The guidebook describes Rotorua as a “geothermal paradise,” which makes it sound much more pleasant than it actually is. Because of all the active geysers and mineral pools, the whole town smells like sulfur/rotten eggs. The town itself feels like a tourist trap, really. It reminds me of the Wisconsin Dells.
This morning we went to Kuirau Park and wandered around between the fenced-in steaming mud pools. In some areas the steam and fumes were so intense, it was hard to see and breathe. So basically, in one day we went from postcard-perfect beaches to literally taking pictures of gurgling mud pits.
Then we went for a walk around Lake Rotorua, which started pleasantly enough. The lake is quite large and had many black swans swimming around by us. But as we kept walking, we came upon the aptly named Sulfur Bay. The water there has so much sulfur and so little oxygen, it appears milky and yellowish. The shorelines were rocky with the occasional crater venting steam and noxious gases into the air. All we could hear was gurgling mud and all we could smell was sulfur. The whole thing was very apocalyptic.
However, we stuck to our mantra of, “Let’s give this place a chance,” so after lunch we decided to drive a few minutes out of town to Whakarewarewa Forest to see some California Redwood Trees. They were planted there in 1902 as part of an experiment to see which trees could live in New Zealand (apparently they can!). We had a very peaceful hike through the forest, then we drove to our next stop: zorbing.
Zorbing was invented here in Rotorua by two bored New Zealanders. It consists of getting into a human-sized hamster ball and rolling down a hill. We did the hydroride, meaning the ball was filled with water, so we didn’t tumble. Well, supposedly we didn’t tumble, but we slid all around the inside of the ball. We had fun, but I definitely won’t be doing it again! I keep saying we need to bring this to the Dells, because I know it would be very popular.
Overall, I suppose I wouldn’t highly recommend Rotorua, but our day was filled with lots of jokes and laughter. Here are some pictures of the fascinating mud pits! The one saving grace of this place has been our hostel, The Funky Green Voyager. It’s a really cool place and the owner has been fun to talk with. I’m hoping our next stop, Taupo, will be better. (Or at least smell better!)