I left the city of art deco for the city of geothermal wonder - Rotorua. The city lies on the Rotorua Caldera which is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, and although it erupted 240,000 years ago, still produces fine geysers and sights.
Our bus stopped at the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland on route, allowing us to wander around this amazing sight. Set paths meandered past bubbling geysers, mud pools and sulphuric rock. Every corner held a different sight including the Devils bath - a pool of bright yellow; the Champagne pool - a lake of varying colour depending on the minerals presents and the mud pools of bubbling mud. The only not so amazing thing was the smell of sulphur.
This smell followed us into Rotorua and was ever present the whole time I was there. Can really put you off a town! The town planning was also very grid like and did not appeal to my more sensitive nature. I did meet a friend from England, Helen, there and together we enjoyed the wonder of the Polynesian spa. The water is heated from the nearby geothermal area and is supposedly very good for the skin. We spent some very enjoyable hours there catching up and gradually getting wrinkly! There were several pools, each gradually getting hotter making it a very relaxing experience. We followed this up with a yummy dinner and drinks, but were then asked to leave the bar because we were wearing flipflops. Never mind the fact we had already had had several rounds of drinks!
The next day I spent wandering around Rotorua. I wandered past this amazing looking historical house which turned out to be one of the original Bath House offering theraputic treatments. Although built in the Edwardian times, it was built in the Elizabethan style, giving it great grandeaur. Today it houses a museum. I must admit I did not go in the museum as the entrance price was quite steep, but I did enjoy a cup of tea there.
That evening I visited the Tamaki Maori Village Cultural Experience. We were taken to a Maori village where we could learn about their culture, experience singing and dancing and of course eat. We were greeted in the traditional manner with the chief deciding if we could enter or not (of course we were allowed in!) and then we were able to explore the village. Different aspects of Maori life were displayed in various huts from fighting to weaving and village games. However, but before we could explore these delights we were called into the stage area to watch the singing and dancing. It was a bit of shame we did not have longer there. Then on to dinner and a traditional hangi where food is cooked over hot rocks buried in the ground. It was delicious and worth the money but funnily enough very similar to an English roast!!
At last the evening was over and with a goodbye singsong we were led back to our coaches. Here according to tradition, visitors from each nationality had to sing a song from their country so the Maori could learn about other people as we had learnt about them. I was the only English person on a bus mainly full of Israeli people. There were some Americans and Canadians but when it got to their turn, they refused to do it. I could see the guide getting cross so did not dare back out when it came to my turn. Trying to remember the words to the national anthem (and it is shocking how much I did have to think about it), I mustered up enough courage to sing out loud. Luckily our guide must have realised and asked the other nations who had not sung to join in with me. Phew! The Cultural experience was fun but just not long enough in parts to really appreciate what they were trying to teach us.
So Rotorua showed an entirely different side of New Zealand, different from the rolling greeness or the majestic moutains. It was a land of volcanoes and smells!