Gates to Hell
Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
77Trip End Ongoing
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One thing should be made clear from the outset- Rotorua smells. The smell has its own social life, sometimes blanketing everything and at other times amusing itself by hiding around corners to pounce on the unwary
We began our exploration with a picnic and walked around the Green and Blue Lakes. Depth and lighting give the lakes jewel-like colours from an intense green to shimmering turquoise. Rotokakahi, the Green Lake, is sacred to the Maori, but locals and tourists made the most of the Indian summer by splashing around in the Blue Lake. We kept our feet dry, but circumnavigated the lakes via a forest path, giving stunning glimpses of the water through gaps in the treeferns.
We took a a detour to Lake Tarawera to take in another lovely waterfront with mountain backdrop, then returned closer to Rotorua and explored the redwood forest at Whakarewarewa. I had experienced redwoods en masse back in England, but the ferns scattered over the forest floor enhanced the prehistoric feel, and I kept an eye out for any small dinosaurs who had missed extinction. After all our reptile avoidance we were in need of pampering, and finished our day at the Polynesian Spa. This was a treat indeed. I soaked in private natural pools overlooking Lake Rotorua, before being treated to a delicious massage. I left smelling of coconut and sulphur pool and feeling totally relaxed.
The following day was our big adrenaline rush- rafting the Kaituna river
After all the excitement a large lunch was needed, followed by an afternoon of observing bubbling mud pools in the city's central park, and providing additional support for the local economy in the city's shops.
My final day provided the real thermal finale, with a visit to Wai-O-Tapu. It was like entering another world, and I wondered what the first settlers must have made of the place. Lakes stained yellow, milky white, rust red and sickly green, curtains of steam rising off lakes, huge caverns stained yellow with sulphur, silica waterfalls and huge pools of bubbling, exploding mud. The first arrivals to Rotorua must have felt like they'd wandered into hell. Or the Bog of Eternal Stench (complete with squelchy mud sound effects). For me, it was very bizarre and totally awesome. Most visually impressive was the enormous multicloured Champagne lake, a huge steaming blue pool with a vivid orange rim. The Lady Knox geyser was also impressive. Just add bicarb... and a huge boiling plume of water fountains into the air. Other geysers are scattered through the park, these do not perform on demand and presumably occasionally give visitors a rather warm shower.
We piled back into the car and headed back to Auckland... with just enough time for a return visit to Candyland.