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Friday 27 Feb 2004
Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Kia Ora from Rotorua

26th Feb 2004

No problems sleeping in the car park last night for 5 dollars... it doubles as a backpacker carmarket on weekends. I went back to my hostel (Fat Camel on Fort St) for showers, etc since its so easy to just walk in and go up the stairs without causing a fuss!

Had the car serviced this morn. The guy recommended that the cheapest way of doing it was to leave the Automatic transmission service and just get the oil/engine filters done. So it only cost around 250 bucks... I also got 2 new tyres fitted (the spare turned out to be bust!!!) so that was another 120 dollars... still within budget barely.

Afterwards I drove off south-east through Hamilton and a hell of a lot of farmling towns eventually arriving at Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty region.

This town is famous for one thing, which becomes evident by the smell going up yer nose as you approach it. Its a geo-thermal wonderland! Sulphur be causing dat smell, but its not all bad and is supposed to be quite healthy to breathe in.

What first strikes you when you drive in though are the clouds of water-vapour that stream from cracks in the road and pavement and the copious thermal parks that steam high into the atmos.

There was also a lake nearby where hundreds of seabirds were floating on the water motionless for hours, warming up their bellies on the hot waters below! Pretty funny I thought.

Its pretty much a tourist-oriented town with one long main street consisting of Tourist shops and McDonalds outlets. Its still got a NZ charm about it though, and is one of the best places to see some traditional Maori cultural shows (or "concerts").

Every campsite has a geo-thermal bath facility, and after much searching for a "free place to crash the night" I eventually gave up and splashed out for a 12.50 dollar camp site called the "Cosy Cottage" or something. Good decision! The thermal baths were absolutely amazing!... I lazed away the evening here looking up at the stars while floating on a mineral bath. Blisssss...

Ooooh yeah forgot to mention. While searching for a free campsite I came across a place called the "Buried Village". Ysee the entire area is volcanic (hence geo-thermal) and this village was buried under 10 metres of ash when a volcano erupted in the C19th. You can walk around and see the remnants of the Maori village and large Pakeha hotel that existed here... pretty interesting. There is also a walk to a beautiful waterfall.

Anyhoo, the price tag to get in is 18 dollars (apparently).. but I didnt know you had to pay and managed to just open the side gate and walk in. Something everybody should know I think!

27th Feb 2004

"Time to do some touristy stuff" I thought this morning and sure as hell I did!

Much of my day was spent at the "Thermal Village" of Te Whakarewarewa (full name being "Te Whakarewarewa o te Ope Taua a Wahiao".. Maoris have a habit of putting long names on places). This is a fully functioning Maori village (mainly catering to tourists.. most Maori live "normal westernised" lives as opposed to village-life) that is built among mud-pools and hundreds of steaming waterholes and massive geysers. Even the ground you walk on is about 30 degrees. Our guide was informative about Maori culture (and obviously gay. Again!!!) and showed us how they cook their food in hot boxes that are dug into the ground. Pretty cost-effective solution to heating yer house too!

At 12pm there was a Maori concert (included in the 18 dollars entry fee) where the Haka was performed as well as other trad songs n stuff...

The awesome geysers are officially inaccessible from the village, requiring that you pay ANOTHER 18 dollars to gain access through the Cultural Centre... I found another cost-saving step here too by accidentally stumbling into the Cultural Centre from a back-walkway in the village. No worries mate!

I could also have saved paying the 18 dollars for the village tour in the first place by just standing beside one of the many tours going in from the front entrance (tickets were never checked in either place!), but, well the village deserves it for being that much better and allowing you to interact with real Maori villagers.

Near to Rotorua is the location where they shot "Hobbiton" in the Lord of the Rings movies. Ill have to check that out tommorrow...

Last week I booked the boat ferry across to South Island 2 weeks in advance to avail of the "super-cheap" discount fare of 138 dollars one way. Yeah I know its pretty expensive still, but a hell of a lot cheaper than the 270 dollars that is the normal rate.

On account of the heavy price involved in getting back to North Island, Im considering selling the car in the South Isle and then flying back to Auckland...


I forgot to mention that while wandering through the Cultural Centre (where you can access the largest geyser in Rotorua), I visited the "Nocturnal Kiwi House". This small dark enclosure gives you a chance to finally see of the infamous flightless birds that have become synonymous with New Zealand. I was surprised just how large and chubby they were, but really cute!

Its nigh on impossible to actually see a Kiwi in the wild, since they only come out at night and populate areas that are well off the beaten track. They are also endangered. Reasons why why you never even see a dead one on the road!! Nah.. this is possum-road-kill country!

(Added 11 June 2009)
It's taken 5 years for me to add this little bit but... I have to mention the fact that as I was wandering through the back-walkway to the Cultural Centre, I almost happened to step into a pool of boiling mud!!! I luckily still had my weight on my back-foot at the very moment that the ground under my front foot collapsed, so I was able to pull back. Jesus that would have been a major downer on this entire trip, not to mention the rest of my life!

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    Bay of Plenty

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    My Haka!
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    Bay of Plenty

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    Inside a Marae