Saturday, February 20, 2016

New Zealand Trip, Part 4: Rotorua

From Hobbiton Movie Set in MataMata, we drove farther down South for about a couple of hours to reach Rotorua. We arrived late in the afternoon, so we only had time for dinner. We just had dinner at one of the not-so-interesting restaurants in this area at the city center called, Eat Street. And then it was a bit cold and rainy. We had a nice relaxing restful sleep at the motel after a tiring day from Hobbiton.

I went back the next day, a bit before sunset to take some long exposure, wide angle shots with my big camera. My shots didn't really turn out any nicer than the filtered iPhone ones that I posted on Instagram, though.

The next day, we visited Kuirau Hot Pools Park, which is in the middle of the city center. At first, I was not so impressed about it. But then I immediately figured out it's a huge park and we started in the less interesting parts. Later on, we found a place where we can soak our feet in a hot pool. My daughter and I enjoyed it very much. And then at the end, there was a huge, smoky, hot water lake filled with various shades of yellow, red, amber and greenish shades of mineral deposits.

At midday, we went to have lunch in one of the restaurants facing the lake. It was a hot and humid day, but nice and windy. It was quite a nice area for a promenade, but the restaurants were so-so. Later during our trip on the way back to Auckland, we stopped by Tauranga and had lunch in front of the lake there. It was so much nicer.

my favorite thing to do in parks -- tree-climbing in a mini-skirt! ;)

Lovely colors on the hot, smoky lake of Kuirau Park Hot Pools... was a bit stinky though.

This hot lake is the highlight of Kuirau Hot Pools Park. There is even a tiny, rickety bridge right in the middle of it. A bit scary to cross at high tide.

We stayed in the area where all the cute little motels are located. I chose to book on Asure Palm Court. My little girl and I totally loved the girly flowery decorations around the motel. And we most especially loved the jacuzzi tub in our room. :)

We also loved that the nice old Lolo owner gave us a quiet corner where we wouldn't hear all the vehicles in the parking area getting in and out of the hotel. Most of the other rooms are either facing the main road or the parking area.

Our room number

Charming flowery decorations at the motel

the jacuzzi hot tub at our motel room... this was huge and deep (up to my chest), but you can sit on the sides.

Later in the afternoon hubby and I decided to take a short walk in the Redwoods Forest by ourselves. I totally enjoyed this relaxing walk with my husband. We left our daughter to the in-laws to visit the zoo while we walked under the canopy of tall Sequoia trees and huge Silver Ferns for no more than an hour. There were different trails but I was not up for all the other trails that would take about four hours or more.

In the evening, we had dinner at a place close to our motel at a restaurant called Urbano Bistro. I quite enjoyed the food and the ambience. The staff were also very nice and friendly.

Small plane at Rotorua Lake

Rotorua Lake at lunch time

'neath the Sequoia trees at the Redwoods Forest walk

Tall ferns at Whakarewarewa Redwoods forest

On our third day in Rotorua, we went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It was just about a little more than an hours' drive from our motel. We spent about two hours walking around the whole park filled with boiling mud pools and colorful hot lakes. The highlight of the trip was the Champagne Pool. It was crazy hot, not just because of the hot pools, but because there weren't much shady trees in the area. It's advisable to put on a sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock on this trip. And it's essential to drink lots of water.

The Lady Knox fake geyser

one of the many boiling mud pits

This is the biggest hot pool in Wai-O-Tapu
I read in one of the information boards that Mt Pinatubo of my very own country is one of the biggest ash cloud producers in the history of volcanic eruptions. I am not surprised at all, as I have witnessed this myself. During the time of Mt Pinatubo eruption (which was in my early teens), I went up to our rooftop to see in amazement the thick mushroom-like ash cloud coming out of it. Back then, I didn't even know there was an active volcano close to our province. In the next few hours, everything was covered in thick darkness at midday, and it was raining ash and soot and tiny rocks. And there were these lightning flashes that were just all red, with thunder sounding like bombs! I thought it was the end of the world! The next day, there was about a meter of ash covering the whole landscape. To this day, I still get the shivers every time I think about the time Mt. Pinatubo erupted. And I still can't imagine myself going near the crater lake of the now, peaceful volcano, that has become a famous trekking site.

Mt Pinatubo of the Philippines is one of the biggest ash cloud producers in volcanic history

Champagne Pool -- the highlight of the Wai-O-Tapu walks

This hot pool is a unique milky muddy green color, which just looks fascinating in person

Before the Hot Pools visit in Wai-O-Tapu, we went to see the geyser called, Lady Knox, which they manually trigger to erupt twice a day. I have been warned by Tripadvisor reviewers to avoid this tourist trap, but everybody wanted to see it anyway since we arrived there just in time. It was nothing special. And the place where they do it is a bit cramped, overcrowded and dusty. Plus, the road is so tiny, it causes major traffic jams going back to the main entrance to the Hot Pools. So, don't bother seeing it if you ever are in the area.

After the walk at Wai-O-Tapu, we decided to relax and take a dip in the hot pools of Waikite Valley. The paved road on the way to the hot pools were making crackling sounds because they were melting in the heat from underground. It was really strange.

We were disappointed with the hot pools of Waikite as they were crowded and dirty. The bathrooms and shower stalls were also not well-maintained. But for a price of NZD 5, it's not such a bad idea, if you're not maarte like me.

So there you have it, that's the last bit of my New Zealand trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my Christmas and New Year adventure in Middle-Earth. :)

Please book your stay at Asure Palm Court here:

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