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Day 5 – Rotorua

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Categories: New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , , , ,

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Our last full day in Rotorua was a slightly shorter day than our average.  As we had some prep work to perform to be ready to depart tomorrow, we time boxed our activities until 2pm, which means that we were back at the resort around 2:30pm.  Today was also unique for the fact that it was the only day we’ve spent exclusively in Rotorua/Mourea.

Route

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Today’s activities

We  started the day at our usual 8:15-8:30am timeframe, with all showered and fed by 9:30am although we didn’t get underway until just after 10am.  We arrived in downtown Rotorua at 10:30pm and to our first destination of the day.

Kuirau Park

It turns out that the park hosts local markets every Saturday, so we were blessed (unexpected bonus) and cursed (lots of parking/traffic issues).  The park is a free public space which also happens to be on top of more geothermal activity.  Although there are no hot springs which you can swim or bathe in, the park does feature a foot washing facility which is quite pleasant.

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Local Markets

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Geothermal park with sculptured gardens

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Enjoying the foot spa

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Sulphur comes from somewhere!

After the foot spa, the boys found a splash pool for kids and decided to enjoy it a bit too much – Damian in particular ended up soaked. 

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Kid’s splash pool located conveniently next to a geothermal area 

We spent an hour and a half at Kuirau Park noting that the time was fast approaching midday.  The boys were starting to get irritable, so we decided to drive a few blocks into downtown Rotorua.

Downtown Rotorua and lunch

The first logical stop was the Rotorua visitor’s centre to pick up some more detailed maps and a brochure on eating options.

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Rotorua Visitor’s Centre/Jake gets new threads

We decided to try a place not far from the centre, two blocks away.  We moved the car and eventually found parking – 90 minutes free.  As both Jake and Damian were still quite wet from the splash pool, and we happened to park almost directly opposite a children’s store which was having a up to 50% off sale, both boys got new shorts and Jake a new T-shirt.

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Capers Epicurean / Smoked Salmon omelette

We had lunch at Capers Epicurean which featured a kid’s room and plenty of space.  It wasn’t exceptionally cheap but it did have the ambiance of a boutique brasserie, and the food was pretty good.  Jake had an iced chocolate and some chips, whilst Damian enjoyed part of a crumbed schnitzel.

Once everyone was done, we did some window shopping up and down the street before returning to the car.  Our next destination was decidedly prettier..

Government Gardens

Occupying first rate real estate on the lake’s edge, the Government Gardens are home to the Rotorua museum, a theatre, an events centre and manicured gardens. 

You enter through a set of wooden arches which lead to to lawns and a roadway which takes you up to the impressive looking museum which looks suspiciously like the visitor’s centre.  If you turn your head to the left whilst looking at the museum you’ll notice a children’s play area, which is exactly what Jake did.

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Wooden arches form the entrance/Rotorua museum

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Jake charges the camera / roses in the Rose Garden

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Damian peeks through the play equipment

So naturally we killed about half an hour watching the boys scamper around the playground.  Jake in particular was fond of the multiple slides, shooting down each one in short time.  Damian is getting much more adept at climbing up to, and sliding down the slides as well.

By this stage, the weather looked ominous, so I decided to backtrack and get the car which was parked near a heritage hotel just outside the gardens.  I brought the car into the gardens and parked it closer to the lake.  Toni and the boys met me and we walked to the lake side.

Lake Rotorua

We didn’t linger too long at the side of the lake because the weather looked like it would turn at any moment.  We rationalised that we needed some quality time back at the resort to get ready for packing, so after a brief time near the water, we headed back to the car.

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Rotorua Lake

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Lake side

As we were on our way out, Jake noticed a sea plane preparing for take off.  At the same time I noticed an old riverboat steamer coming in to dock, so I put the car in reverse and we took a few minutes to watch the water craft.

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Maori boat

Toni spied a covered Maori long boat, so I stopped and got out to take some photos.  It was quite a magnificent specimen, very large and sturdy looking, inlaid with shells.  After taking a few shots and trading exchanges with an older foreigner who jokingly expressed a desire to move the bars around the boat cage, I returned to the car.  We drove back to the resort stopping by a Gull petrol station which featured car vacuuming and car washing facilities which we took advantage of.

Back to the resort

Once we were back at the resort, I downloaded photos onto the laptop.  Not long after, I proposed a swim and spa – Damian and I went down to investigate the water temperature and returned with a report of ‘acceptable’.

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The Resort

Pool and Spa

The whole family went down to enjoy some time at the pool.  There was a slide to one side for children 3-7 to launch themselves into a wading area, which Jake (and surprisingly Damian) thoroughly enjoyed many, many times.  In between, we took turns in the spa to warm up.

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Resort pool / Spa fun

We spent an hour in either the pool or spa before deciding to call it a day.

Dinner and packing

Toni cooked a lamb rack for dinner and Damian went to bed early after a day without a meaningful sleep. 

We have much to do to be ready to fly out tomorrow!

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Day 3 – Rotorua

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Categories: New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , ,

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Day three began much the same as the preceding days, with a wake up around 8:15am (both boys) and an eventual migration downstairs for breakfast.  We didn’t depart the resort until after 10am, with our first destination being the famous redwood forest just outside the city of Rotorua.

Our day’s itinerary in map form:

day 3 route

Unexpected Shopping

As we drove down the road towards the redwood forest, Toni spied an outdoor gear shop called the Outdoorsman.  Since the weather forecast was nothing short of grim, we decided it was time to purchase some light rain jackets for us and the boys as an insurance policy against a repeat of yesterday.  The upside is that we don’t own summer lightweight jackets, so we weren’t buying something we already owned back home.

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The boys ran amok the shop, and we did our best to shepherd them and prevent utter chaos as we located and bought what we needed.  We were given a voucher for a free coffee, so we wandered up to the adjoined cafe to redeem it, along with a babychino for Jake and a flat white for moi.

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Unannounced shopping aside, we resumed our travel up the road to the redwood forest.

Redwood Forest Park

This was not our first foray into the redwood forest territory, we’ve visited Muir Woods in Marin County (San Francisco) on a previous trip back in 2007.  This park had a very nice visitors centre, oh and did we mention the place is admission free?  Bargain, and it was only a short drive south from the airport.  These redwoods tower over everything, yet the forest floor was peaceful and serene.  The path hewn throughout the area was well maintained – manicured, even.

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We did the shortest path available owing to the stamina of our boys, who walked probably about half of the route on foot.  We did have the travel stroller though, and the boys took turns riding along in it.  At the end of the trail, we had a fairly long descent which Jake tackled on his own.  He only fell over once!

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Once we had finished at the park, the weather seemed to be staying away, leaving us with some random beams of sunlight.  We decided to chance our hand and continue along the road we’d taken to get to the redwoods.  There was a sign announcing Green and Blue Lakes, so we knew we would have to check it out.

Blue Lake/Lake Tikitapu

The road wound us out through closely cropped hills and rolling greenery complete with cows and precariously placed sheep, who appeared more like mountain goats.  It brought us out at the foot of an expansive lake which had the most remarkably clear water.  There was also a rather large children’s play equipment area above a terraced area, which had Jake and Damian engaged.

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I took some photos along the shore before walking up to join Toni and the boys at the play equipment.  We managed to make it back to the car before a wave of rain swept in from the south.  Our road continued to take us further in, past the buried village and to the shores of..

Lake Tarawera

Which was even larger than anything we’d seen, except maybe Lake Rotorua.  We found yet another set of play equipment, so the boys went to town on it.  I took some more photos from the shore before returning to watch the kids playing on the equipment.

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As we departed the lake, we had an opportunity to observe the landscape from a lookout.  The road returned us to the buried village, and with time in hand, we decided to visit it.  It wasn’t exceptionally cheap at NZD $32 per adult, but we paid and entered anyway.  We had a quick lunch (grilled ham and cheese) and an iced coffee drink box.

The Buried Village of Te Wairoa

The village was once a thriving township before a volcanic eruption covered the unfortunate town in molten lava.  Little remains of the village nowadays, but through patience and a lot of hard work, many structures have been successfully excavated.  This provides a rare glimpse into what a 19th century village really looked like – a time capsule of sorts.  On site and through the museum are many examples of unearthed treasures of the era, including millstones, anvils, saws and other tools.

The most stunning remains are of Maori whare (houses) which eerily still stand.

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One of the highlights of the area is the Wairere Falls, which is encountered towards the end of the trail running through and out on the perimeter of the buried village itself.  A fast running stream drops water over the top of a very steep rock face, producing a spectacular visual:

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The hike back up to the museum almost killed me, but I made it in double time.  We left the village just as another front of rain swept in.  It was now approaching 3:30pm and we weren’t sure whether to head back to the resort or not.  In the end, we decided to take advantage of the “fair” weather, and moved back to Rotorua to once again head south towards a hot springs in the mountains.

Kerosene Creek

The place is known as Kerosene Creek, and is highly rated on Trip Advisor.  The instructions on how to get there are easy enough to follow, but they lack some vital information – that being that the road you need to pass is littered with thousands of potholes, making for an exceptionally bumpy ride.

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We pulled up at what we thought was the “grassy verge”, but it actually wasn’t – it was too far upstream.  We ran into a group of Irish folks who had doubled back, and sort of decided to check out further down the road.  Turns out it was indeed a bit further along.

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There were about half a dozen cars, and some German chicks in bathing suits, so we had a hunch we’d found the right place.  We got out, swapped into swim wear and followed the path down.  The creek ran swiftly down to another set of falls, spilling into a large open pond type  area.  It was about 1 meter to climb down, but once in, the thermal springs were welcoming.  We stayed around 20 minutes paddling around and keeping close watch on the boys as they splashed around.

Once we returned to the car, we changed back into normal clothes and began the journey back north.  We detoured to visit the “Volcanic Valley” only to realise that after 6kms of road, the destination was yet another place which charged admission.  It was after 5pm, and the place looked deserted, so we took the road back north, and ultimately back to the resort.

Back to the Resort

Once home, there was a little time to watch Jake and Damian run around outside the townhouse, making sure neither of them got too close to the marina.  Eventually, it was dinner time – so I gathered up and seasoned our steaks, and took to the communal BBQ which is directly opposite our terrace.  Hand cut chips, sausages and steak accompanied by caramelized onion – divine.  We showered the boys and eventually they went down for sleep.  After a spell of tidying up the townhouse, I retired to the laptop to write this entry..

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Check back tomorrow for Day 4!

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