Rotorua: Sulphur and geysers

Starting our self-drive through the 2 Islands of New Zealand and ticking off another bucket list item.


River and mountainsA view of rural New Zealand

New Zealand (NZ) was one country that I had always wanted to visit. So many told me that it is one of the most beautifully scenic places in the world and I have to agree. The South Island, in particular, is glorious. That is not to take away from any other country but NZ has so much beauty for such a small country, and we have just begun a drive through this beautiful country. The travel agent, NZ Self Drive Tours, prepared an excellent trip and manual of instructions for us so it was really wonderful. Our route and accommodation had been excellently planned and posted to us while still in SA. The months of waiting were finally over and we were on our way.

Yesterday, which was wet for much of the day, we had tried to get on to another bus to see some places we missed the day before but after waiting for half an hour we decided to walk to Avis to discuss collecting our rental car which Trevor did this morning.

Our final evening at the hotel was quite irritating. There was still no hot water and a handyman came up to see if he could assist. The man on Reception duty wanted us to change rooms which we refused to do for one night. We requested the use of a bathroom in an empty room which was done albeit be unwillingly. We were also told that we could use the room for a morning shower but when I went through at 06:00 it was to discover that a young couple had just been booked in to the room! I informed the travel agent of the problems we had experienced and 50% of our costs were refunded.

Getting out of Auckland on to the State Highway 1 to go to our first stop over, Rotorua, 220kms (136miles) south of Auckland took far longer than it should have done but once on the road we had no problems. The city and its suburbs were soon left behind and the scenery became beautiful farmland. We turned off the road at one point to get some photos of a very beautiful river, bridge and mountains around farms.

Farm bridge 2Farm river and bridge

Further along on the other side of the road we saw a row of Totem poles along a far fence. Then on the right hand side again we saw some most unusual hill formations. I have not been able to find out anything about these let alone what they are called. If anyone has any ideas or information I would love to learn more.

Row of Totems 2A row of Totem Poles

Unusual hill formationsUnusual shaped hills in the middle of a field

The trip from Auckland to Rotorua took a little over 2½hours but once we arrived in the town we found it very difficult to follow the instructions to find our hotel as a number of roads were cordoned off. We finally got there and as we got out of our car 2 young gentlemen came and offered to take out luggage to our room. We said that we could manage and they left while we went in to the hotel to register. When we came out and the 2 fellows learnt where our room was, they said that it would be much quicker and easier if they took the luggage as we had to drive right around the building and there were stairs up to the room. We acceded and pictured them waiting at the room for their tip. What a surprise it was to find our luggage in the room and the young men nowhere in sight. We were to discover that no one in NZ expects a tip unlike the US, Europe and here in the RSA.

When we registered at the hotel we asked about the cordoned off roads and were told that it was because Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, were going to walk in the Government Gardens and he was giving a speech at 15:15. Although we are not avid Royalists we could not go home and say we had not seen them. By the time we had checked into our room it was already after 15:00 and it was quite a walk to the Gardens so we missed the speech and they were on their return walk. We had a couple of laughs on the way but the best one was seeing and hearing a couple of teenage girls giggling and jumping up and down with excitement because Harry had touched their hands.

HarryPrince Harry chats to fans

MeghanMeghan had smiles for everyone

Once we had got a couple of photos of the 2 of them, luckily Trevor is tall and could hold the camera up high, we decided to walk around the Government Gardens as they looked beautiful. At the entrance to the gardens is a tall war memorial with King George VI at the top. It is the Awara Memorial to the Te Awara people who had fought in the 2 World Wars for NZ. There are 4 panels with inscriptions for the Te Awara people details of which you can see at the link.

ARAWA War MemorialAwara Memorial

The land for the Gardens was donated by the Maori Tribe which had owned it as a gift to ‘all the people of the world’. There was evidence of the Maori influence through the sculptures and carvings in the Gardens. At the rear of the Gardens was a large Tudor-style building which originally housed a thermal spa and pool and people from all over the world came to ‘take the waters’. Today the building is a Museum but the baths have been restored for use by visitors.

Museum in RotoruaTudor style museum building

Rotorua is famous for its geysers and bubbling sulphur pools which at times can smell very awful. Beside our hotel was a large lake which smoked with sulphur gas and we were fascinated that the hundreds of gulls seemed quite happy to drink the water. There were a number of other birds which lived on the banks of the lake.

Sulphur lake and mountainsSulphur lake near our hotel.  Note all the gulls 

Bird in the fernsOne of the many birds which live near the lake

Back to the Gardens. There were a number of beautifully laid out gardens as well as a bowling greens and a club house. We particularly noticed the poppies as it was getting very close to Remembrance Day and they were in full bloom.

Flowers in parkSome of the beautifully laid out gardens and the Gardens Manager's Cottage

Some poppiesPoppies

In the centre of the Gardens was a sulphur pool open but with high walls so that no one could get into it. While we were standing by this pool we heard people speaking English with a strong SA Afrikaans accent. We introduced ourselves and they said that they had lived there for 15 years which really surprised us as they had not lost their SA accent at all. They told us that there were at least 20-30 SA families in the town of Rotorua itself.

Geothermal pool in parkGeothermal pool in the Gardens

Further down was a fresh water pond with a fountain in the centre. The surface of the pond was covered in Water Lilies. At various points around the pond were sculptures and carvings most of which one could not accurately define but there was one which really interested us. It was of a serpent made of 3 pieces of concrete or similar and placed on the ground in such a manner that it looked as if the serpent was moving in and out of the ground.

Fountain in parkFountain on the Water Lily covered pond

Serpent sculpture beside sulphur pondSerpent sculpture

We stopped at a small café and bought pies for supper and returned to the hotel.

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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