,collapsed volcano) and meandered along the waterfront. Although we haven’t encountered many crazy parrots like Australia had, birdsong has been a very nice constant in our days, and we got to see this dramatic-looking flock…
The man was feeding the gulls (there were many signs advising against feeding the swans lest they bite) and we noticed, by which I mean The Boy noticed, as I was too busy ogling the swans’ dramatic white wingtips, one little guy who was missing a leg. I named him Gimpy the sailor gull.
There was quite a nice system of trails by the lake, and we even came across someone playing a saxophone on the shore toward the island, which I thought was cutely reminiscent of this legend. After a bit, we came on a carved waka on display, kept going past a golf course, and eventually ended up at the grounds of the old Bath House.
Personally, I found the bath house (now the Rotorua Museum) to be creepily reminiscent of the Winchester Mansion, but for more on that, you’ll have to wait until
tomorrow whenever I find a reliable Internet connection…