Call me adrenaline junkie (which I am usually far from) because I went for a walk up in the trees and climbed a wall, both about 20 metres in height, in Rotoura in one day. I am mighty proud of myself after this.
Spontaneous Ziplining in Rotorua
It was relatively spontaneously that I decided to have a go at one of the ridiculously many activities on offer in the beautiful Rotorua. The Rotorua Canopy Tours seemed most attractive to me, let alone that the forest itself is a wonder. It is native and has giant trees that are 500 years old as well as birds and plants that you cannot find in any other country. On top of all the fun, part of the money is used to preserve this wonder and that is something great.
High up in the Trees
So there I was, 22m up on a hundred year old tree. I was looking up into an endless array of branches that kept most of the sunlight away. That made it even more freezing cold and dim, and looking down seeing just low foliage and very down below some part of solid ground. It was so peaceful and tranquil and then I stepped of the platform and into thin air. I don’t know why but I was not scared in the least. Only when I was attached to a seemingly never ending zipline of 220m in length did I have a slight moment of a sinking gut feeling. The ride was worth it, most definitely. It was over way to soon (after a total of 3 hours) but it was big fun and highly recommendable.
Getting High Some More
After that, I felt like the day couldn’t possibly be over. Since the building in which my hostel was located also hosted the big indoor wall climbing facility, The Wall, I thought I should give it a shot. After all, I loved climbing trees as a kid. It’s not so easy though. Firstly because it requires arm strength (which I have not). Secondly I needed a partner to hold the life saving ropes. Not an easy feat to trust a stranger with your life. So I was haunting my hostel and found a trustworthy looking girl and the ropes were dummy proof anyway. Up I went and quickly down I came again (twice). It was hard and scary, after all. But still, I am glad I did it.
When the Foul Eggs Smell Comes
Ahh, the rotten egg whiff of sulphur in the air, I must be in Rotorua, a small city on geothermal fields and at a half normal and half sulphurous lake and. This means, there is a lot of stuff bubbling and steaming around everywhere. In parks, near walking treks, you name it. You can smell it before you can see it. Already a short walk up to the museum, all pretty in black and white Tudor style, reveals where the earth is letting steam off. A couple more minutes and there is some more fresh air by the lake with a sublime view of the surrounding mountains and forests.
In the lake’s middle you can find Mokoia Island, where a Romeo and Juliet like love story took place between Hinemoa and Tutanekai. They were descendants of great chiefs of different and rivalling tribes. Today, the island, which is a volcanic dome, is still in the hands of a group of Maori tribes and now used as a bird sanctuary.
Milky vs Blue Waters
Looking a bit further, the clear, blue lake turns into milky white. The beach takes on a yellow hue. Clearly, there are sulphur and minerals at work and red warning signs reveal hot holes in the ground. Utilizing this, there are several spas for treating your skin needs and rejuvenating your body and soul. I, however, was too busy to just sit down and relax. Too much to see and do.
Besides all the natural wonders (there are also native forests with endangered and rare bird species to be discovered), Rotorua has a lot to offer for those interested in Maori culture. One third of its population is Maori and thus the home of Maori culture in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Several authentic villages can be visited and give interesting insights.
One was Whakarewarewa, a real Maori village where a tribe of 25 families is living even today. And I can well understand why. They have a natural hot tub and the world’s largest open kitchen facility. You should know that they are living on geothermal grounds, where steam is emitted everywhere: near roads, in gardens, next to flower beds etc. And every now and then there are hot water sources and those are used for the daily two community baths (which, besides cleansing and heating up serve as a vehicle for gossip).
In a Real Maori Village
But not only that this was impressive in itself. The Maori guide let us through the tribe’s and her family’s history with lots of humour. The whole tour ended in a traditional dancing performance. This included costumes, the haka (the war dance with the wide open eyes and stretched out tongues) as well as the Maori nose greeting. Did you know that the first such a ‘nose kiss’ with an American happened in this village with Eleanore Roosevelt. The late Queen Liz once also visited. Historical grounds, I say.
Naturally, I had to digest all this input – also literally, since I couldn’t resist and order the Hangi meal, all ready and steamed in earth’s “microwave” and is super soft and yummy. with energy reloaded, I walked to the Redwood forest nearby. It really is a sight to behold. I haven’t been to the US yet, but am lucky to have already seen those majestic trees. The forest was quite stunning even without them (though it wouldn’t be nearly the same) and makes you think of having travelled back to dinosaur times, with huge fern trees, blue lakes with mummified leaves and wood.
It was hard to leave this magical place. But it was getting dark and it is not a good idea to be lost in a wild forest. So I took the next bus (which meant the one that actually appeared since the timetable seemed to be more of a guideline than anything). Of course, it dropped me off at the wrong street. Luckily, though, this made me stumble upon the midnight market of Rotorua, which happens every Thursday. I grabbed a Slovakian treat and strolled through the evening promenade. Then, I ended the day with watching the Hobbit, which (or any film of the two trilogies) I think, is a must when in New Zealand.
For action and adventure seekers, there is an endless list of things to do in Rotorua. You could go on an Ogo or Zorg, which are huge plastic balls filled with warm water and in which you roll down a hill. Or you could go racing down the mountain in a luge, go bungy jumping and much more. Whether you just want to enjoy nature and go hiking or relax in a spa, have some quality family time or do some crazy fun activities. You will find so much to do, it’s mind boggling.