Driving To Rotorua, New Zealand
“There came a time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything. “James Hilton, Lost Horizon
In theory, a road trip sounds very appealing. A road trip through New Zealand sounds really cool. Since I get carsick, I don’t have much road trip experience. I was willing to give it a go to see New Zealand.
An hour and a half out of Auckland is the Karangahake Gorge. It is a great place to go walking and I wish I had spent more time there. There are hard walks, bush walks, easy walks, abandoned mines, railroad tunnels (bring a torch because they are dark and long), river walks and waterfalls. It is a hike (or tramp as they say in New Zealand) through history and nature at its best.
You start by crossing a big swing bridge. It is always fun crossing a big swing bridge.
In 1885 it was a prosperous goldmine. By 1920, the gold had run out and there are remnants of the machinery and buildings of a century ago.
There are mining tunnels that you can explore built into the mountain but you should bring better light than just the torch on your iPhone. We found the train tunnel.
It was dark, wet and the ground is uneven. I found it mildly frightening because you can’t see a way out.
At first, it was adventurous using my iPhone torch to hike but it went on for a little too long for me. I decided to retrace my steps and go walk by the river and find the waterfalls instead.
We continue on to Rotorua. When early missionaries to the shores of Rotorua stumbled upon the great sprays of water that shoot into the air and the pools of bubbling, boiling mud, they must have thought they were getting a glimpse at the fires of hell itself – a view undoubtedly reinforced by what seems like the stench of rotten eggs that fills the region.
Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. There is a strong Maori presence in Rotorua. They saw themselves as the guardians of these lands.
We go directly to the Hot Spring Pools which are located in Manupirua Bay on Lake Rotoiti. It is only accessible by boat.
The boat is beautiful and completely refurbished with an expert crew of women. The captain was pregnant. http://www.purecruise.co.nz
There are different mineral-rich outdoor pools to soak in. These are fed by a natural spring and vary in heat temperature. They are just meters from the very cold lake edge. It is good to jump in a cold lake to get the sulfur off and close your pores.
The next morning I opted for a mud bath and massage. How could you not go to a spa called Hell’s Gate? Hell’s Gate is the only Maori owned geothermal park in New Zealand. The English name came from the playwright George Bernard Shaw who visited in the early nineteen hundreds. He said that he was sure this must be the gateway to hell that his colleagues said he would pass through as long as he remained an atheist. The Maori kept the name. http://www.hellsgate.co.nz/
It is owned by the Ngati Rangiteaorere tribe of Maori who have lived on this special site for over 700 years. It is on a volcanic plateau.
You start with a walk through the mud pools, erupting geysers and hot springs.
The signs tell the Maori myths and stories of those pools.
It takes about forty-five minutes to do the walk.
I was kind of in awe of the special landscape.
I went on to the mud bath where I was given a container of mud to cover myself with. (sorry no photos)
After twenty minutes, you rinse off in cold water and go into the sulfur pools, followed by a massage. Yes, your pores will exude sulfur for the next twenty-four hours from the mud but your skin will be very smooth and the area smells of rotten eggs anyway so no one will notice. It was the best mud bath experience I have ever had and highly recommend it.
Volcanic activity over thousands of years created large craters that filled with water to form the lakes throughout the Rotorua region. They are steeped in Maori history. (Lake Tikitapu- Blue Lake)
The geothermal theme park of Wai-O-Tapu is about 20 minutes’ drive south of Rotorua,. It is a Maori word and means sacred waters.
Walking routes around the park take you past bubbling mud, sulphur waterfalls, exploding geysers, giant fern trees, steaming vents and lakes in neon oranges, yellows and greens.
They are given their color by mineral deposits.
The lagoons fizz with steam and orange ,gold and green fluorescent bubbles.
The park takes on a surreal, dream like quality. I shoot too many photos to remember the strange beauty of it all.