Monday, September 22, 2008

Rotorua - Where No One Can Smell Your Fart

We’re back from our first weekend away in New Zealand.

With science-mad kids, we decided our first overnighter should be Rotorua, about a 3 ½ drive from Auckland.

We had the kids breakfasted and dressed and were on the road early. Even so, by our first petrol stop, less than an hour into the trip, C. and H. were both starving! Husband, in his wisdom, had banned eating in the car (mind you after seeing the mess the kids had made in my old car before we sold it, for good reason). But that meant I hadn’t packed any snacks. And I had to admit to needing a coffee.

And so we found ourselves queuing for nearly 25 minutes at the service station café, for what is possibly the worst coffee I have ever tasted in my life (and that’s from someone who has spent a lot of time in country Australia). Next time I’ll remember to pack a flask.

The kids were happy with their haul though – juice and brownies – especially as we broke the rules to allow them to snack as we drove to save time.

Cambridge was the next stop, where we literally spent a penny (actually it was 50 cents each) to use the loos. A farmer’s market was on nearby, so the kids picked up a bag of organic apples and juice for the journey.
Finally we made it to Rotorua, where the first sights of steam rising from cracks in the ground prompted cries of excitement (from the adults as well as the kids).

We stopped at a local park, where the kids excitedly checked out a few hot springs, while complaining about the smell. We’d been warned about ‘stinky’ Rotorua, but were still overwhelmed by “The Stench” as C. called it. Still, there was a bright side. “Now we can fart and you won’t know if it’s us or the hot springs”, he announced excitedly. H. lost no time in testing out the theory!

We snacked on yummy roti and samosas made by local Maoris for lunch, before checking out our hotel. I’d booked an internet special online, and after reading a few trip advisor reviews (after instead of before the booking), I was a bit worried about what we’d find. But the Hotel Sudima was fine. Sure they lost our booking, but they found it again; and our room wasn’t ready on arrival, but they gave us a key to the pool and loads of towels so we could go for a swim in their thermatically heated pool.

It was divine! Even warmer than the hydrotherapy pool I used in Brisbane for my arthritis exercises.

For $129 a night for all of us, including breakfast, you couldn’t really ask for more … even though the Rotorua smell somehow followed us everywhere.

We walked around the lake, napped, and enjoyed hot spas in the afternoon, before heading to a Maori show and hangi that evening. It was touristy, but fun, and the kids were spellbound.

We all enjoyed the hangi, and later, the Princess joined me on stage for a poi dance, while the big and little men got to do the Haka.

Next morning, we visited the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal wonderland. Billed as New Zealand’s most diverse area of geothermal activity, it’s a bit like visiting the Land That Time Forgot.

Steam rises from eerily coloured pools and vents, mud gurgles and plops, steam vents hiss, and cavernous craters dot the land.

It’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been – up there with unforgettable must-sees like the Grand Canyon and Victoria Falls – and of course, the kids loved it. Even the Princess forgot to ask to be ‘luppied’, so entranced was she by the sights and sounds (and even the offensive smells).

The Little Dude was taken by the names of some of the attractions: the Devi’s Home, Devil’s Bath, and the Infernal Crater, to name a few.

And they both loved the eruption (induced by soapflakes) of the Lady Knox Geyser, which soaked them both as it erupted about 20 metres up into the air.

We would have loved to have stayed longer at Rotorua (and I for one, would love to return to try the world-famous Polynesian Spa – girls’ weekend anyone?), but reality beckoned.

As well as a busy week at work for K., the kids have an art night, barbecue and concert at school this week. And with our internet and phone set to be connected any day now, I’m back at work soon too.

It’s hard to believe we’re only starting our fourth week in Auckland, but it’s already starting to feel a lot like home.

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