Mercury Bay was a one night stop over en route to Rotorua from Auckland organised by the Kiwi Experience Bus tour. We stopped off at Cathedral Cave this picturesque hidden beach (quite a trek away but worth it) in The Coromandel. The area is filled with odd shaped rocks cut and shaped by the elements. Another interesting sight to see, and one that highlights the array of New Zealand’s geothermal activity, is the Hot Water Beach where you can amusingly spend time digging holes into the sand and warming your feet up with the hot water that flows underneath.
Rotorua is rich in stunning landscapes and is a hive for geothermal activity. The land is filled with 18 sparkling lakes, exotic forests, bubbling geysers, boling mud pools and smelly hot springs, Rotorua is certainly the most active (underneath the ground) town that NZ has. The first thing that people notice when arriving here, which is hard not to, is the stench of sulphur, as if a million rotten eggs have been hidden in various part of the town centre. Although pungent at first, you do get used to this wafty aroma, only noticing its gone, when you too have gone. As well as Rotorua being the epicentre of geological and environmental experimentation through a number of forms, Rotorua is a vital cultural cog to the wheel of Maori culture of NZ.
There are many guided walks, villages and food trails one can immerse oneself in, as Rotorua is the most populated city of the Maori people. Head over to the traditional Maori village of Tamoki Maori Village, which unlike other tourist traps, paints Maori people in a true and respectful light. Here you learn what daily life was like in a Maori village, as well as experiencing the true Haka, and feasting on an enormous dinner cooked over a clay pit. Rotorua is also the best place to organise Lord Of The Ring Tours, to visit the Shire. Visiting at the time of the filming of “The Hobbit” was enthralling, as well as the set makers attention to detail- but the die hard fans were intriguing enough. It being a pricey tour, but not actually being a massive fan myself, I found it a little dull at times- but it was great to see the set!
In Rotorua I had my second experience of couch surfing with a local Maori and his daughter. I am happy to say that this experience was much better then my first experience. I slept in a dorm bed in his daughter’s room and I spoke about London to them both, as he said he wanted his little daughter to learn about the rest of the world. We went to the local market that night and he bought me dinner, whilst I made friends with his daughter and her friends. The next day on his way to work he dropped me off and I walked around Rotorua and its many gardens it has to offer. I was very grateful for his hospitality and still am, it was fantastic to chat to him about his culture and how it has changed over the years, and so with this in mind, it reminds me that there are people in the world willing to share.