The town of Rotorua was Michi and my first stop on our way to the South Island. We’re travelling using a flexible bus pass from the nationwide “Intercity” bus. This gives us plenty of options to hop on and off the bus. Other travellers would rent either cars or vans to visit the country. These come at a slightly higher price, when compared to the Intercity bus. And then, there are various other bus companies, geared towards the backpackers, such as the Magic Bus or the Kiwi Experience.
However, these holiday buses feel more like being part of a large holiday tour group. This is definitely no so much fun to explore as we want to discover new grounds on our own. I probably will book the Magic Bus or the Kiwi Experience buses when I’m 90 years of age and will need the comfort and safety of being guided through the sights and points of interest.
The hostel in Rotorua is centrally located and – for some reason – had a number of South American people staying there. That was perfect for me, given the fact that I had not really a detailed plan of the points of interest to visit there. Luis, a guy from Chile, did spend a lot of time showing me a nice route and pictures of his home country – emphasizing that I should skip some of the New Zealand’s sights, because the ones in Chile are much more beautiful. Well, I won’t be doing that and I don’t mind visiting glaciers in New Zealand and Chile.
Upon arrival in Rotorua, I looked a bit strangely at Michi, because when we stepped down the bus, there was this wave of strange smell coming up my nose. I found it very impolite of him to fart on the way out of the bus, until I found out later that this was not Michi’s odour, but the one from the many sulphur and hot spa’s around town. In fact, Lake Rotorua has a high sulphur content, due to the still active geysers and hot mud pools around the lake.
We decided to visit the “Buried Village” (Te Wairoa), which consists of the remains of a holiday resort that was destroyed during New Zealands worst natural disaster, back in 1886. Although there were tours that would enable us to visit the place against a fee, we felt that we could eventually walk the 12km to this site. So we visited the Rotorua Tourist Information to get a local hiking map and information about the best route.
However, the answer was a bit unexpected to us: “If you don’t have your own vehicle, it is impossible to go there”. So we left and set off using essentially the free Rotorua tourist city map and my GPS device. Two hours later we arrived at the “Buried Village”, passing the beautiful scenery along Blue (Lake Tikitapu) and Green (Lake Rotokakahi) lakes. We finished our visit by doing a side trip to a viewpoint, from where we spotted Lake Tarawera in a beautiful mountain scenery.
Back in the hostel, people were surprised that we walked a total of 24km. Despite being a tramping country and having a lot of visitors being prepared to hike, it seems to be odd to the locals that one would do more than a handful of kilometers by foot.
Many visitors drive to the places by car and then would set out for a hike of half an hour or so and then return safely in their warm and weather-proof car. One of the reasons for doing so was probably the seagulls and other birds near the lake. There is actually no way to eat your sandwich peacefully near Lake Rotorua, because the birds are quite aggressive. Hitchcock’s movie “Birds” came to mind, while the sea gulls were impatiently waiting and shouting at people eating in their car.
But somehow, Michi and I managed to eat and drink – without a car – during our hike and we finished the day in Rotorua having a beer or two.