Sun and Sulphur

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rotorua felt like my first proper backpacker's experience - wandered around the town, did all the touristy stuff, had some great nights with different people every evening and survived on carrots and houmus. Unfortunately this also included a lot of sitting around alone waiting for someone exciting to come into the dorm, at the same time worrying every time you hear a door slam that the next person will be really scary and intimidating. Of course nobody ever is, and after introductions we quickly head to the (HOT!) pool or bar. By the third day, three days felt like a loooong time to spend in Rotorua if you don't have loads of money to spend on adrenalin activities and shuttles to further out attractions, and the sulphurous stench due to the once excitingly appealing geothermal activity began to get cloying (I still smell of it a week later!). However, it's amazing what a difference the sunshine makes and so the third afternoon found me sat out on my balcony reading, extremely happy and content and completely separated from the pessimistic mood that was beginning to grip me after a grey morning's walk, alone apart from the Chinese tourists who for some reason insisted on having a picture with me. Whilst indulging in some serious tanning and taking in the urban views I finally got my diary up to date, and I realised that although I guiltily felt that I had spent a lot of time mooching around the hostel reading I had actually done a fair bit in Rotorua after all.

The first evening was spent in the pool then in the bar with an English girl (Janie) and a German girl (Sonje), and the next day Janie drove us up the gondola which took us up the mountain and we luged back down and then to the Polynesian Spa. This was not my usual cup of tea but undeniably relaxing sat in a hot pool looking out on a volcanic lake, and also probably the main reason why I still smell of sulphur. After a few more hours of hanging round the kitchen attempting to make friends (only to be met by some hostile Germans who did not seem to approve of my cup-a-soup) the bus collected me for the Maori Cultural Experience. A great evening actually, with demonstrations of all the aspects of traditional village life (I was volunteered for the games one and obviously dominated the opposition, crushing my Swiss - admittedly middle aged - opponents). There was also a cultural performance which was really beautiful - although the Haka loses it's impact somehow after you've seen it for the fiftieth time - and a Hangi which is basically a traditional lamb roast but cooked underground with hot stones. This was really delicious and got even more interesting when the Geordie guy opposite knew an Andrea Thomson from Ottersburn! However this Andrea Thomson apparently had ginger hair and was 18, so I don't think it's my one unless there's something she's not telling us all...

The next afternoon found me wandering around Rotorua town which to be honest did remind me vaguely of Keighley only the buildings are flatter, and I decided to treat myself to a McDonalds LambBurger in order to continue the cultural explorations of the previous night. I was nearly sick, but as I said then the sunshine came out and made everything better. Funny how backpacking works really (clearly I know all about it having spent five nights in hostels). I was just worrying once again that I wouldn't have anyone to go to the bar with and that me and my new tan would have to confine themselves to the dorm room sheets at nine pm, when a Brazilian girl (Karin) arrived in the room. We decided to head to the bar for a couple of drinks and thus embarked on the most random and hilarious night so far. We should have known when they started giving out free shots from teapots. Or when we met a load of Kiwis who claimed they were underwater electricians (and had surf apps on their phones - this especially blew my mind!). Anyway several 'lava bombs', heinekens, one lingerie competition and a whole lot of dancing later Karin and I found ourselves heading for a post-bar McDonalds with a Maori and two bearded american campers with a bell. I had assumed on the dancefloor that the bell was ceremonial and thus treat it with a special reverence, dancing whenever it ordered and following it wherever it led us. Turns out it belonged to the Americans who were promoting some magazine and tour that they'd won, and something in their terms and conditions stated they had to ring the bell wherever they went. Most random night ever.

Next morning I was miraculously up bright and early and ready to hit to the geothermal reserve on 3 hours sleep. This was really interesting and impressive - lots of bubbling mud, more sulphur, facemasks from the rocks and billowing steam but really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated. Back at the bus station I bumped into Karin again and another of our friends from the hostel, an English guy called Will. We tearfully saw each other off having taken photos and swapped contact details. Amazing how strong a bond one hilarious drunken night can create.

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Andie on

Whaaaaaaaaaaaa... another Andrea Thomson in O-burn?! Lies. I could understand the ginger thing but 18... really, I'm way older than that. x

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