|We left Fernland, sadly, and headed for the famous, thermal town of Rotorua. Now let me begin by saying that you smell the town of Rotorua LONG before you see it. I was asleep in the back of the van as we were driving along and Matt thought he was going to have to wake me to let me know there was something wrong with the van- he thought the brakes were burning. I thought Matt had bad gas from the Turkish kebab....we were both wrong. It was Rotorua. The first thing we noticed when we drove in is that the whole town appears to be smoldering. It is hard to describe but imagine looking out the window to see great puffs of smoke billowing out from, well, everywhere. It was a sight. The residents are certainly more brave than I am. I felt very uneasy, as if the whole thing would explode any minute. That is just what happened in 2001 according to a "not too re-assuring" signpost. No one got hurt, apparently. That time, if you know what I mean! Anyway, we went to the visitor center where we decided which atttractions to visit and then headed out. Our first stop was Hell's Gate Thermal Park. Now, let me tell you, this place was cool. Well, not in the literal sense, it was actually hot as hell....but very neat. It took about an hour to get through the park and we toured an endless number of boiling mud pools, steaming mud volcanoes and fiery pits of hot sulphur gurgling up through the earth.
We decided to really live it up (it is a holiday, after all) and spring for the private spa mud bath followed by a swim in the sulphur pools. The mud bath was great, it really did feel as if it was de-toxifying the skin. The girl told us not to wear any jewelry in the bath or for 24 hours after or it would turn black which sounded a bit ominous (yikes, this stuff dried on my skin!) but really it was great. The sulphur pool was very relaxing and very stinky. Mmmmm....just the way I like it.
By this time, it was after lunch so we drove around a bit and then headed for Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. This was a much larger park, in the same vein as Hell's Gate but with LOTS of color from various minerals. Our fav was the Champagne Pool, a large mineral pool with bright blue/green water with an orange shelf around it. The walking was easy so we got through the park pretty quickly.
We decided to spend the night roadside at a lake and, as there was no electricity, it made for an early evening. I haven't mentioned it before but Matt decided to hire a solar shower with the van at the exorbitant rate of $30. I was skeptical from the first but he assured me it would be a nice, relaxing way to unwind after a hot day. A solar shower works under the concept that you actually leave the water pouch in the sun for an entire day thus allowing the water to warm up nicely. We did not do this. I am still cold. The freaking water was freezing. Anyone would laugh to see us hopping around, naked, trying to wash vital areas at the back of the camper van. Alas, the evening was at an end.