As our time in New Zealand is gradually drawing to an end, Jake and I wanted to make Rotorua one of our last destinations. When we planned out the trip, Brittany, Tom, and Christy decided to come along with us to see what “Roto-vegas” was all about!
Rotorua is a smelly city. But that is the city’s history – it’s character. Rotorua grew from within the rim of an ancient volcano, situated near a large lake and a river. On the surface, Rotorua is no different than any other city in New Zealand, but under it’s skin the city sits on top of active plates of the earth’s crust that produce extreme heat which escapes in the city’s many geysers, mud pools, and hot springs and lakes. Some of these hot springs boil at over 200 degrees Celsius. The boiling water and mud nurtured a unique life style for the Maori who lived in Rotorua. Maori people used the natural hot water and steam to cook food, wash clothes, and many other things. As the Pakeha came from around the world, Rotorua’s hot springs earned the reputation of being “healing,” and the old pink-and-white terraces were a must-see sight. A huge castle of a bathhouse was built to offer all suffering first-class citizens the healing and therapy the Rotorua hot springs could offer (complete with electric-shock therapy during your bath…). Thus, Rotorua became a world famous tourist destination centuries ago.
A devastating earthquake took the pink-and-white terraces away, but Rotorua still attacks tons of tourists every year. Hot spring spas are still one of the major tourist activities offered. And Rotorua still has a proud and prominent Maori population, who offer the public hand carved crafts, authentic meals, dances and chant-performances, and tours of old-time Maori villages.
Our trip started off with dinner at a lovely wee bar called the “Kurious Kiwi.” It was actually a very nice place…a little nicer than our wallets were anticipating. The food was delicious, and we all sampled a “Green Kiwi” drink and a Baileys ice cream drink – both super good. Our hostel was called “Cactus Jacks,” and was everything you could hope from a place with a name like that. I wish I took pictures – it stuck out like a sore thumb, with it’s bright yellow pueblo-style front and a garden of oversized cactuses. Inside, the halls were shaped kind of like a “U” with a courtyard in the middle. The courtyard had over hangs, benches, Southwestern-style signs and everything. It was awesome.
After a loud and restless night full of strange, randomly undressing Asian girls and drunken hostel guests we went to park in the middle of Roterura to see the hot springs and mud pools. The park was full of sporadic fenced areas to protect people from falling into hot pools or walking on unstable ground. Some of these areas were very small, with only a barrel-sized hot pool, but others were very big. Very stinky, very cool.
We even found a cute little kitty that was probably retarded…he was cross-eyed and his nose was smooched at a funny angle. He also didn’t walk right; he hopped everywhere. And he fell in a hot pool – but he was ok. Special kitty.
Our next stop was a colonial-era Maori village. The village was beautiful; it only consisted of a church, a meeting-house, a restaurant/other purpose building, and a few other small buildings. Everything was a burnt red color and a creamy white color. Everything was intricately carved. There was a fishing canoe as well, which was also carved in a very traditional manner. We went inside the church, which turned out to be a small one-room building. The interior was absolutely stunning, just beautiful artwork and carvings from floor to ceiling, and a back window with an amazing view. Unfortunately no photography was allowed, out of respect.
The last tourist stop of the day for us was the Rotorura museum. The museum was inside the building that was once the world-famous bathhouse. It was here we learned about the history of Roterua, and learned about the history of the Maori tribes who occupied (and still do occupy) the Rotorua area. Everything from the first Maori sailing over to Aoteoroa (Maori word for New Zealand) in canoes from their ancestral land of Hawaiki, to Maori in WWII, to modern-day Maori was described in the museum exhibits.
Because we happened to be in Rotorura during the Queen’s Birthday holiday, we caught the “Blues and Jazz Festival.” Downtown Roturura was bustling in the evening, and we stopped by a couple places and listed to some blues and jazz. Ended the trip on right note!
Well I’m sad to say that my adventures in New Zealand are coming to an end fast. It’s hard to believe that I only have 21 days left here. And worse, I’ll be preparing for finals during those 21 days, not traveling. But on the bright side, I’ve seen a lot of New Zealand, met some awesome people, and gotten in the habit of starting sentences off with “yea nah.” I’ve also picked out some sweet-as gifts for my folks back home (including the cutest baby sweater EVER for Jessi and Edgar’s little boy, don’t tell them). I’ve put together a recipe book full of all the tasty things I’ve learned to make while I’ve been over here. Aaaand, since a college girl’s life wouldn’t be complete without Pintrest crafts, I’ll be putting together a travel scrapbook with all of the pictures, pamphlets, ticket stubs, beer bottle caps and other random memorabilia I’ve collected when I get back to the states. But I’ve still got a few weeks left in this beautiful country, so check back in for a couple more blog posts in the weeks to come!