After my night on the coast near Whakatane I returned to Rotorua. This time however I opted for a hostel. I didn’t really feel like freezing at night again. Even though it was Friday morning I wasn’t concerned about finding a hostel, I wanted to do some hiking! Along the way there are the Okere Falls. These were actually nothing too impressive, though the nearby Tutea Falls holds a bit more interest:
The Tutea falls plunge 7m – and are the highest commercially raftable drop in the world. I’ll be rafting them on my return trip to Rotorua in a month or so (having already paid for the rafting), but for now I just got a quick peak. Either way, I was standing there looking at the falls and thinking – people go OVER that in a little rubber raft?! WILLINGLY?
Further along the walk were the ‘Trout Pools’.
Back on the road I was nearly in Rotorua when I made another detour, this time to the Blue and Green Lakes. They get their names from the different coloured appearance – both are crystal clear lakes, and their colour is due to the different material at the bottom of the lake. Blue lake has a pumice…and something else bottom, while Green lake is just sandy. Green lake is privately held and therefore not very accessible, but Blue lake has a complete perimeter hike around.
Both were beautiful from the lookout, the high point of the hike. While wandering around Blue lake you go all the way down to the shore quite often, then back into the tree line. On a great sunny day like I had, it was very enjoyable.
The main area where I took the above picture at had a community BBQ that was free to use for the public. This is actually something I’ve seen quite often and thought was really cool – just bring meat and a lighter, and the government provides the BBQ and propane. Yum! Unfortunately for me, I just had granola bars and bananas, neither of which turn out well when barbecued. Next time.
After finishing my lunch and my hike, I continued travelling to another nearby lake, Lake Tarawera.
Even back in the 1880s, Lake Tarawera was a tourist attraction. Namely, for places called the Pink and White Terraces. These terraces were large areas of layered, coloured silica rock that also had geothermally heated pools around them. That was until 1886, when Mt. Tarawera erupted violently, destroying everything nearby and changing the surrounding landscape dramatically. The Pink Terraces were just re-discovered this year – they are now covered by 60 meters of water!
Back towards Rotorua, I made one final stop. Originally I planned just to take a quick walk, having already done 2 on the day and still not having a place to sleep for the night. But, when the 30 minute path is just amongst a massive Redwood grove (enjoyable in it’s own right), and the 2 hour option includes the Redwoods AND a hike up to good vantage points of Rotorua, well, you know which one I chose.
The city of Rotorua has been garnering a bit of a negative reputation amongst Kiwis – many have taken to calling it RotoVegas. The rampant commercialism, cheap tourist endeavours, and flashing lights really is a turn off to many Kiwis. And I’m in agreement – Rotorua was probably my least favourite town of the ‘tourist’ destinations so far, though it does have some interesting activities I’ll still be back for. But I also thought the Vegas naming a huge misnomer – Rotorua was just about nothing in common with Las Vegas, at all (I’m guessing most Kiwis have never been). If anything I’d liken it much much closer to Niagara Falls. Very cheesy and horribly overdone in an attempt to capitalize/commercialize surrounding natural wonders. In Rotorua’s case, the geothermal pools, geysers and other steamy fun. You can see some of them in the foreground of the above picture. Since I’d just been on an active volcano yesterday, it didn’t hold a lot of interest at the time. The return trip I might take in their active geyser.
Anyways, on with the hike! The rest of the loop was enjoyable, up and down hills that quickly turned away from the city and looked south at the forests towards Taupo.
Finally the track returned to the Redwood grove, I was nearly home (to my car).
Once I finished up, I went to the downtown and started searching for a hostel – being Friday night, many were already booked. Oops! I still had my car to camp in if necessary, though chilly memories were still fresh. 2 phone calls later though I had located a goofy little hostel just outside the downtown with a room in a dorm still available. As a bonus it was right beside my beloved PaknSave, so I stocked up and enjoyed a pasta dinner – home cooked food for the first time in 2.5 days!