I have recently spent a week on the North Island of New Zealand, and during one of the days we were in and around Rotorua. Rotorua is, although slightly smelly, a beautiful destination where I actually experienced some of my favourite parts of our whole holiday! I say smelly because Rotorua is actually in a spot of intense geothermal activity, which can sometimes create a rather stinky effect when the gases are released from the earth. The smell is created by hydrogen sulphide emissions, giving the town the nicknames “Sulphur City” and, apparently, “Rotten-rua”, which is a personal favourite of mine. However, the geothermal activity also means that there are several natural warm springs in which you can take a beautiful warm swim.
We began the day by driving from the more southerly Taupo up toward Rotorua. We stopped on the way to see the Lady Knox Geyser at a park on the way in. We didn’t actually get to see that Geyser but we saw a heap of other ones at the park. It did cost a little bit to get in, but by that point I had come to expect high prices for tourist entry in New Zealand. I really liked the fact that the written guide was available in many languages – including Czech! I grabbed a Czech guide, not only for the actual Czech but also so I could practice! The mud pools were actually so smelly that Mr Czech and I felt a little bit sick when we were walking through – I know this obviously isn’t attracting anyone in to go there, but it really is an interesting experience and it is enjoyable for the eyeballs, just not the olfactory senses. Here are some pictures of the beautiful things that we saw:
Did I mention that the mud from these geothermal areas is good for your skin? I actually bought some and I’ve already tried it out. It’s really fun to use and, although I haven’t noticed any major skin changes as of yet, I will continue to use it as directed and see how it works!
Following this, we headed into the town itself and after a pizza for lunch, we decided to head over to the Sequoia tree forest. As I wrote on my Instagram, these trees were brought over to New Zealand to be used for wood in the early 20th century. They truly are gorgeous trees, and the smell of them is absolutely delightful (and it definitely cancels out the rotten-egg stench – which you can’t even smell the entire time you’re there – mainly only if you’re really close to an area where there are mud pools and geysers). It felt like a proper forest and traipsing around there was a real treat for the eyes. There are several walks available, but we took the half hour walk as we had other things planned for that day as well, which for us was perfect!
We then headed on to Te Puia, which is an attraction in Rotorua in which there is a Maori village, where traditional Maori education in the arts of carving and weaving take place, and also where one can see geysers, kiwi birds and mud pools. Whilst we were there, we had the opportunity to go on a tour. Our guide was really informative and we learned a lot about Maori culture. I really enjoyed seeing the weaving and the wood carving, as it appealed to my creative side and also my interests in history, tradition and culture. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually see any kiwi birds – my theory is that they were scared away by all the tourists! We did get to see the geyser going off, though, which was a really awesome experience. To think that that was occurring naturally really blew my mind.
At the end of the day, we decided that we wanted to get some benefits from the fact that this town was a geothermal hotspot! So naturally, we went to find some geothermal hotpools. We found some that were about 30 minutes south of Rotorua. There are ones within Rotorua, but these were kinda crazily expensive. The one that we found was only $17 per person. I thought that it was important for us to go to a paid one, because this way we could ensure that the pools were safe, not too hot as to burn us, and – not smelly! The pools that we swam in were an absolutely divine temperature and they looked out onto beautiful trees and hills. It felt like heaven. I am not even exaggerating here. After having been camping for over a week, the feeling of entering the warm water and just sitting there whilst peacefully looking out over the stunning landscape next to one of my favourite people was really the best feeling in the world!
At the end of the day, we found a spot where we thought we could make dinner from our van – but – we had lost our matches! This was a seriously problem as without them we couldn’t cook the dinner. There were no shops open nearby but THANK GOODNESS, we found a tavern. The tavern was called the Waiotapu Tavern and the lady there was nice enough to give us a whole packet of matches for free. Ah, the kindness of New Zealanders! That night, we made our soup in the dark on the ground so that the eggy stench didn’t get into our van. We realised the next morning that the outside smell was due to the sulfur lake directly opposite our van, which was quite funny as we hadn’t known it was there the night before!
All in all, Rotorua was a fun, enjoyable and varied experience. I recommend checking it out – especially those heavenly hot pools.