Rotorua

Janetta and I met at the Auckland airport last night, picked up our car (Norman, pictured below), and drove 3 hours to Rotorua.  After a good nights sleep we were refreshed and ready to hit hte town.  When mom and I were here last we checked out the geysers and Te Puia, so this time Janetta and I decided to head 30 minutes out of the city to Wai-O-Tapu geothermal pools.

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We made it in time to catch the Lady Knox Geyser eruption, which occurs every day at 10:15.  This area was originally a prison, with the prisoners clearing the land of trees and plants.  They discovered a hot water pool and thought this would speed up their chores.  So they came out here with their laundry and soap, but as soon as they put the soap in the geyser erupted!  Nowadays at 10:15 a bit of soap is dropped in so the eruption happens on command – without the soap it could go off anytime between 2 and 24 hours. It erupts anywhere between 10-12 meters high!

And then we moved back to the geothermal pools. These pools were sculpted out of volcanic activity thousands of years ago.  It has been the dry season, so most of the pools didn’t have much water in them, but it was still cool to see the craters.  The pools that were filled were coloured very brightly – this is from various mineral elements that have found their way in the crater (the most common being sulphur).  It was quite cool to see, and you get used to the sulphur smell eventually.

After 1.5 around the geothermal pools, we made our way to the mud pools, because why not! I loved the exploding mud.

From here we made our way back to Rotorua to do a grocery store run, then drove to Matamata to prepare for Hobbiton tonight.

Waitomo and Rotorua

When we were planning this trip my brother gave me a long list of things to do and see with my mom.  Because her time here is limited, we booked a couple of day tours in order to maximize our time. Our first tour was today, and though it was a long day, we at least got to catch up with some sleep on the bus.

Our first stop was to Waitomo, which was the most amazing and magical experience that I’ve ever had. Waitomo Caves is a series of naturally made limestone caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites.  After about 40 minutes in the caves, you go deeper underground and enjoy a short boat ride in the pitch black caves, illuminated only by thousands of glowworms on the ceiling.  It was amazing. They don’t let you take pictures inside anymore, but you can check out the video on their website if you want an idea of how it was (http://www.waitomo.com/Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves/Pages/default.aspx).

I did manage to snap some pictures when we were leaving the boat though, and you can glimpse the darkness that we rode through, as well as some of the greenery surrounding the caves.

Our next stop was to the Agrodome, where we got a sheep shearing demonstration, sheep dog demonstration, and a tour of the farm.  Basically, we went from my most magical experience to my worst nightmare.

The sheep sheering was a little uncomfortable as the sheep made every effort possible to get away.  But I guess the sheering is for their own comfort.

The sheep dog demonstration was actually pretty cool!

But the tour of the farm did not go as I would have liked.  I was sitting on the outside edge of a trailer being pulled by a tractor, as it drove through the farm and showed us the different animals.  Our first stop was by their cows, and I swear they came within in an inch of me.

So I was already on edge when we took us to the sheep, dumped a bunch of food in my hand, and then let me be swarmed by sheep I had no intention of hand-feeding.  I eventually dropped the food on the ground to escape the swarm.  There were deer nearby you could also feed, and they were pretty cute, though I again declined to feed them.

With that we left the farm, and headed into Rotorua to the Maori Arts & Crafts Center and Te Puia to see a traditional Maori Haka, and check out their famous mud pools and geysers.

The thing with the mud pools and geysers is that it smells strongly of rotten eggs, however, as I was congested, I was able to just appreciate the beauty.

We also got to see a Kiwi bird, but because they are nocturnal, we were not allowed to take pictures lest it disturb the bird.

And then we drove back to Auckland, arriving in the city around 8pm. All in all a pretty busy, but great, day.