5.2 mi / 10.0 mph / 200 ft. climbing
Home: Robyn-Ann’s AirBNB
Rainy weather is on the way, so we booked a roof for a week. And if it doesn’t rain as much as the forecast is saying, then there is plenty of stuff for us to do in Rotorua anyway. The rain is supposed to arrive tonight, and that’s why we decided to camp last night (to save a little money while the weather stayed dry) before moving a few miles to our AirBNB house today. Our host was nice enough to allow an early check-in, but we surprised ourselves and stayed so busy that we didn’t arrive until after the normal 3pm check-in time anyway!
We packed up camp, made breakfast in the kitchen (so much easier than with our stove at a picnic table!), and then started our day of “bike touring” this north-central part of Rotorua. Our first (and longest) stop was Kuirau Park…one block away. This is just a normal city park, with sport fields, shade trees, pools of boiling mud, a playground, scalding lakes expelling massive clouds of steam, an open-air Saturday market, a….wait, what?!? Pools of boiling mud? Scalding lakes expelling massive clouds of steam?! Yes! And a lot of them! There were literally dozens of fence-ringed areas amid the green lawns, and inside every one was some sort of thermal cauldron.
Having recently been to Yellowstone, the similarity of the thermal features, juxtaposed with the radically different surroundings, was slightly unsettling. There were probably more people in this park to visit the used book sale, or have a family picnic, than to look at the simmering pools. The fact that tree branches are being transformed into white crystalline skeletons is just old news here, whereas hey, maybe they’ll have a cheap VC Andrews paperback at the book sale this week! Overall I think I preferred the Yellowstone backdrop (“you must travel to this remote otherworldly wilderness to see a glimpse of the primeval inferno lurking just beneath the Earth’s surface”), but catching a similar glimpse here in this banal suburban environment reveals how much the broader setting of Yellowstone influences our impressions of steaming holes in the ground. “Boring human civilization” tightly interwoven with “barely-concealed volcanism” just isn’t something my American brain was prepared for, but I guess Los Angeles has the La Brea tar pits? And exploring “what lies beneath” the idyllic town of Rotorua certainly seems like an obvious jumping-off point for a David Lynch film.
We walked up and down the length of the park, looking at nearly every fenced feature. While the variety wasn’t as astounding as what we saw at Yellowstone (no noisy steam vents, no geysers throwing water in the air), every spot was still doing something different, even if separated by only 10 feet.
That all took until lunchtime, so we navigated the roundabout-heavy streets of Central Rotorua to make it to “Eat Street”, a cool covered open-air dining mall, to get burgers and beers at Brew.
Then we rolled on to Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum, the latter of which has been closed for years due to a 2016 earthquake (“what lies beneath” Rotorua does occasionally rise up and remind even the most-jaded citizen what they’ve built on top of). It’s the grandest old building we’ve seen in New Zealand, partly explained by the fact that its original role was to draw tourists to the hot baths housed within.
Just behind the museum we explored a bit of the shore of Lake Rotorua (that we rode partly around yesterday). This section had steam vents blowing right at the waters’ edge, and water in this bay is milky white-yellow, compared to the normal blue of the main body.
Finally we had done enough sightseeing and it was time to head to our new place, stopping for a grocery stock-up along the way. It struck me that all these people living barely separated from superheated earth wasn’t the only unique thing about the day. Rett’s willingness and ability to do this sort of touring-by-(loaded!)-bike around a complex and crowded city is unprecedented in her biking history and really awesome to see. It was fun exploring like this together!
It rained all day long, while we sat under the roof in our huge house, yay!