Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations. And for good reason. How many developed places in the world have hot steam rising out of bubbling mud beside the road, and no one pays much attention! Well that’s not quite true. In some instances, a makeshift fence is placed around the source. In others, it is turned into a major tourist attraction. But you don’t need to see the bubbling mud and steam rising out of the ground to know something is happening here. There is a permeating odour of sulphur in the air. We were told we would get used to it, but after a couple of days, it’s as prominent as when we arrived.
As a result of its geological properties, generations of families have come to Rotoru ‘to take the waters’ and that’s what we did. We went to the Polynesia Spa, (despite its name), since it was close to our hotel, and voted one of the 10 best spas in the world by Conde Nast magazine. Sally had a dry treatment, with mud; I had a wet treatment! (No Rubenstein, that’s not what you think!) Water showers you from above while you enjoy a full body massage.
Following the Spa Treatment, we had lunch in the busy town centre, and then 9 holes of golf at a Municipal Course near the spa. Conde Nast would not rate this one of the 10 best golf courses in the world, but the sun was shining, and it was very pleasant. We spent the Valentine’s Day evening walking through a dark forest looking for glow worms. This was preceded by a Maori Concert and traditional dinner comprising lamb, chicken, root vegetables, potatoes…and trifle!
At the concert, we discovered that 20 different ‘tribes’ were present from literally all parts of the world. By far, the majority of people were from England, followed by Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. There were two other Canadians, and we happened to sit with the only two Israelis in attendance. Ari and Esther are doing a very similar tour of New Zealand, but in reverse. As a result, we could tell them about our favourite places; the peninsula east of Dunedin, Akaroa, the drive across to the West Coast, and the pancake rocks (even though they don’t look like pancakes.) We discovered that we had both made the mistake of not renting cars from Budget or Hertz! In their case, the Toyota Camry turned out to be a 1994 model; in our case, Ezy Rentals wanted their nice new Nissan Sunny car back in Auckland!
And so that is where we’re headed. We may make a final stop on the way. But all being well, we will fly out of Auckland on Sunday. I say all being well, since agent Veronica at Emirates Air seems to be having trouble dealing with an open ended Business Class around-the-World Airline Ticket over the phone. So far, they have not confirmed our booking, although they will send a car to pick us up and drop us off from the airports. I’m sure it will all work out in the end. Otherwise, we’ll continue to drink New Zealand pinot noirs instead of Australian cabernets.