We drenched ourselves in cold shower water right outside of Hotties restaurant and changed into dry clothes to manage through our next car ride. We (Nate) drove 3 hours south of Hot water Beach to Rotorua. To date, Liz had not driven the car yet, her approach to learning to drive was of the visual practice.
Rotorua is a lake town and the main attraction is thermal activity. Thermal activity releases sulfur in the air which makes this a stinky town. We checked into Central Backpackers Hostel which was nothing to write home about…pun intended. Note: We will be sure to make note of places worthy of your accommodation and places to stay away from but if we just don’t elaborate assume a typical backpacker stay, humble.
Don’t know what a typical backpacker hostel is like? Now might be a good time to set the mood. You can expect a very friendly hippy-ish person to check you in that is either a local or a fellow backpacker that loved that area enough to stay. The rooms range from dorm style bunkbeds to private rooms. The dorm style is by far the least expensive way to travel if you are by yourself. If you are a couple, it makes more sense to get a private room, unless they are sold out. Rooms generally have some type of storage for your bag that can be locked, if you have a lock. Think Ikea linens, with one sad pillow and a blanket. The bathrooms are shared, generally split by gender, sometimes they provide towels, sometimes you have to purchase them. Most hostels have a large common space with a TV, games, place to eat and a kitchen to cook in. Hostels are set up to inspire socializing. Nicer hostels will even have a bar to go to which is a great place to meet fellow travels and gain intel. The people you meet in hotels are either traveling in your direction or coming from the direction you are headed in so it can be extremely valuable to get their input. All in all, hostels are great for traveling, some can be nicely set up and on the opposite spectrum can feel pretty overused. Read reviews prior to booking to check things like the wifi strength, the temperature control and the cleanliness to avoid an unpleasant experience. We use sites like Hostel World, Trip Advisor and Europe’s Famous Hostels when traveling.
Back to the stinky town…If you have been to Yellowstone National Park before, this is a town you can skip unless you have a stronger relationship to thermal activity and geology than we do. Below is a brief round up of what we did:
#1 Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
This is a geothermal site that you can explore for $32.50NZD. It takes about 75 minutes to tour the entire grounds where you see a lot of bubbling mud, bubbling waters, crystallized surfaces and craters. You could opt just to see the highlights of the Champagne Pool and Devils Bath in about 30 minutes. Both bodies of water are definitely geologically unique.
#2 Thermal Pools
We read on google that you could access free hot/cold springs near the Wonderland, so we followed the directions specified in the comments section of Google. (Drive past the wonderland about one minute until you reach a bridge. Park and follow others or walk until you see the water under the bridge. There are stairs that lead you right into the springs. The spring is only about waste deep and has two incoming streams with cold water running from one direction and hot water from another. The access point leads you towards the middle, the first dip feels like a hot tub but you eventually explore the small spring to find where your preferred temperature is and relax in that spot.
#3 Lady Knox Geyser
This was a glorified elementary school science project (think paper-mache volcano, vinegar, and baking soda). The geyser itself is natural but they help her erupt every day at 10:15 a.m. on the dot. They take a soapy mixture and drop it down which makes her foam up and then spit out a stream of water. Not exactly the experience we were anticipating. Whom whomp…
#4 Taught Liz to drive
This town was the perfect time to teach Liz to drive on the left side of the road. She put her visual note taking to use and it was a success, though she still can’t turn on her blinkers without hitting the windshield wipers first. One small step for Liz, one big step for Nate. It was time for her to drive us away from this stinky town to our first adventure activity in New Zealand.