Rotorua, New Zealand

Rotorua, a town of geysers, hot springs, and a pervasive odor of sulfur.

“Daddy, it stinks here!”  The kids were none to happy when we pulled into Rotorua, a large town in the center of the North Island [location].  It is full of geothermal activity, with geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud everywhere – and as a result, a persistent smell of sulfur (aka rotten eggs). Read on!

Pohutu geyser. Te Puia reserve, Rotorua, New Zealand.

This opinion all changed, though, when we spent the afternoon and evening at Te Puia, a reservation run by a group of local tribes.  Here, we could walk past bubbling mud pools, explore spewing geysers, look at the two kiwi birds, and watch a school of wood carving and a school of weaving. The schools bring Maori from around the country to learn the ancient methods for carving (men) and weaving (women), producing beautiful works for both sale in the gift shop and for traditional uses back in their villages.

Although it was drizzling, the geysers were fun and the mineral pools they make were fun to watch and explore.  There were delicate sulfur crystals formed around many of the vents.

Pohutu geyser: Sulfur crystallizes near the many steam vents. (Rotorua, New Zealand)

We had an excellent tour guide who taught us about Maori history and culture. In the evening we had to face the warriors, in their traditional challenge of “friend or foe”?  Passing that test, we were treated to a concert and even learned how to do a bit of the po dance and the haka dance.  Then we had a feast of food cooked in a hangi, a way of cooking food in a pit.  The dinner was a spread of New Zealand seafood, lamb, pork, and chicken, as well as some vegies and potatoes introduced here long ago by the Polynesians we now know as the Maori.  It was a bit ‘commercial’ and ‘polished’, but for newcomers like us with less than a day in town, it was both informative and entertaining.

Te Puia – before going inside, we are challenged by a warrior. (Rotorua, New Zealand)

Before retiring, we took a dip in the hotel’s geothermally heated pool.  I’m not sure if it was actual mineral water – this was a cheap hotel – but it was a warm treat after a chilly drizzly day!

See the photo gallery.


This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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