The stench of Rotorua is unimaginable. Unless you’ve actually stuck your head in an oven of sulphur you just couldn’t begin to comprehend the potent, eggy, thick wafts that overwhelm your senses. I swear I could taste it. It turns out that being one of the most geothermally active places on the planet has its downside- good job the amazing terrain is worth it!
There’s absolutely loads to see and do in Rotorua, so much so that we didn’t actually hit the town centre at all. The morning of our visit was actually New Year’s Eve and our travel agent, Charlotte, had organised a bunch of cool things for us to do to see out 2016 in style. We started with luge riding which involved a scenic cable car to the top of a mountain and some funky little go-kart type things that you basically speed down the mountain as fast as you can, board a chair lift and do it all over again.
It was a cool way to get the blood pumping in the early morning and the views were gorgeous. Rotorua has a gorgeous big lake in the middle of it- it was so picturesque from up high!
We hit the luge early as we had heard it can be pretty busy so we had the afternoon free before the next thing Charlotte had planned for us. We selected the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland to see the cool volcanic action of the area as it had some really great reviews, despite the cringe-worthy name. The park was quite quiet which meant we could really enjoy everything it has to offer.
The rocks and caverns are really deep and amazing, but the highlight had to be the coloured champagne pools where you can see the different salts around the rim and stand in a cloud of sulphur- it’s not for those sensitive to the smell, of course, but it didn’t bother me too much so I just stood in the middle of it all, in awe at the power of the planet.
There are some awesome bright green pools too which fascinated me, and remnants of yellow sulphur encase little holes in the rocks. It’s a geologists dream. I don’t know much about natural geography aside from what I swatted for my gcses, but what I did know was that this place is very special. To see such a range of geological activity in such a small space was nothing short of epic and much of it was a dream to photograph. I would really say this place is a must-see- I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
We hurried home after enjoying Wai-O-Tapu for rather too long, raced to get showered and changed in time for our transfer to the Tomaki Mouri Village. In honesty, this sounded cool but I was sceptical that it would feel authentic and not just a tourist haven for all things Mouri. However, I was sort of surprised. They have done a really good job in making a little area that looks and feels very traditional and the lovely ‘villagers’ knew so much about their culture and heritage that we learned a lot. The highlights for me would have to be the welcome ceremony, involving a traditional Mouri Haka, and the awesome singing of the ‘villagers’ before dinner. Mouri people are naturally very musically talented and the harmonies were seamless and natural. I love choral music so it really gave me spine tingles.
We enjoyed a traditional ‘hangi’ feast for dinner. Hangi is the way of Mouri cooking where food is placed in a deep cavern and heated sometimes geothermally, but sometimes by artificial heat. The cavern is then sealed and the food slow cooked for hours resulting in tender, flavourful food. The lamb was out of this world and to have gravy again was such a treat. We also enjoyed some kumara, which is NZ’s answer to sweet potato- it was pretty scrummy but I’m not sure I’m sold on it just yet!
I was so shattered I begged Matthew to pop the prosecco (which we had to try to buy twice as we clearly look under 18) at 11pm as I just couldn’t make it to midnight. I fell asleep of course, and woke at three seconds to midnight for a quick toast to 2017. We were really fortunate in that we could see Rotorua’s big firework display from our window, so we enjoyed this from the warmth of our room in our pyjamas. We never expected 2016 to end quite as it did for us- I couldn’t have dreamed that NYE 2016 would be in New Zealand 12 months ago. What an incredibly blessed year we have had.