Rotorua was a nice little lake/geothermal town in the heartland of the North Island. It’s one of the most geothermically active places in the world. We woke up fairly early at our crowded campground on the lake and made our way into town. It was important to us to experience some Maori culture and it’s always good to check out some geysers when you can. The Whakarewarewa village killed two birds with one stone. It offered a guided tour through a Maori village that was built on a geothermal park. It was really interesting to see how they used the thermals to their advantage. They used it to heat their houses, had a few different methods of using it to cook (One using the ‘moldy microwave’ to slow steam food in a covered dugout and the other by directly dunking vegetables and shellfish into the boiling springs) and they also had a great set-up for their soaking pools (the hot springs ran down hill into a series of ground level gutters that drained into tubs. If the tubs were too hot, block the gutter and let it cool for a few hours or add cold water from the hose), genius. Not sure how comfortable I’d be living on ever-shifting, extremely hot sand with a potential for eruption… but having a couple geysers in your backyard would be cool as soon as you got used to the smell of sulfur. We were guided through the park/village by a fourth generation guide/many generation villager and she did well to combine the history and science of the thermals with the culture of the tribe. They even had an ancestral performance with traditional garbs, song, dance and it concluded with the Hakka (a sweet war dance/ rugby warm-up aimed at striking fear into your enemies and get you syked for battle… or rugby).
After the thermal park we headed to an old forestry research park. They’d gathered a bunch of species 120 years ago to see which would grow best in New Zealand, which would be good for timber, etc. Today, the main attraction is a nice stand of California Redwoods. On Sunday, McKayla and I took a long walk that looked out over the town and lake of Rotorua while allowing me to get my tree fix in with some nice patches of larch, strange pines and those glorious redwoods.
In New Zealand, Monday, February 6 was Watangi Day (a national holiday celebrating the truce signing between the Maori and the English), back home it was Super Bowl Sunday. The game started at noon. We were camping behind a hostel and the hostel bar had the game on. Even though we were watching alone, without a bartender or American commercials, it was still a hell of a game. We were both rooting for the Falcons but that damn Bellichek figured out how to snake his way into yet another Super Bowl ring.
Afterwards we took a walk through downtown Rotorua, stopped by the lake, checked out some green stone jewelry and had a pint at the famous Pig & Whistle pub. Rotorua is famous for its many hot springs, but all the ones we looked into were a little expensive for our budget, but thankfully our hostel offered a lukewarm mineral pool that would get our muscles relaxed and ready for some more hiking.