Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28th – Tauranga and Rotorua

From the pleasant seaside resort of Tauranga, I joined the ship's tour to Rotorua – one of the world's most active geo-thermal areas – to visit its array of bath houses, bubbling mudpools, and spurting geysers.

Our drive took us past the long line of beautiful surf beaches which has turned Tauranga (and Mount Maunganui where we docked) into a popular tourist centre, and then we headed into the Bay of Plenty's beautiful countryside of rolling fields of pasture, kiwi fruit farms and volcanic lakes.

Once we got close to Rotorua – people on the bus began to look accusingly at each other as the smell of sulphur hit us, before we all realised that the rotten egg smell was coming out of the ground. We first headed to the old Edwardian bath house which has now become the Rotorua Museum – the grand mock tudor architecture showed that "taking the waters" was big business a century ago, when people would travel from Europe in search of the miraculous cures that Rotorua reputedly provided.

We had a good tour around the old facilities and around the exhibits on the local Maori culture (Rotorua has the largest proportion of Maoris of any city in New Zealand), before it was time for a delicious lunch at a local hotel.

The afternoon section of the tour was the bit that everyone was looking forward to – a trip to the Te Puia thermal park and Maori cultural centre. Our excellent Maori guide gave us an entertaining tour around the various displays of Maori culture and crafts, before we went to see the geysers and burping, splurting mudpools. Unfortunately, the Pohutu geyser wasn't playing ball during our visit – it was going off just as we arrived, calmed down while we actually watching it, and promptly sprung back into life just as we were leaving. It seemed like Mother Nature was taunting us!

Geyser or no geyser, it was a fascinating trip.