Day 4: Steams of sulfur and sleeping volcanos

Last night we arrived to Rotorua, the sulfur city or RotoVegas as some like to call it. The smell of rotten eggs was already evident 15km before the city,  but it didn’t discourage us from exploring the area. Rotorua is NZ’s most dynamic thermal area with geysers, steaming hot springs and boiling hot mud pools. The city is literally constructed on the steaming pools, holes and rivers. We could see steam coming out of people’s gardens and road drainage system. Despite bad weather we ventured to Kuirau Park right in the city centre famous for its mud holes and steaming pools of hot water. Each of them had a warning sign, as apparently accidents have happened and people were sent to hospital with serious burns.

Rotorua however is not only famous for the eggy thermal baths, but also for its rich Maori culture. 35% of the population here are Maori and there are a few thermal villages where the indigenous people are the traditional owners and curators of the area. The thermal activity of Rotorua and surrounding area results from the proximity of Mount Tongariro, which erupted for the last time in 1886 destroying natural thermal terraces, but giving a beginning to thermal activity as seen today. Apart from the thermal springs, though, there is also a huge lake in Rotorua which actually is a volcanic crater filled with water. I wouldn’t like to see that explode.

Rotorua lake is one of 16 lakes in the region and so after a few hours in RotoVegas we hit the road again and went on a scenic drive to Otaka, Blue, Green and Tarawera lake. We stopped at the last one for lunch and marveled at the views of the notorious Mount Tongariro.

From there we went south to Taupo, another lake city, and we spent the night right on the waterfront.















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