Rotorua - land of rather smelly Middle Earth

Trip Start Nov 14, 2008
Trip End Mar 10, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Picked up the car in Auckalnd - we have a Nissan Bluebird -
fantastic! It has 171k on the clock but drives really well & is
automatic as well which is a real bonus.
Only took around 3 hours to get down here to Rotorua & would
have been quicker if there hadn't been roadworks. We came right down
the 1 and then took the 5 but apparently cutting across on the 27 would
have been quicker. The scenery is totally British - we passed through
what could have been Cheshire & then moved right into Tyndrum!
Arrived at around 4pm and I cant believe how hot it still is - think
I'm going to run out of sunscreen soon! I had expected the town to
smell more of sulphur but it actually isnt that bad until you get to
the Polynesian Spa area. Had a walk around town down to the Lake which
looked flippen freezing although I'm sure Sneds would have been right
in there having to contend with Black Swans & boat planes rather
than the mad Jet Skiers & Canoeists of home! Standing on the edge
of Lake Rotorua we could have been at the lower edge of Loch Lomond or
Loch Leven the scenery is so similar! Walking back towards town there
is a hill in the background which has been reminding me of something -
I originally thought it was Tunnel Mountain in Banff but then
realisation dawned that it was in fact Benarty hill/Bishop!!!
Rotorua was like a ghost town walking back with all the shops closed
and no-one on the streets - we didn't know whether someone had
signalled impending doom to the town & we somehow didn't know!
Thankfully that wasn't the case (otherwise I don't think I'd be writing
this!) and we had some dinner in the Pig & Whistle a rather
pleasant pub; actually talking pleasant that reminds of the bar called
the Pheasant Plucker on another street - difficult enough to say sober let alone with a few beers! Anyway dinner - mine was
great Jacks was "disgusting" to quote her response to the waitress;
although with sweet potato chips I would tend to agree with her!
It was  weird walking back through the park with random steaming thermal areas in between the bushes!
Back to the Hostel for a couple of very nice pints of Mac Gold and a
very long game of pool that had strictly speaking finished when Jack
potted the black mid game!
Today we are off the Polynesian Spa which is a series of smelly
pools which are apparently good for you. Day is yet again beautiful.
  Polynesian Spa - very nice experience, there are many pools all with different properties & all of them look out over the lake. A very nice way to spend $25!

That afternoon we took a drive along the Thermal Highway - head out to Taupo on the 5 & then turn off the road on the left approx 10km after leaving Rotorua. Really nice 6Km drive around normal Scottish looking countryside that has steam coming out of the mountainsides & bushes! The very nice lady in the visotor center let us take a way a couple of sandwiches seeing as the place was shutting. Very amused at the range of possum skin things you can buy; this country hates the creatures so there is a roaring trade in anything that adds to their demise!
Wai-o-ma or something - up early for the drive down to see Lady Knox Geyser do her thing. At 10.15am every morning a park official pours some biodegradable soup powder into the geyser & within 5 minutes 20meters of hot water is sprouting up through the air! Apparently this geyser would naturally go off once every 24-50 hours but they cant predict exactly when hence the show with the soap! You do have to pay to get into the park however for those people just wanting to see the geyser you can actually turn down 1st left before hitting the main car park , park with everyone else & view the geyser for free as no-one checks your tickets here. If you do have the cash though then it is worth going into the rest of the park to follow a 2 hour walk around lurid green sulphur lakes, bubbling smelly mud/streams & last but not least the quite amazing champagne pool. This latter pool is approx 150C at its coolest & is a bright blue tinged by bright red rocks. As it is so hot there are loads of boiling bubbles & sulphur steam coming off it. It was actually really nice to sit beside the pool and let the steam blow all over you! It probably is possible to get into this park for free as well by going in the exit path as again no-one is checking tickets here.
That afternoon we went to see the Kiwi experience which is found right beside the cable car entrance. Kiwis are in trouble in New Zealand thanks to rats & stoats which kill off the young. a young Kiwi chick has a 5% chance of survival in the wild. The eggs are collected from the burrows and then the center looks after them & the subsequent Kiwi chicks until they are around 6 months old; the adult birds are then taken back to where they were found. Survival rate this way is 60%. In the center we got to go into a dark room that had 3 Kiwis in it. All that was separating us from them was a 2 foot wall so for 2 of the birds we could literally have reached out & touched them if we wanted to! They are weird looking birds with very long beaks that they stick in the ground to catch insects. 
On the last night we suddenly had an extra person in our room - nice young lassie but my God what a weird sleeper! I was woken up by the extreme clashing of teeth & whimpering/moaning noises. This pretty much continued pretty much every couple of hours throughout the night.

We discovered a great place called the Fat Dog which sells loads of nice food from cakes/snacks to full blown meals. The quiche was so good I had the same one 3 times! I even ate the salad that came with it as it had no nasty tomotoes or cucumbers in it - Europeans please take note! Jackie had a fabulous hot chocolate that was a meal in itself!
Our games of pool did improve over the time we were there with our game time coming down from approx 40 minutes to closer to the half hour mark! Jackie won every game however she did do a couple of repeat potting of the white from exactly the same spot, and the classic of "If Dave(her dad) taught me one thing, it was to hit the ball hard so as not to pot the white" proceeded by the potting of the white!
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Where I stayed
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ma-and-pa on

the wonders of skype - the distance shrinker.
It was great to see your faces 'beaming' at us from the other side of the world. The only way our faces beam is with cold - blue skies but only stuttering to 3C and now at -1C and falling.

The Nissan Bluebird - so that's where they've all gone to - a reminder of times gone by!

You are certainly clocking up the experiences, your writing painting vivid pictures. You make it sound so inviting - even dodging the steaming thermal areas in the dark.

Jackie obviously got the 'raw' end of the food deal -sweet potatoes chipped? hm! -maybe mashed with butter and plenty of black pepper to spice it up......but..definitely not chipped. A few beers would certainly be need to wash away the taste with you joining her for company, naturally.

ma-and-pa on

Salad?! this the new you?
It looked delicious - we will post an enlarged print on your wall as proof - though the expression was a picture in itself.

Your experiences are clocking up - how marvellous to see and feel the geyser and Champagne Pool up close - not to dip your toe in though! The photos are fabulous.

Nice to see the Kiwis are getting a helping hand against probably introduced rats and stoats.

Jackie has a long way to go before she can emulate 'The Hustler'.

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