Really not sure what to say about this place !!!!
02.01.2009 - 04.01.2009 18 °C
Friday 2nd January 2009
Got to Rotorua mid afternoon and checked in to our hotel ( The Millenium - nice hotel near the far end of the lake, pleasant enough) during a short gap in the rain that had followed us most of the way from Auckland.
Rotorua smells awful ( particularly up by our hotel). Its the sulphur from all the hot springs - and although they say you get used to it after an hour or so I have to disagree. Found it pretty disgusting to be honest. Its also quite a sprawled out town and on the way in both of us noticed that it seems to have a lot of commercial business premises mixed in amongst residential areas (i.e. lots of Farm Equipment stores next to houses next to Burger Kings etc etc). It has very large American-like roads which adds even more to the spaced out/sprawled out feel. Quite touristy and commercial too, not really my sort of place.
We wandered around for a bit after grabbing some decent food at Cafe Cisco, and found oursleves down at Lake Rotorua and the Maori village of Ohinemutu just along form the waterfront ; it was the principal Maori settlement in the area before Rotorua and although its been swallowed up a little by Rotorua's expansion its still classed as a Maoiri village today. The church ( St Faith's Anglican Church) was very impressive - as was the Tamatekapua Meeting House, and the numerous hot springs that were blowing off steam just along from the village square.
The rain put a bit of a dampner on our sightseeing , although we managed to miss the worst of it when we were travelling down from Auckland.
Although we did plan to head out for dinner, neither of us could really be bothered so we nipped to the local supermarkert instead ( Pac N Save - looks like a Lidl, only a bit classier ) and bought junk food for a slobby night in. Fisrt time Ive eaten in since I started travelling I think - and it was a great change. Loved it !!
Saturday 3rd January 2009
Started the day by hitting the Skyline Skyrides a few miles out of town. Again, it rained on and off for most of the morning. Valerie bravely headed down one of the Luge rides ( kind of go-kart/luge ride on a choice of three courses , each stretching a few Km down to the bottom with chair lifts back up).
There was a heap of queueing going on, which was a bit irritating but to be expected really. Rotorua is a big tourist destination for foreigners and Kiwi's alike - lots of families here, and the whole place feels slighty too commercial. Valerie and I both commented on the fact that the whole place seems to have done very well for itself by making the most of not very much and totally cornering the tourist market ( the hot springs is basicallly the main thing to see here - Rotorua doesnt have much else, although it is very rich in Maori culture)
After the rides at Skyline we went to look at the Zorb ( another ride a few miles further out of town where you travel down a hill inside a 10ft high plastic ball ). The concept of zorbing originated from the area, and is now a 'craze' all over the world/NZ. Cant say Ive ever heard of it before. We watched it for a bit from inside the car as it was bucketing it down outside, and I have to say I thought it looked stupid - so, although I had been contemplating pushing myself to do it I decided against it as I really wasnt sure what the point of the exercise would be!!! Besides, everyone who was trying it looked way under twenty !!
We went to a Maori concert and Hangi at night ; after perusing all our options we decided that the 'Mitai' was the best option to go for and it didnt disappoint.We saw a pretty authentic show which included lots of Maori dancing, singing and a Waka ( maori's in a canoe). It gave us a good flavour of Marae custom and protocol, and was performed very enthusiastically by a group of men and women. The hangi ( maori feast - cooked in underground buried ovens and consisting of meat and steamed vegetables) was really good considering the fact that it was mass produced for the tourist trade and I couldnt really fault it, even by my fussy standards.
Downside of the night was probably Valerie's companion at the dinner table - a german girl who seemed a little full of herself. Finally after dinner we were given a tour round the grounds to see some Glow worms ( something I was chuffed about as we didnt manage to get to Waitomo caves to see them there) and a few other bits and pieces.
We had an entertaining guide/host for the evening called Owen who used the word "Folks" about ten times in every sentence - most amusing, although he was enthusiastic and certainly fairly knowledgable. Turns out he normally does the dancing and singing part, and that the maori chief is actually his Uncle, but he was standing in as a host for us tonight because everyone else was on hioliday. Suprise suprise , that sounds familiar!!!!