Monday, 5 October 2015

Rotorua - Boiling mud, steaming pools and glorious lakes

Prince of Wales Geyser and Pohutu Geyser  (photo: Destination Rotorua)
I can't believe I haven't written about Rotorua before since it is one of my favourite places.  It is the first place I ever visited with my husband as part of our honeymoon, we  took the children there countless times and I still visit at least once a year. Judging by the whoops of delight coming from the back of the car I think it might  now be one of my grandson's favourites too.  Little boys delight in the sulphurous smell that permeates the town.  It gives them all sorts of excuses to make rude jokes, not that small boys need excuses.  That aside, my grandson, born in England, had never experienced a town so unique, a town where random pools of boiling mud are fenced off for visitors' safety and steam wafts out of roadside gratings, where Maori culture is a vital part of the town's fabric, where the city is surrounded by picturesque lakes  and where you can while away a whole winter's afternoon in steaming thermal pools.
The Marae or meeting house at Whakarewarewa village
We are in Rotorua as a family group, consisting of myself, my two sons and their families. One son is visiting from England and as it is winter in New Zealand  Rotorua is the best place to go for a family break.  Rainy, cold weather doesn't matter in Rotorua,  there is still plenty to do.
My awe struck  grandsons at the concert Whakarewarewa
Our first day is spent at the Maori village of Whakarewarewa, built right in the heart of the thermal area.  The small boys are fascinated by the steaming hot pools where the villagers cook their meals by lowering pots and baskets into the water and by the mesmerising plopping of the boiling mud pools. We wander through the village to view the Marae (meeting house) and, from a safe distance, the  impressive Pohutu Geyser shooting rockets of boiling water into the air, before taking  our seats in the small village hall for a Maori cultural concert.  The children are entranced by the performance and enjoy re-enacting the haka (war dance) at home later in the day.
Swan, trout and pristine pools at Rainbow Springs
Our second day is spent at the beautiful Rainbow Springs.  We wander beside pristine trout pools fed by springs and shaded by lush native bush.  The huge trout swim in lazy, contented circles, waiting to be fed, as mute swans glide above. We view the nocturnal kiwi in a darkened pavilion and the prehistoric tuatara (native lizard) before enjoying the spectacle of well trained  native birds in the bird show. Then it's time for the water ride, a ride which meanders through recreated prehistoric times and some early history of New Zealand before plummeting down a steep chute accompanied by our squeals and screams and a few tears, from the little one.  The children, big and small, love it and have several turns, even the little one who had cried.
My son and grandson at the top of the gondola, Lake Rotorua in the background
Fun on the luge
The next day we take the gondola to the top of Mount Ngongotaha, a thrilling ride offering panoramic views of Lake Rotorua and the city.  Excellent and all as the gondola ride is the main purpose in going up the mountain is to ride the luge which winds down the mountain side. My sons and  grandsons absolutely revel in it, whooping with delight as they hurtle down the hillside, catching their breath on the chairlift back to the top in time for another ride.

Our rented lakeside house is in a magic location and the children enjoy feeding the ducks each morning while the adults linger over cups of coffee.  The afternoons are spent wallowing in the thermal hot pools at Polynesian Spa.  On our final day we take a drive out to Lake Tarawera, a serene and awe inspiring place and stop to admire the Blue and Green lakes. Both lakes can be seen from a viewing point and are different colours.   Reluctant to leave Rotorua we head back into town for lunch at  Eat Streat, a covered street lined with restaurants and a great new addition to the Rotorua dining scene. And then, sadly, it's time to head home
Feeding the wild life at our lakeside accommodation
We have had a wonderful time..   I can't think of a better place we could have gone for a family trip.  Rotorua is crammed with attractions.  We only managed a few of them on this trip but that's good because we now have an excuse to take the children back. 
Oh, and the weather? - perfect for three of the four days!
Mysterious and peaceful, Lake Tarawera