Rotorua: A Magical Place in New Zealand
Kia ora! We are now in the enchanting city of Rotorua! It’s located on the southern shore of Rotorua lake, within the Bay of Plenty region. There is so much to see and do here, it’s no surprise that the tourism industry is booming. Key features include geothermal springs, hot mud pools, mountain biking on mountainous ranges, spas, historic buildings, great food options as well as easy access to wonderful tours that we’ll tell you about in a moment. The name is derived from Māori, meaning “crater lake”.
When we arrived in the city, the first experience to hit the senses was the smell of rotten eggs. We later found out that the nickname for the city is “Sulphur City”. This is due to the hydrogen sulphide emissions from the various geysers throughout the city. They are most noticeable around the historic Government Gardens area, known as “Sulphur Point”. After a few hours of being in town, you won’t even notice the smell anymore, so it’s not really a problem. The benefit of this is that there is a plethora of geothermal pools to be enjoyed. Virtually all motels and hotels have them, including the one we stayed at. In our case, each motel unit had their very own private geothermal pool in the backyard! Another aspect that we’d like to touch on here is that there are many spas available in town that offer mud pools. These are quite good for you in terms of promoting relaxation and in helping soothe and soften your skin.
Besides the geothermal aspect, the town is well known for mountain biking. Whakarewarewa forest is where this is enjoyed. This forest includes over 100km of mountain bike trails and it hosted the UCI Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in 2006. Later on in 2015, the forest hosted southern hemisphere portion of the Crankworx mountain biking event.
If you’re looking for food in town, there are a mind bogging amount of options. Whether you’d like to enjoy cuisine ranging from Chinese to Tunisian, or whether you’d like to drink locally crafted beer or imported varieties, you’re covered. You not only have quite the selection to choose from, but the majority of them are highly-rated, high quality establishments. For instance, a few of the staff members tried out the Ali Baba’s Tunisian restaurant on the first night coming into town and they were extremely impressed with the quality of food. They reckoned that they had some of the tastiest falafel in the world there!
Moreover, as you’re strolling through the downtown area of the city, you’ll notice a Hobbiton movie set store. This offers tours into Matamata that take you to the movie film set of the shire, that was used in the filming of the Hobbit movies as well as The Lord of The Rings series. This was a magical place to see and we have photos from our journey there, below. The question is, how can one come to New Zealand and not visit the fantastical world of Middle Earth?! The movie set is perfectly created, spanning 44 hobbit homes and with an amazing level of attention to detail paid to every aspect of it. The plants, grass and trees are all real, with the exception of one tree above Bagend (which if you weren’t told about, you’d be none the wiser). Initially when the first iteration of the set was created, many aspects were not constructed to last. For instance, many plants were artificial and most hobbit holes were not actually structurally sound and safe to go into. However, the whole set was recreated almost a decade after the first iteration, but with everything done properly. You can enter the hobbit homes displayed on the tour, you can smell the sweet scent of the various flowers in bloom, you can go for a drink at the Green Dragon Pub as well as much more. Being there was akin to taking a step into the world of Middle Earth. While there, you instantly forget the real world and are immersed in the beauty of Hobbiton. If you are travelling throughout New Zealand and are even remotely a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, do yourself a favour and visit Hobbiton, you won’t regret it!
On the tour logistics side of things, we now have around a month left to go until we reach Queenstown. Our group has expanded to about 26 people and it kind of feels like we’ve started a new tour as of New Zealand. We’re hoping that there will be no more disastrous natural events such as the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook up the eastern part of the South Island, but it’s a good thing that we’ll be travelling around the west coast of the Southern Island. We shouldn’t have any hindrances along the way if everything goes according to plan. Until next time, haere rā (farewell in Māori)!