Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Rotorua and the Blueberry Winery, Polynesian Spa, Redwoods and One Boring Walk

After listening to enough jazz to last us both a while we left Tauranga and headed down to the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua. When you first drive into town the smell hits you. The entire town smells of rotten eggs from all the sulfer emmitted from the thermal pools all over town. This area of NZ is surrounded by active volacanos and the entire area is just waiting to explode. The good news is that its also full of geothermal hotsprings.

We made our usual first stop at the I-site to get a quick reminder of what there is to do in the town and find out about anything new that might not have been in the guidebooks. This I-site happened to have showers so we took advantage and had what was maybe our 4th shower in the last month.

We then drove just north of town to check out a blueberry winery. When we arrived they had all kinds of jams, chutneys and dips made out of blueberries that were all really good. We then tried the wine which the lady who owned the place was quick to remind us that this is not a red wine but a blueberry wine. Yes, emmm, this is quite clear when you take a sip. It just doesn't taste right. We were both pretty disappointed after getting fairly excited about combining our love for wine and blueberries.

Fortunately they also have a cafe where we ordered a blueberry smoothie and a blueberry ice cream sundae with hot blueberries poured over the top. We also got a blueberry muffin for the road. It wasn't as good as my mom's but it was pretty close.

A farmer walked in just as we were delivered our food and he stopped to chat with us about our trip. Every New Zealander wants to know where you've been and how you like their country and then tell you about where they are from and where to go next. Its a good source of information so we don't mind repeating ourselves over and over again.

Our food came and I went to take a picture of the food. This farmer says to me "Make sure you get her in the pic." So I lean back to get Gemma in the pic and he says "Get one of her sucking it down." Jesus! Then, "Yeah thats it." as I took the pic. We could hardly contain our laughter.

Here I am sucking it down.

Interesting fact about the winery: They make more money selling blueberry juice to people interested in drinking it for their health than they do from selling their wines. Here were some of the blueberry fields and requisite sheep.

Leaving the winery I noticed all these huge mounds of rocks all around. Turns out they were from the massive volcanic explosion in Taupo thousands of years ago. Taupo is nearby but a good two hour drive away. Its amazing these mini islands of rock were blasted that far away.

We found a lake just outside of town to park near.

The next day we were at an internet cafe and read an article on CNN about a job testing honeymoon destinations around the world. We spent a few hours applying for the job and running errands around town. More on that job in the next post.
The following day we decided to do the Western Okataine Walkway hike and it was probably the most boring hike of our entire trip. The only two exciting things we saw were a creepy noose made of palm leaves and a dead cow.
Creepy noose hanging in the middle of the path???

We were almost at the end of our hike when Gemma spotted this dead cow along the side of the path. It had completely rotted away but all its bones were still in place. You could see its rib cage and hip bones sticking out through its leathery dried up skin.

Here is its head.

The walk was pretty at times but the scenery didn't change once. We saw the same things five minutes into the walk as we were two and a half hours later. I think hiking the W in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile has ruined us for hikes.

Driving back to our parking spot I did finally find a vista that I'd been hoping to get all along our hike. Gemma was so exhausted from the hike she didn't even sit in the front for the short five minute drive. She laid back in the bed and snapped this shot of me not paying attention to the road.

Finally a good view of the lake from above!

We busted out one of our portable grills again and cheffed up some burgers. These really are a treat that we don't get that often. We cook great meals in the van but they are mostly of the pasta or stirfry variety. Side note to my american friends. You must try eating baked beans on toast for breakfast! When I moved to London I remember seeing baked beans in the Google breakfast line and thinking how ridiculous. Then I tried it and then I met Gemma. Now I crave baked beans on toast in the mornings. Mix in some scrambled eggs on toast and a little hot sauce or some Lea & Perrins and its just about one of my favorite snacks.

The sunsets were great and I took a ton of pics the few days we parked at this lake.

The next day we went to a Redwood forrest. I've always wanted to see the Californian Redwoods. Who knew I'd see them in New Zealand before I'd see them in California? In the 1800's they planted lots of different trees to see which would take fast and could be best used for timber. The redwoods took well and they now tower into the sky topping out around 200 feet tall.

It was only a 30 minute walk through the forest but about 100 times better than our hike the day before.

See Gemma in the pic below? She's tiny in the bottom left corner.

The bark is interesting looking.
The next day we went to the Polynesian Spa near the edge of Lake Rotorua. Its one of the top 10 spa's in the world according to Conde Nast Traveller and one of many in the area. The spa has been here since 1878 when a catholic priest bathed regularly in the thermal spring water in hand dug pools. Over several months his arthritis was greatly alleviated, initiating an international reputation for the therapeutic properties of the hot mineral spring water.
Here I am reading inbetween dips in the pools. You could only stay in one of these pools for about 15 minutes before your heart started racing and you had to get out. My heart had never raced like that in a hot tub and I'm hoping it had something to do with the alkaline water and not the condition of my heart. But it was such a nice place and a nice day we lounged around and stayed for a couple hours.
Looking out onto Lake Rotorua

Back at our lake side parking spot the next morning and another round of pics to capture the lake with a morning mist.

Next stop is lake Taupo.

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