Now in Rotorua, supposedly one of the most minging towns in New Zealand. This is on account of the large amount of geothermal activity resulting in hydrogen sulphide gas being released into the air. It doesn’t actually smell that much, but occasionally you get quite a strong whiff of it. The main industry here is tourism, and there are piles of hotels, all with their own geothermal spa baths - even my hostel has one and it is a dump.

Upon arriving I walked the 2km to a geothermal park, called Whakarawarawa, with the ‘Whak’ part being pronounced ‘Fuck’, the only time this word can be used in polite society. The thermal park had lots of pools of boiling mud that bubbled away and also steam vents, where steam comes out of the rocks, often leaving sulphur around the mouth. There were also a couple of geysers, which were cool, and the Maori arts and crafts institute, which was interesting. All in all the whole thing was great, but there are better thermal parks outside town but the shuttle bus only goes early in the morning, i.e. before I had arrived, so I couldn’t go.

In the evening I went to a Maori cultural concert and hangi, leaving at 6ish. The concert consisted of a greeting ceremony where a maori in full warrior gear came out and danced around shouting at us and trying to intimidate us (us being the several busloads of tourists) before putting down a peace offering which was accepted by one of our ‘chiefs’. We then went into the meeting house and watched a performance, where they showed us some of the maori weapons and musical instruments then did some song and dance and ended with the haka (thing they do before a battle to intimidate the enemy - the all blacks do it before a match). It was then on to the hangi, which is a feast cooked by putting the food in a pit on top of hot rocks, covering with earth then letting it steam for 3-4 hours. The food was amazing and we all ate as much as we could (being impoverished backpackers). We then all went home at 10pm, with the bus driver making us sing. It all sounds a bit cheesy, but it was great.

I had a fairly sleepless night as my dorm was overlooking the bar, which played loud music until 3 in the morning. After that, there were 2 drunken twats in the dorm who snored a lot. I am now in a different dorm (or rather different room of the same dorm) so it should be better.

Today I went on a day trip to Waitomo, known for having loads of limestone caves nearby. There are various options involving crawling around in wet caves to sitting on a lorry inner-tube and floating around an underwater river looking at glow worms. I was down to do something called the Haggas Honking Holes, described as Indiana Jones crossed with being put through a washing machine on a rope. Unfortunately it was cancelled, but they upgraded me to the Lost World, which is a dry activity involving abseiling 100m down a huge hole in the ground before looking in a few caves and working your way up. The abseiling in particular was spectacular, the hole is lined with ferns and is slightly misty giving it an other-worldy feel, although the harness did cut off the circulation to my legs a bit. We then made our way up to the surface, including climbing a 30m ladder. It was a really spectacular trip, and was good because there were only 4 of us, plus the guide. It was then back to Rotorua for the night. Off to Auckland tomorrow.

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