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New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Rotorua
Rotorua, New Zealand: One big science lab
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Soon after landing, science students would be reminded of their schoolís laboratory. Thanks to the geothermal activities in the entire region, a typical smell (rotten eggs; scientifically itís Hydrogen Sulphide) hangs around. Thankfully, one quickly gets used to it. What the sulphur dominated air does to the Rotorua residentsí health is beyond my domain.
Itís a 90-minute flight from Christchurch (my last destination on the South Island of New Zealand) to Rotorua. It was a small ATR flight. Surprisingly, thereís was hardly any security check at the Christchurch airport. Wish, all airports were as hassle free! The change of landscape as we crossed from South to North Island was pretty obvious.
We landed at Rotoruaís small airport at 1:45 in the afternoon. We got our car from Hertz. The staff was waiting for us to land! This time, we got a Mazda 3. Good car in comparison to Ford Fusion which we had with us on the South Island. Mazda would be with us for the next few days to discover the North Island.
Right next to the airport is Nzoneís Skydive Centre. We had missed taking the plunge due to bad weather in Queenstown. Now was the opportunity. The weather was good. In fact, it was just the kind of day to jump off a plane. We booked for the 2:30 dive. Like always, Anuj, my son, offered to take the dive. There are 3 optionsÖ dive from 9000 or 12000 or 15000 feet. Of course, Anuj opted for the 15K dive. The cost was $345 for the tandem jump. Video and pictures cost over $200. Itís steep but then a photographer needs to jump too. Filming is a manual process unlike rides where mounted cameras do the job.
Anuj was draped in special suits and glasses. He would jump with Matt Milner and Walter Li would be the photographer. Few jump tips and Anuj was ready to roll. Off the team went and down they came. The entire trip lasted for about 30 minutes. Anujís experience was totally out of the world. He recommends the dive to all his friends. See video.
After the dive, we checked into Rydges hotel. Itís an excellent property overlooking the race course. The room had a spa and there was a thermal pool on the terrace. After dropping our baggage, we immediately left to explore the town. We drove on the Lake road, then to Rotorua museum and to a thermal park just behind the museum. We spent an hour walking around the museum and the thermal park. Roses, lilies and tulips were in full bloom in the museum campus. The museum building was a sight in itself. The architecture just stood out.
The evening was still young. We then drove on the Taravera road all the way up to Green and Blue lakes that were about 20 kms away. It was a picturesque drive. By the time we returned it was 8PM. Dinner was at Pizza Hut which was located just opposite the Rotorua Lake.
The next morning we were ready to Zorb. We were booked for 9AM. Zorb is a fun thing. You are tied up in a plastic balloon and then rolled down a hill. There are two options. Dry and Hydro costing $59 and $49 each respectively. As the name suggests, in the hydro one, they throw in some water for company. You need to have a change of clothes. We opted for the dry one. This time when I say we, it actually means even I rolled down and so did Anuj. Zorb is about 10 kms from downtown. Do give it a try See video.
After rolling down the hills, we turned back and drove towards Taupo thatís about 80 kms from Rotorua. And 30 kms from Rotorua is the world famous Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland Ė a must visit when in Rotorua. By the time we reached Wai-O-Tapu gates it was 11AM. Thereís a geyser named Lady Knox Geyser that erupts at 10:15 AM every day. The sprouts go up as high as 20 meters. Why at 10:15 precisely is anybodyís guess. I think itís managed to an extentÖ but no complaints.
The entrance to the park is $37.50 per person. As soon as we bought our tickets, we drove towards Lady Knox Geyser that was still erupting. I am told the show lasts for about an hour from 10:15AM. Thereafter, we drove to Mud Pools. This was fascinating. Mud was boilingÖ reminding me of chocolate making. I got some fascinating pictures. After the two stops we came back again to the park doors. Just so you know, the parking is about 500 meters away from the main entrance.
The Wai-O-Tapu (meaning sacred waters in Maori) thermal area has the largest area of surface thermal activity of any hydrothermal system in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Covered with some 18 sq.km. with the volcanic dome of Maungakakaramea (Rainbow Mountain) at its northern boundary, the area is covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. The wide range of colours in the area are all natural and are due to different mineral elements. The predominant colours are green, orange, purple, white, yellow, brown and black.
For visitors there are 3 walks aptly named walk 1, walk 2 and walk 3. Please make it a point to do all 3. The trip would last about 75 minutes and covers about 3 kms of distance. Every meter covered would be worth your while. As you walk, you would come across many natural wonders. Each one of them has been named to give you an idea as what would be in store. Here are some examples Ė Devilís Home, Rainbow Crater, Devilís Inkpot, Artistís Palette, Opal Pool, Frying Pan Flat, Oyster Pool, Champagne Pool and Devilís Bath amongst many others.
After fruitfully wandering about for 2 hours we continued our journey towards Taupo. As we were nearing, we were intrigued by a sign that lead to Huka Falls. The falls would be about 10 kms from Taupo and we were happy that we didnít miss a visit. The falls are truly fascinating. The water gushes down with great force. This is another not to be missed location. The river is a popular place for jet boat rides too.
The walks and the drive built up a healthy appetite. Overlooking the blue waters of Lake Taupo and snow capped peaks in the distance, we had our lunch at Burgerfuel. Itís a great place for enjoying exotic burgers. Their beer battered fries were delicious. It was a national holiday in New Zealand (Labour Day) so a 10% Ďholiday surchargeí is levied to every bill! This was something new to me.
After a lazy lunch, began our return journey. We did a little detour to Waimango volcano valley that was 6 kms off the road. Unfortunately, we were not let in as the park closes at 5PM. I guess this park is trying to compete with Wai-O-Tapu. Fortunately, the detour was a blessing in disguise. 6 kms further down was Okara Lake. The evening light created some fantastic landscapes. We reached Rotorua late evening. Dinner was again at Pizza Hut. Post dinner we walked a bit along the lake.
We were ready to depart early next morning to Auckland Ė our last destination of the New Zealand trip.
Rotorua Image Gallery Photo viewer
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