Part 6: Rotorua (where the wind can break freely) … and Worms that Glow

We happily bade Christchurch farewell and flew off to Rotorua. Rotorua is a special place. Not only is it scenic, but it’s also quite aromatic, and not in a good way. Rotorua and its environs are the home to a lot of volcanic activity, which produces a lot of not-so-lovely sulfuric odor. Hard-boiled eggs, anyone?

We first got a whiff of the sulfur in the plane on the way to Rotorua. It wasn’t horribly strong, just very noticeable. Occasionally through our whole stay there, we’d get hit with a really strong wave of stink. Overall though it was tolerable and didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery.

We stayed at the Duxton Hotel on Okawa Bay, Lake Rotoiti. The lake itself was quite lovely. The hotel, not so much. We were rather shocked and dismayed to discover our room had no air conditioning, despite the heat and humidity. Eke. Without a free-standing fan, it would have been intolerable. The room itself was tiny. When we went outside to explore, we had to watch every step we took. The lake is home to many Canadian Geese, and they had left many smelly, large deposits all over the grounds. That was the last time we went exploring there. Apparently the hotel management has never heard of using dogs to chase away geese, like so many golf courses have here. It was just gross.

Daybreak in Rotorua

The two meals we had at the hotel were lackluster, and the wait staff slow and indifferent. Altogether it was the worst hotel experience we had and the only one that was more negative than positive. Adding to the whole experience was the fact that the hotel was about 15-20 minutes away from downtown Rotorua, we had no car, and there was no inexpensive shuttle service into town. Cab fare for 2 people was about $45, shuttle fare for 2 was about $40. Each way. Yikes! We felt like we were being held hostage by the hotel. It’s not a place we’d recommend to anybody.

Lady Knox Geyser

On the positive side, we had a very good local guide who took us to see the Lady Knox Geyser at the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. The geyser erupts predictably every morning after receiving a dose of surfactant, and puts on a show for up to about an hour. We also saw the hot, bubbling mud pools, craters, and terrace formations. If you’re interested in geothermal activity, Rotorua and the surrounding area is a great place to go.

Rotorua Lake Park

The next day we spent hanging around downtown Rotorua. We had lunch on the shore of beautiful Lake Rotorua and walked til we wanted to drop before heading back to the hotel.

Our last destination before heading home was Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand.

We reached Auckland via a long, but very pretty drive from Rotorua. Once again we drove over rolling hills, through many miles of farmland. Instead of seeing gazillions of sheep, we saw gazillions of cattle. Dairy farming is a big industry on the northern island. There were many small, scenic rural communities, such as Cambridge. Eventually we stopped for a break nearby one of the power stations on the Waikato River. Lake Karapiro, a water reservoir on the river, is a world-class venue for rowers, and will host the 2010 World Rowing Championships. I can see why; it’s an incredibly beautiful place.

Karapiro Power Station Dam

Still on our way to Auckland, we took a detour to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Formed of limestone, the caves are home to the arachocampa luminosa glowworms, unique to New Zealand. The caves themselves are fascinating even without the glowworms. Seeing the tiny beads of light created by the glowworms was like looking at small white Christmas lights.

The cave tour lasted about 45 minutes. It didn’t seem like very long considering how far we had driven to get there. Had the visitor center been open (it is being rebuilt after a fire), the whole experience would have been more worthwhile, but we’re not sorry we went.

After lunch we hit the road again, heading north through communities such as Hamilton, Huntly and Mercer before finally reaching Auckland. Our butts were pretty petrified by then and we were happy to reach our hotel.