After our magical tour of Hobbiton, we set out for Rotorua – a quaint town in the Bay of Plenty region in North Island. The Bay of Plenty is replete with volcanic activity and this incessant underground bustle culminates into quite a spectacle in Rotorua.
There are numerous geothermal parks in and around Rotorua, each flaunting its own lineup of bubbling mud pools, exploding geysers, therapeutic hot springs impregnated with the slightly discomforting (undesirable, nonetheless!) smell of sulphur. This town also happens to be a bastion of Maori culture, which can be experienced through various tour operators (we decided to skip it though). Last, but (of course!) not the least, Rotorua houses the Redwood Forest, should you wish to drown out the cacophony of civilization.
There are several other things to do and places to visit on North Island, but we decided to slap FOMO on the face and spend some quality time in Rotorua because this was our first time in a geo-thermal wonderland (and we had a hectic roadtrip planned for South Island).
Evening of Day 2: Rotorua
Like I was saying, we reached Rotorua after an adequate dose of nerd-gasm in Hobbiton. By the time we checked into our BnB and recharged ourselves with a power nap, evening was upon us. Thankfully, our BnB was a stone’s throw away from the Redwood forest and we found ourselves in a queue to begin the evening Treewalk.
So what’s so great about the Treewalk? Well, the walk isn’t your typical neighbourhood sojourn on the ground. You get a chance to walk alongside the giant Redwoods atop several inter-connected swing bridges, couple of metres above ground. Imagine gallivanting through the forest on a trampoline for a pathway!
So we started the Treewalk from above the car park and headed into the woods. While these are as safe as a mother’s hug, anyone afraid of heights is in for some adrenaline rush. Every time someone else took a step, the bridge swung in the air and my heart would spring to my freakin’ mouth.
As the sun went down, numerous lanterns lit up illuminating the trees.
The walkways are interspersed with decks where you can rest and admire the woody giants and learn a bit about their origin. Also, a good platform for photo enthusiasts.
Day 3: Geo-Thermal Parks
Now this was a day we were looking forward to the most; all agog to see exactly how wonderful these much-talked-about natural wonders could be. You can imagine our disappointment when we woke up to find the sky shrouded by grim grey clouds. Thankfully, it did not rain.
We headed straight to the Wai-O-Tapu reserve (word to the wise – it is a paid natural park, so make sure you have your reservations). This scenic reserve is located in one of the most active volcanic regions of the world. The reserve welcomes you with the eruption of Lady Knox geyser sharp at 10.15 am. I didn’t know that the otherwise splendid eruption was actually artificially induced. So yeah, unless you dearly love science, you can skip this part.
The wonderful part of the wonderland begins once you are done with the checking – in formalities. The reserve has plenty of craters filled with gurgling mud or crude oil, colourful lakes, hot springs, sinter terraces, all ensconced within a man-made forest.
The Champagne Pool – occupying a 700 year old crater!
The Artist’s Palette – aptly named since the overflowing water from the Champagne Pool leaves behind an array of colours as the water cools on the surface.
Another volcanic lake! They say the electric green lake looks brighter on a sunny day. What could be brighter than this?!!
View of the bubbling seismic activity from a hillock. Behold the emerald green river yonder.
After what seemed an eternity of walk through the reserve, we were famished. So we stopped at the first little tavern outside the reserve. Despite being empty (not a good sign for a roadside tavern), the food was absolutely delicious.
On the way back, we decided to go to a creek, as recommended by our BnB host. With a little bit of help (actually, a lot of help!) from google maps, and a stretch of off-roading later, we arrived at the Kerosene Creek. As promised by our host, this natural hot water stream provided much needed relief to our tired feet.
Enroute the Kerosene Creek. Nestled within the woods, the Creek serves as a quiet place to relax.
This stream is a gem. You can spend endless hours soaking in its warm water pregnant with rejuvenating minerals under the protective shade of the lofty forest canopy.
We spent the evening of Day 3 driving around lake-hopping and visiting some of the free geo-thermal reserves. Funny story, we keyed in the name of one of the lakes on google maps and followed the suggested route. The road took a turn through one of the farms and seemed to just go on and on. Past a point, there wasn’t any paved road anymore. Yet, in google we trusted and sped on, until we reached the below sign-post.
The “Multiple Hazard Area” scared the shit out of me initially; but then I thought, how vexed must the locals be of wandering tourists that they had to make a sign post so sinister. Lesson learnt, respect privacy of the locals.
Well, thanks to google maps, we didn’t end up at the lake but watched the sun set as the cows hastily finished their dinner before dusk.
Day 4: Picnic and off we go to Christ Church
Our last day in Rotorua and we had nothing fixed in our itinerary except for a late afternoon flight to Christ Church. Since we were up early in the morning, we decided to visit the Redwood forest again. Apart from the Treewalk described above, there are several walking, hiking and even horse riding trails that one can explore in the forest.
This was our second visit to the forest but we were as mesmerised by it as we had been on the first day. Walking on the forest floor and witnessing the limitless heights of these trees was truly sublime, to say the least. And to think that these trees are not native to New Zealand (manually planted about a 100 years ago) just adds to the amazement.
As we went deeper, the sunlight reduced. Once in a while the rays find nooks and crannies to peek inside the heart of the forest.
If you are lucky enough, the rays will make its way through the thick canopy and hit the old brown barks of the trees, turning them into a photographer’s muse.
After a humbling walk through the woods, we drove to the Government Garden beside the Rotorua lake. The sun was bright but soothing. So we bunked our plan to go to the Polynesian Spa (a must do on all itinerary blogs out there) and chose to explore the garden and the lake area.
Three is a crowd, no?
Dunno what pissed me, but what a dandy place for a picnic 🙂
I am sure he’s wondering why Delhi doesn’t have a water body in its vicinity (no, Yamuna, in its current state, doesn’t count).
If we did not have a flight to catch, we would have definitely napped on the lush green grass of the Government Gardens. Alas, our time in Rotorua ended and we were eager to see what South Island had to offer.
So here’s a parting shot of Rotorua and the scenic neighbourhood that was our home for 3 days.