Mud baths

Trip Start Aug 18, 2008
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, April 12, 2009

  We flew to Auckland on Good Friday arriving in the evening. When we got to our hostel everything started to go wrong! The manager was not there, the office was locked. There were two sets of keys in the post box, neither were ours so we had to pick up the phone that they had outside the hostel. I spoke with the manager who told me that the people who stayed in the room we had booked had left the room smelling of alcohol. So apparently they did not have a phone number to contact us and were just waiting for us to arrive to let us know they had booked us into a different hostel.
Unfortunately we had only booked that hostel because the tour bus that we are travelling on pick up and drop off at certain hostels. We were due to be collected the following morning from the main road. After explaining this to the manager and given it was dark and we hadn't a clue where we were or where the other hostel was, we weren't about to start walking to find the hostel while carrying our rucksacks and other bags. My rucksack now weighs 25kgs! I don't know how but it does. After around twenty minutes of waiting for the manager he and his wife showed up to bring us to the other hostel. They apologised for what had happened and gave us $5 to pay for a taxi to get the bus in the morning. They said that they would book the taxi for us.
The next morning we were waiting outside our hostel from 7.15 am until 7.25. No sign of the taxi that was booked for 7.20. After phoning the taxi company that we were told they would book it from, turned out they didn't! So we were told one would be with us in a minute or so. Five minutes later and there was no sign of a taxi and no one answering the phone! We eventually got through to the taxi company who apparently had sent someone to get us but there was no one there! Not a great start to our morning! We were supposed to be at our bus collection point at 7.30 and it was just gone 7.30 and we were a good ten to fifteen minutes walk away! By some pure fluke we got to the main road and I spotted the bus and managed to flag it down. We had been told that most of the bus drivers in the North Island are not the nicest. Most of the drivers we had on the South Island would not have stopped for us if we were not at the designated stop so we were nicely surprised and relieved that the bus driver stopped!

Our first stop on the way to Rotorua was at Mount Eden which is a crater in Auckland. We then stopped in Waitoma where you can go on tours in the caves. You can smell Rotorua before you get to it! There is a lot of geothermal activity in the area. As we made our way down the road on the bus we could see steam just coming up from the ground. Local people had tapped into the heat and used it to heat their houses.
Rotorua is built in the crater of a volcano. Like my other New Zealand blogs here is a bit of Māori history of the area. The Te Arawa people are the guardians of this thermal region of New Zealand. This right came from the early explorations of Ngatoroirangi, a famous Tohunga (spiritual leader).

Ngatoroirangi had travelled with a group of people and were resting at Lake Taupo. While resting the clouds parted revealing a mountain. Ngatoroirangi was intrigued and obsessed with climbing to the top of it. He knew it would be a dangerous trek and made his people vow not to eat until he returned, he would gain strength from their abstinence and ensure the gods stay with him. After a while his people grew impatient and ate resulting in icy cold fingers entering Ngatoroirangi's heart. He prayed to his sisters to help him by sending fire to heat his body. They in turn prayed to the fire demon to help their brother. So Te Pupu and Te Hoata (his sisters) jumped into the Pacific Ocean and swam to New Zealand. The fire demons surfaced several times leaving steam, bubbling and thermal activity everywhere they surfaced. The demons burst through the enormous cone of Tongariro arriving as Ngatoroirangi lay near death. The volcanic heat brought by the fire demons slowly revived Ngatoroirangi spreading warmth throughout his body. He named the mountain Tongariro to commemorate the cold south wind that almost killed him. So that's how Rotorua became a volcanic and thermal area!

As it was Saturday when we got to Rotorua we went to the super market to stock up on a few things. I couldn't believe they had no Easter eggs left! So some Lindt chocolate had to do! We didn't do a lot on Easter Sunday as everything was closed! We went to Kuirau park which is a large geothermal area. Some sections didn't smell that great, rotten eggs would probably best describe the smell! Lot's of steam can be seen rising from the water. Some parts contain bubbling mud, it looked a bit like watching chocolate melt and bubble up but didn't quite have the same appeal to stick your finger in it, maybe it was the smell!

I spent half a day at the museum, to get to the museum and blue baths we had to walk through Prince's Gate Arch. As you pass through the gate you enter the Government Gardens. They are really well maintained. The area used to be a large bush area but now it is home to playing bowls.

The museum itself was nice. It was originally a bath house using geothermal water to cure people. People travelled from as far as Europe to use them. The war put a stop to people travelling so far so the bath house went out of business and was turned into a nightclub! It was closed for several years and then reopened. We went on a guided tour of the museum where we saw some of the original baths and told the history of the baths. There were two rooms in the museum where short historic films were shown, one was on a loop and you could enter to watch it at any time but you can only enter the other one at certain times. At this stage John had left to go white water rafting and so I was by myself. I went in to watch the short film and ended up being the only person in the dark mini theatre. After a few minutes the film showed the history of the pink and white terraces which had attracted a lot of tourists. A few seconds later there was an earthquake in the film and everything in the theatre started shaking! I was just sitting there by myself laughing and hoping my bag didn't fall.

The Blue Baths was the first public swimming pool in the world to offer mixed bathing! It was opened in sections between 1931 and 1933. It operated for fifty two years then closed and lay untouched until restoration and reopened in 1999. As you enter the building you arrive in the tea rooms which had been used for a wedding reception a few days before I was there. The baths themselves are to the left and right of a swimming pool which is in the centre of the courtyard. The baths contain minerals and aswell as the swimming pool are thermally heated. I spent around an hour in the lovely warm bath just relaxing and admiring the architecture, a bit more relaxing than white water rafting down a ten metre waterfall! Although it is in a geothermal area and the Rachel Spring is located around the corner from the baths, I could not smell it. The Rachel Spring is 212!

As we left Rotorua we stopped at Lady Knox Geyser to watch it erupt. During the eruption a small rainbow formed which I thought was pretty cool so I have a video of it! We also went for a swim in a geothermal stream that our bus driver told us about. We were a little surprised to see a sign warning people not to put their head in the water as they may get meningitis. Good times!
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