We awoke to rain; sporadically heavy rain. Up ‘til now our weather has been beautiful. Well, it is green here and it is spring.
There’s a huge open cast gold mine in the area that Francine fancied a look at but she wouldn’t have seen anything ‘cos the heads of the hills are shrouded by the dense cloud base. We began driving in that direction but swiftly thought better of it and spun around.
Our target is probably the biggest tourist destination on North Island, Rotorua, with it’s renowned “thermal activity”. We had to be careful on the journey, though. There are few toll roads in NZ but we had been warned of one that we needed to avoid on today’s journey, a road around Tauranga. It’s not expensive but you have to pay online, which is too much hassle for travel with flaky technology – reliability would be terrific – so we bought a proper road map and primary navigator Francine skipped us around it, despite Kiwi Satnav’s best efforts to put us back on it.
Toll road successfully avoided, approaching Rotorua Kiwi’s screen went dim. Now I realized why she hadn’t turned on automatically this morning – no power connection; she’d been running on battery for this journey and was now dangerously low. Approaching the campsite in a town is when we really needed it. Bugger! Fiddling seemed to restore power but all was not as it should be, clearly.
We checked in to the Top 10 site at Rotorua shortly after midday and went for a reviving walk. Legs get fed up with sitting and driving. There are thermal parks around Rotorua which you pay to enter. However, Francine had read reports of being able to see everything relevant in Rotorua itself for free. We were both sceptical; why would folks pay for something that was freely available? We’d take a look, though.
There’s a municipal park right beside the campsite. There are certainly pools with bubbles rising and occasionally small plumes of steam – some pools are cold, some are warm. The most notable thing, though, was the smell of the gases. Dotted around the town itself you find other walled, fuming holes. OK, a rocky hole in the ground with smelly steam rising from it. Got it.
What looked more interesting was a nature reserve at Sulphur Point on Lake Rotorua, which reportedly has a boardwalk. Actually most of the route was a gravel walk with the views of Lake Rotorua generally cunningly concealed by vegetation. We did ultimately get to the boardwalk, though, which was much more open and it’s certainly worth seeing that quite different landscape.
If you remember nothing else, remember that Rotorua stinks. Our entire walk, about 5kms, gave us lungfuls of smelly fumes. The locals say you get to ignore it, eventually. [Probably because the olfactory organs have been destroyed.] The town itself felt a bit tired, too – in need of a lick of paint and some love and attention. The most impressive, picturesque building was Government House, except that it was surrounded by fences. Well, it makes a change from churches covered in scaffolding which is what tourists usually suffer. Pictures from a distance minimize the visual disruption a little.
The thermal activity on display in Rotorua gives a flavour [stuck in your throat] of what’s around but we can’t imagine that it’s the best. If you don’t want to shell out a few tourist NZ$ though, it’d work though.
We’ll be trying one of the commercial parks tomorrow, I suspect.